The Pompidou Centre, one of Paris’s top cultural attractions and home to Europe’s biggest modern art collection, is to close from 2023 for four years of renovations, France’s culture minister has said.
Designed by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the Pompidou Centre’s groundbreaking design put the nuts-and-bolts inner workings of the museum on the outside, freeing up gallery space inside but has shown signs of ageing since its 1977 opening.
“There were two options,” culture minister Roselyne Bachelot told the Figaro newspaper on Monday. “One involved renovating the centre while keeping it open, the other was closing it completely.
“I chose the second because it should be shorter and a little bit less expensive,” she said.
In 2017, Serge Lasvignes, president of the Pompidou Centre, told the Observer of plans for the museum to undergo a a major facelift costing at least €100m. Work on a €19m renovation to its external “caterpillar” escalators that snake up the front of the building – part of the larger project – began in September 2019, when the Covid-19 health crisis struck.
Like all cultural attractions in Paris, the Pompidou Centre closed from March to June last year during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and has been closed again since late October. Work on the escalators was briefly halted but recommenced last spring and is expected to be finished in May.
The building’s radical design pushes almost all its structural and mechanical elements to the exterior. The maze of blue airconditioning conduits, green water pipes, yellow electrical casings and red elevators on display outside however suffer from continual exposure to the elements. It previously closed for an €88m refurbishment between 1998 and 2000.
“It means that the building needs a lot of renovation,” Lasvignes said in 2017, adding that there were no plans to change the outside of the building even though some structures, like the large funnels that were once part of the air system, are now purely decorative.
The bold project in the historic heart of the French capital faced heavy opposition at the time it was mooted in the 1970s, including lawsuits.
When it opened in 1977, Le Monde called it “an architectural King Kong” while others said it looked like it was covered in scaffolding. Even now, it divides opinion. Parisians who hate it tell visitors the best view of the city can be had from its rooftop terrace – now home to a chic restaurant – not because you can see its most famous landmarks, but because you cannot see the Pompidou Centre.
For others it has since become a much-loved landmark, despite the exterior looking increasingly shabby in recent years.
A total of 3.2 million people visited the museum in 2019 before the onset of the coronavirus crisis. It has 120,000 works of art in its collection, only 5% of which are on display.