Going Global: The Centre Pompidou’s BRIC Houses

Centre President Plans Network Of Global Galleries

Next stop for the Centre Pompidou: China?

Mirroring in many ways the Guggenheim Foundation‘s global network of museums in New York, Venice, Bilbao and Berlin, this week the Centre Pompidou announced plans to expand beyond French borders with a “chain” of galleries carrying the institution’s respected brand name. According to the Centre Pompidou’s president Alain Seban, the Centre may turn to museums, universities and shopping malls to host branded exhibitions of some of the 72,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art in its collection. Each site in the network could then function as a satellite for anywhere from three to five years. Though similar in many ways to international Guggenheim locations, Seban expects his overseas program to center around a very different set of cities, looking not at major European and North American locations but cities in fast-growing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China).

As Seban told the Art Newspaper this week, his plans differ from the Guggenheim’s strategy of opening large-scale museums, focusing more on smaller branded presentations drawing on the Centre’s vast collection. Said Seban, “The Guggenheim model of expansion was based on replicating the New York original: flagship architecture, cutting-edge temporary exhibitions, a modest display of the permanent collection and the fantastic appeal of the brand…We are taking a more modest approach, with temporary projects in existing venues like museums [and] universities, but why not historical monuments, former industrial facilities or shopping malls? We will draw on the scope of our collection, [which is] the best in Europe, and the strength of our own brand.”

Going further, Seban added that BRIC countries are of special interest to the Centre Pompidou because of their young and thriving art scenes. “This is a strategy for expanding internationally into territories that can aim to create their own contemporary art brands,” Seban said. “Countries such as China, India and Brazil, for instance, can develop such brands in the future.”

If Seban does move ahead with his goal of getting Centre Pompidou offshoots opened in China, it won’t be the Centre’s first foray into the country — which is itself in the midst of a museum and gallery-building boom. In 2007, former president Bruno Racine announced his own plans to get a museum under the Centre Pompidou name opened in Shanghai’s Huaihai Park “before 2010,” with programs to be created by the Pompidou. However, due to rough negotiations with government officials and a “lack of a legal framework for a non-profit foreign institution to operate in China,” as the Art Newspaper puts it, the plan was ultimately scrapped. But the Centre hasn’t only had a tough time in mainland China to date: plans by the Guggenheim and Centre Pompidou to jointly launch a cultural facility in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District by 2018 also fell through.

Maybe, for the Centre Pompidou, the third time will be the charm.



Art & Design, Market Analysis