Bonjour from Paris: Modern Art at the Centre Pompidou

posted by – 03/20/13 @ 2:08pm

During the first week of March, I had the opportunity to travel to Paris for a few days. I knew I would have to be strategic, given my short stay, but I jumped at the chance to see works by many of my favorite artists. Upon arriving to my hotel in the 14th arrondissement, I immediately headed north on the Métro to the Musée National d’Art Moderne, in the heart of Les Marais. Not only does this museum house the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe, it’s also located in an architectural landmark: The Centre Pompidou. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and British architect Richard Rogers, the building is a work of art in its own right. Some highlights of their collection include Marcel Duchamp’s famous ready-made, Fountain and an impressive felt installation by German artist Joseph Beuys. In addition, I saw a little piece of Nashville in Paris: an untitled work by Robert Ryman.

Interestingly, I could smell my favorite work before I could see it. Known for his imposing sculptures with olfactory and tactile elements, Ernest Neto’s installation, We Stopped Here Just at Time (2002) was an invitation to participate in a sensorial experience. It’s comprised of soft and transparent fabric in which some parts are filled with spices that hang from the ceiling like bunches of grapes. The various spices (cloves, cumin, pepper and curcuma) fill and structure the forms of the sculpture, giving it a multi-sensorial dimension. By challenging visitors to transcend perceptual hierarchies that traditionally give top priority to sight, Neto’s piece is a refreshing and unique experience.

Overall, it was a great trip – though I wish I could have stayed longer. I’d recommend everyone put Pompidou at the top of his or her list when visiting Paris.

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