Spreading the artistic wealth has been a part of France’s cultural history for centuries. Since the early 19th century, the Louvre has been loaning out its masterful treasures to regional museums within the country in the spirit of bringing art to the people.
So the outpost of the Pompidou Centre in Metz would seem another part of France’s culturally benevolent heritage. Yet, the director of the Pompidou-Metz, Laurent Le Bon is careful to point out that the new center is more than an annex or subsidiary of its larger urban benefactor. Rather, Le Bon hoped to create a cultural space that is unique unto itself, and which draws its public based on the strength of its exhibitions.
Never having shied away from provocative architecture, the Pompidou tapped Japan’s Shigeru Ban as the Metz centre’s chief designer. Ban claims to have made many of the structures features based on various qualities of the country, such as the hexagonal design inspired by France’s geography. Or from his own experiences of time spent in the region, such as the memory of a hat he saw in a boutique window in St. Germain de Prés, which he recalls in one of the Pompidou-Metz publications, as the inspiration for the striking shiitake mushroom like shape of the structure’s roof.
Although, unlike its larger Parisian counterpart, which was inaugurated with more than a few cries of disdain from its Beaubourg neighbours in 1977, Pompidou-Metz has not been met with the same hostile attitudes towards its unusual appearance. Locals in the Lorraine region seem to be getting along just fine with their new neighbor, and if its unique design brings in the number of visitors that the Guggenheim outpost in Bilbao has brought, one may start to see mushroom shaped roofs popping up beside it.
Though, in an interview with the New York Times, Metz curator, Le Bon makes no claims as to wanting to recreate the Bilbao model, but rather, would simply like to create a center that is unique in its artistic agenda, and whose scope is global, as well as local, stressing the importance of bringing in patrons from the western most regions of France, as well as Luxembourg and Belgium. However, with budgets tightening this summer and at a mere hour and twenty-minute journey from Paris on the LGV Est, the Pompidou-Metz may prove to be the season’s hottest getaway for visitors traveling from both near and far.