Postcard from France: Metz-merized by Pompidou-Metz!

Like many Parisians, I suffer from a bit of a superiority complex. Growing up in the most beautiful city in the world, I sometime forget that there is more to France than its capital. What we Parisians typically lump together as “la Province” (ie. everywhere outside of Paris) is actually comprised of 21 independent regions, each with its own history, traditions, gastronomy and tourist attractions. Lorraine, in the North East of France, is one of these regions. Until recently it was mainly ignored by pretty much everyone but die-hard quiche lovers. Today, however, even the snobbiest Parisians are planning weekend or day trips to the capital city of Lorraine: Metz And yes, that includes me.

Why the sudden change in touristic fortune? Well, there are two main reasons. The first is that it is now a lot easier and quicker to travel there. By TGV (France’s awesome fast train system), Metz is now a mere 82 minutes from Paris. The second reason is the recent opening of Pompidou-Met. Three months only after its inauguration, the provincial offspring of Paris’ Musee National d’Art Moderne (also known as Beaubourg or Pompidou Museum) has already welcomed more than 300,000 visitors. Inspired by the success of Tate Liverpool or Guggenheim Bilbao Pompidou is the first Parisian institution to export its name, collection, and expertise to a satellite branch in a province.

The original Pompidou was designed to revitalize a large decrepit area of central Paris and Pompidou-Metz is intended to do the same in the ampitheater district of Metz. Architecturally, however, the new museum looks nothing like Beaubourg! The Musee National d’Art Moderne houses one of the greatest collection of 20th century art inside one of the ugliest building ever built in Paris. Pompidou-Metz on the other hand, is a sleek, curvy and airy structure inspired by a traditional Chinese hat. It was designed by architects Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines to accommodate very tall pieces and large art installations, something that the original Pompidou in Paris cannot do.

 

The inaugural exhibit, called Chefs D’Oeuvres? examines the notion of the masterpiece, past, present, and future, through an exceptional selection of almost eight hundred works of art, most of them loaned by Pompidou-Paris. One of the highlights of visiting the new space is also the views it offers onto the city of Metz, particularly from one of the museum’s three rectangular, projected boxes that face the city’s main historic attractions. The Cathedrale de Metz with its 41.41 meters nave (the third tallest in France) is, after all, nothing short of a masterpiece itself.

 

 

So far, the Pompidou-Metz experiment has been an overwhelming success and snobbish Parisians might have to get used to sharing their museums’ collections with the province… and even the world. Indeed, in 2012, Paris’ most famous museum, Le Louvre, will open a provincial outpost of its own in the northern city of Lens. The following year, they will also expend to Abu Dhabi. Adding them to my travel list 😉

[Update: I did visit Lens a few months after the Louvre opened and you can read my thoughts on that one here]

2 thoughts on “Postcard from France: Metz-merized by Pompidou-Metz!

  1. Great article – and what a great-looking art museum. I didn't know about this, so thanks for the post!

    The Pompidou-Metz will not only broaden the accessibility of art but will revolutionize the town of Metz – just as the Tate has done for Liverpool, as you say.

    I think this is great for the Provinces too – and even more surprising to read a Parisienne admitting that fact! 🙂

    Like

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