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Pompidou Center Plans to Fill a Colorful Circus Big Top with Art
The so-called "Pompidou Mobile" aims to be just as avant-garde in its design as the original Pompidou Center.

By: Jenny Barchfield, Associated Press Writer

PARIS (AP).- Forget the lions, tigers and bears. Paris' Pompidou Center plans to fill a colorful circus big top with Picassos, Matisses and Calders instead, creating a roving museum to take its masterpieces of modern art to France's culturally deprived rural regions and rough suburbs.

The so-called "Pompidou Mobile" aims to be just as avant-garde in its design as the original Pompidou Center — the audacious, tube-covered structure that houses the city's premier contemporary art museum and caused a furor when it opened in 1977.

Only part of the necessary funding has been raised and no itinerary has yet been drawn up. Visiting the roving Pompidou will be free, and the project's priorities are rural regions and the poor, crime-ridden suburbs that ring France's cities but are often largely cut off from the cultural offerings there.

"It's about bringing art to the people to awaken their desire to go toward the art," the Pompidou's president, Alain Seban, said in a statement. "It's a sign of our openness."

Architect Patrick Bouchain, whose firm specializes in circus tents and other collapsable structures, showed sketches of his design for the new Pompidou structure at a presentation Thursday: several triangle-shaped modules that can be fitted together to create different structures fitted to the different environments in which the museum will pitch its tent.

"It has to be adaptable anywhere, from a parking lot at a suburban shopping center to maybe a country lot or field," Bouchain said.

Inside the high-tech canvas structure, solid glass and plastic encasements will protect the artwork from vandalism and theft and keep the temperature and humidity constant, Bouchain said.

The total cost of the 1,000-sq. meter (10,700-sq. foot) structure is estimated at euro3 million ($4.43 million) — of which euro500,000 has been pledged so far, Seban said. He's looking for sponsors to fund the balance.

Provided they get the money, the mobile museum will hit the road starting at the end of next year, Seban said. The 10-15 works from the Pompidou's extensive permanent collection that are likely to go on display include Pablo Picasso's "Femme en Bleu" (Women in Blue), a 1944 post-Cubist painting in shades of indigo, and a primary-colored mobile by American artist Alexander Calder.

Henri Matisse's 1941 painting "Nature morte au magnolia" (Magnolia Still Life) — among the French artist's personal favorites — could rub proverbial shoulders with "America, America," a 1964 neon sculpture of fingers snapping, by Martial Raysse.

The artwork on display will change as the museum moves across the country, with exhibits loosely focused around broad themes like primary colors and black and white, the human body, and the energy of the city, said curator Emma Lavigne.

Three three-month-long stints will be organized per year, with regional governments footing the bill for the museum's operating costs, Seban said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.



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