Art Insight #26: Serge Lasvignes

President of the Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou, the first culture and art complex in the world, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Designed as an “evolving spatial diagram” by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers in 1977, Centre Pompidou has created a great sensation since the opening with its external exposed steel frame, pipes, and ducts. The Centre Pompidou is the largest museum of modern art in Europe, its collection housing approximately 120,000 works dating from the 20th century onward, and has been developed as a cultural art capital of the world. In addition to its art museum, it also includes a public library, a center for acoustic and music research, and a center of industrial design. Centre Pompidou is regarded as the most innovative culture and art complex of the 20th century that combines these elements with both diversity and accessibility to the public.

The ambition of the former French President Georges Pompidou to create this cultural art center in the heart of Paris has been realized. Beyond the existing concepts and principles, it became itself a global cultural icon. Even today, forty years after its birth, the Centre Pompidou is considered an ideal model for public arts and cultural institutions. Focusing on international expansion, the Centre Pompidou nowadays plans to open branches around the world beyond Paris. What is the future of the Centre Pompidou? We asked President Serge Lasvignes about Centre Pompidou’s prospects, and its visions in its 40th anniversary year.

The Centre Pompidou wants to avoid all types of standardization.
We do not want to be a museum like any other.
- Serge Lasvignes -

Q. The Centre Pompidou, created in 1977, is the first multi-cultural institution in the world. It is considered the most innovative public cultural project of the 20th century. What are the fundamental objectives and values of the Centre Pompidou?

The ultimate aim of the Centre Pompidou is to de-compartmentalize artistic disciplines. This very multidisciplinary approach allows us to gather and bring together modern art, contemporary creations, literature, cinema, music, dance, architecture and all cultural expressions. The second objective is to present contemporary art that truly leads to creation. It is a dialogue between the institution and the artists. The Centre Pompidou supports artists and works as a place in which artists feel at home and find each other. And the third objective is the democratization of culture. It is a tradition of André Malraux. We are open and accessible to all.

Q. What do you perceive as being the significance and value of contemporary art in our society nowadays?

Contemporary art is a real issue for the development of our society. The presence and vitality of contemporary art in a country is an important factor for creation, not only in the artistic sense, but also in a broader sense. Contemporary art interrogates a part of the “real” and is art for the general public. Viewed from this perspective, contemporary creations of today is the ability of a society to innovate, to be bold, to confront the unknown, and to take risks.

  • Q. The Centre Pompidou has stepped up its policy of expanding international branches in recent years by setting up offices in Metz and Malaga in Spain. Why is cultural-artistic expansion necessary today and what are the effects?

    The Centre Pompidou is a global institution and has one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. We have a goal for outreach is to show and to share this collection with foreign countries. As for the Centre Pompidou’s goals in France, we wanted to make breakthroughs in making culture available to the general public. The Centre Pompidou is a multidisciplinary space open to all. We want to share and also see how this multidisciplinary model can work with different cultures in other countries. Moreover, we are engaged in a process of understanding the diversity of cultural scenes. Today, we live in a world with no cultural hierarchy, but there are emergent and revitalized cultural scenes on the other hand. What we want is to get to understand these scenes and to discover them, to study them.

  • Q. The Centre Pompidou antenna project in Seoul is underway. What is the focus of this project? What is the ideal image of the Centre Pompidou Seoul that you imagine?

    Our idea is not to reproduce exactly the same thing in Korea. The essential point of it is to adapt our presence to the place. It’s not only about sending curators abroad, but more about living in Korea long enough to connect with the Korean art scene and getting to know it from within. Once I identified these reasons, we decided on Korea, because Korea has a particularly interesting scene. We should find good partners to develop this project together.

Q. The Centre Pompidou has cooperated with many companies. In your opinion, what is the ideal form of cooperation between cultural arts institutions and corporations?

Business is an essential determinant of the collective society. The Centre Pompidou is a museum open to society, and opening up to society means encountering corporations. Our vocation is to open up with a realistic approach. After that, all depends on the way of relationship building. It is about how a relationship can lead to a project. It is not a matter of letting the Pompidou program be decided by a company. On the other hand, the company can participate and collaborate with a project. They can propose ideas and participate in the production of an exhibition, a symposium or a conference, which we are passionate about at the moment.

Q. Starting with Haegue Yang and Kimsooja, numerous Korean contemporary artists have been introduced at the Centre Pompidou. How do you see the Korean contemporary art scene?

When I went to Lille last year, there was an exhibition <Seoul, Fast, Fast!> of young Korean artists. It was a very interesting exhibition. The creative imagination of the Korean contemporary art scene struck me which is why we would like to open a new branch in Seoul, Korea.

Q. What is the future of the Center Pompidou like? Could you tell us about upcoming projects?

The Centre Pompidou wants to avoid all types of standardization. We do not want to be a museum like any other. My ideal is to cultivate and preserve the originality of the Centre Pompidou, that is to say, pluri-disciplinarity, openness to society, and the development of intellectual life. It is both our original identity as well as our purpose. And our current challenge is digital technology. I would like to use digital technology to establish a new relationship—more constant, more interactive, and more participative—between visitors and the institution. For this relationship, we are opening a school of contemporary art on the Internet this fall. The annual <Mutation-Creation> event concerning the intersection of art, science and technology will also take place in the upcoming years. ■ with ARTINPOST

  • Atelier enfants

    ©Manuel Braun, 2015

  • Atelier enfants

    ©Manuel Braun, 2015

  • Atelier enfants

    ©Manuel Braun, 2016

  • Centre Pompidou Facade

    ©Centre Pompidou, Photo : Manuel Braun, 2014

  • Centre Pompidou nuit

    ©Centre Pompidou, Photo : Ph Migeat

  • Centre Pompidou Detail de la structure

    ©Centre Pompidou, Photo : Ph Migeat

  • Centre Pompidou Depuis la Piazza

    ©Centre Pompidou, Photo : Ph Migeat

  • Archi Centre Pompidou coursive

    ©Centre Pompidou, Photo : Manuel Braun, 2016

  • Vue aerienne seine

    ©Centre Pompidou

  • Vue aerienne

    ©Centre Pompidou, Photo : Georges Meguerditchian

  • Vassily Kandinsky, Mit dem schwarzen Bogen, 1912

    Collection du Centre Pompidou, Photo ©Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/ Dist. RMN-GP ©domaine public

  • Vladimir Tatline, Maquette du Monument à la Troisième Internationale, 1919 – 1979

    Collection du Centre Pompidou, Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Adam Rzepka/Dist. RMN-GP © droits réservés

  • Julio González, Petit buste, 1929

    Collection du Centre Pompidou, Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI / Philippe Migeat / Dist. RMN-GP © domaine public

  • Eli Lotar, Sans titre [Main de Tombros avec oursin], 1931

    Collection du Centre Pompidou, Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI / Philippe Migeat / Dist. RMN-GP, © Eli Lotar

  • Liam Gillick, Revision / 22nd Floor Wall Design, (Revision: Post Discussion Revision Zone #1, #2, #3, #4. Big Conference Centre 22nd Floor Wall Design), 1998

    Photo ©Manuel Braun. 2015

  • Michael Zelehoski, Open House, 2012

    Photo ©Manuel Braun. 2015

  • Olafur Eliasson, Cold wind sphere, 2012

    Photo ©Manuel Braun. 2015

  • Centre Pompidou nuit

    ©Centre Pompidou, Photo : Ph Migeat


Hervé Véronèse, ©Centre Pompidou

Serge Lasvignes was born in Toulouse, France in 1954. He holds an agrégation in literature and is a former student of the École nationale d’administration (class of 1989). Beginning his career at the Conseil d’État, he went on to become Director of General and International Affairs and Cooperation at the French Ministry of Education, Higher Education, Research and Professional Integration from 1995 to 1996, before becoming Director of Legal Affairs at the same ministry from 1996 to 1997. He was subsequently made Director at the General Secretariat of the Government (1997-2006) before becoming General Secretary of the Government from 2006 to 2015. Serge Lasvignes is President and CEO of the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, and President of the Boards of the Bibliothèque publique d’information (Bpi), the Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique (Ircam) as well as that of the Centre Pompidou-Metz since April 2015.

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