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Pompidou Center to open first Asian branch in Seoul next year

The Pompidou Center in Paris will open an exhibition space in Seoul next year, the museum’s first outpost in Asia.

“The Centre Pompidou has been for several months in negotiations with a Korean partner, Mr. Sounjou Seo, to open a branch in Seoul for five years, possibly renewable,” Denis Berthomier, executive director of the Centre Pompidou, confirmed in an email to The Korea Herald.

The location of the Seoul branch hasn’t been decided yet, but Seo, who will serve as the director of the Centre Pompidou Seoul, said it is likely that the center will be in downtown Seoul, north of the Hangang River.

View of the Pompidou Center in Paris (© Photo Philippe Migeat/www.centrepompidou.fr)
View of the Pompidou Center in Paris (© Photo Philippe Migeat/www.centrepompidou.fr)

“The center will be located in the area within the four old gates of Seoul,” Seo said in a telephone interview. The area covers the bustling business and tourist districts of Gwanghwamun, Jongno and Dongdaemun and Euljiro.

Seo has organized a number of exhibitions of masterpieces by 19th and 20th century artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Amedeo Modigliani over the past decade. He boasts an extensive network with European and American museums and art collectors who loan their works for Seoul exhibitions.

According to Seo, the center will open in spring next year at an existing building in Seoul, with the financial sponsorship of a Korean company. He declined to disclose the name of the company.

The Centre Pompidou Seoul will launch as a temporary exhibition space under a five-year contract, which both Berthomier and Seo said will be renewable.

“The Centre Pompidou finds that the dynamic economic and cultural prospects of Korea is in line with its vision as a vibrant multicultural space,” said Seo. “The Centre Pompidou Seoul will be a cultural space for the public that exists to spread the power of culture.”  

The Pompidou Center in Paris (© Herve Veronese/www.centrepompidou.fr)
The Pompidou Center in Paris (© Herve Veronese/www.centrepompidou.fr)

The Centre Pompidou Seoul will be its first branch center in Asia, and its second outside of France. The Pompidou Center opened a “pop-up” museum in the coastal city of Malaga, Spain in March 2015. The museum, also under a five-year contract, is located in the birthplace of Picasso. It attracted some 200,000 visitors in its first year, according to news reports.

The plan for the Pompidou Center‘s expansion overseas was first announced by Serge Lasvignes, president of the Pompidou Center, last year in his interview with a French magazine, according to the Art Newspaper.

The Pompidou Center boasts a comprehensive collection of modern and contemporary art, which includes masterpieces by Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Robert Delaunay, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. It is currently running an exhibition dedicated to Swiss-German artist Paul Klee, one of the 20th century’s most iconic artists. 

A visitor watches “High Spirits”, a mixed media painting by German artist Paul Klee, during a press preview at the Georges Pompidou Cultural and Art Center on April 5, in Paris. (AFP-Yonhap)
A visitor watches “High Spirits”, a mixed media painting by German artist Paul Klee, during a press preview at the Georges Pompidou Cultural and Art Center on April 5, in Paris. (AFP-Yonhap)

The center will also present art from outside Europe, such as work by Korean artist Yang Hae-gue whose exhibition will be held there in July to mark the 2015/2016 Korea-France Year.

The Pompidous Center, named after French President Georges Pompidou, opened in 1977 as a multidisciplinary cultural center that combines public library, museum and concert halls. The unique architecture of the center, designed by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, has made the center one of the must-visit sites in Paris. 

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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