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Analysis out of the box

Centre Pompidou, cultural enterprise

Analysis out of the boxArt & Business | Since taking over the presidency of the Centre Pompidou in 2007, ENA graduate Alain Seban has oriented the cultural institution toward business. His agenda’s four objectives - digitalization, mobility, delocalization, and globalization - now losing steam, assert a commercial logic, notably through exhibitions that attract mass audiences (790,090 visitors for Dali in 2012 and 546,229 for Lichtenstein in 2013) where the influence of patrons is increasingly important.

Centre Pompidou © Thinkstock
Centre Pompidou
© Thinkstock

Digitalization

In a desire to bring together the digital revolution and greater access to museum collections, at the instigation of patrons Pernod Ricard, CGI and OVH, the poly-cultural establishment launched Centre Pompidou virtuel in 2012. With more then 8 million visits at the end of 2013, the website showcases a rise in the digitalization of works, replaced by the proliferation of digital applications, connected to free-access tablets directly integrated into the exhibitions. The presence of the Centre Pompidou on the internet engages the visitor in 2.0 mediation, built on a strategy of enlarging the public, on the model of businesses that develop their influence through digital media. In September 2013, Alain Seban partnered with Wikimedia to share experience and content, aiming to enrich the Centre Pompidou virtuel. However, if the digitalization of resources offers free access to content, the navigation of the website is not very ergonomic and the interface is discouraging. The goal is to propose an alternative model to the Google Art Project, which brings together parts of the digitized Orsay, Quai Branly and Orangerie collections.

Mobility

Continuing its conquest of new audiences, the Centre Pompidou initiated a travelling museum in mainland France in the autumn of 2011. Financed with 1.5 million euro of state funding and 2.5 million by four national patrons - Total, GDF Suez, Groupe Galeries Lafayette, La Parisienne Assurances - to cover fabrication and circulation costs, the Centre Pompidou mobile has travelled to six provincial cities in a « mission of diffusion, education and raising artistic awareness. » Despite the 200,000 euro charged to each host city, the mobility of the collections has led to higher and higher costs (from 400,000 to 600,000 euro) along with the detachment of the founding patrons. This lack of means led to a 7.5 percent reduction in the 2011 institutional budget despite the success of this operation to « democratize art » totaling 119,794 visitors in its second year. As such, the Centre Pompidou mobile ended in September 2013, saving 400,000 euro thanks to the CIAM’s financing of the disassembly, logistics and storage of the caravan.

Decentralization

Inaugurated in May 2010, the Centre Pompidou-Metz is a permanent implantation of an institutional satellite. A project already conceived in the days of Jean-Jacques Aillagon (from Metz) - head of the Centre Pompidou between 1996 and 2002 - who initiated this decentralization through the regional program « Hors les Murs. » The cultural decentralization of the establishment was materially aided through financing from regional entities (greater Metz, the Lorrain region, city of Metz), the Centre Pompidou and the state, for a final building cost - work and equipment included - of 69.3 million euro before taxes. Beyond the exhibition spaces, the Centre Pompidou-Metz’s 10,700 square meters house a café, a restaurant, and bookstore-boutique to increase revenue and attract visitors. While connected by an umbilical cord at « 85 minutes to Paris » - as the banner affixed to the Paris Pompidou’s façade boasts - the Metz outpost has seen a decline in the annual number of visitors (from 800,000 in its first twelve months in 2011 to 335,000 in 2013) and its financing is growing precarious, with local elected officials denouncing poor managing of the establishment. The disinterest of the French and Benelux public casts doubt on the geographical location of this island set amidst logistical traffic, turning its back on the city center.

Globalization

Like a business, the Centre Pompidou is opening up to globalization and exporting its brand.
Already in 2013, Alain Seban signed an accord with the Saudi oil giant Aramco to present a temporary exhibition of works on loan from the museum collection, « Couleurs pures. » The Centre Pompidou was paid for this partnership that laid the groundwork for the inauguration of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, set to open in 2015. Saudi Arabia welcomed more than 44,000 exhibition-gœrs in less than six weeks. The latest project is next spring’s El Cubo, the Centre Pompidou’s ephemeral museum in Malaga. The Spanish city is financing the construction fees (1 million euro) and this undertaking follows in the footsteps of diverse international partnerships : in 2013, exhibitions abroad, and in particular in emerging nations (Brazil, Mexico...), welcomed 667,000 visitors. In a scientific sense, the new hanging of the modern collections in 2013, conceived by Catherine Grenier, « Modernités Plurielles : 1905-1970, » reflects a global presentation of artists, representing 47 countries, and inasmuch a re-reading of the history of avant-gardes. The exhibition signaled the visual manifestation of a four-year long period of research and reflection carried out by the curator who initiated the « Research and Globalization » program in 2009.

After focusing on digitalization, mobility and decentralization, all of which revealed budgetary limitations, globalization and international development are part of a new strategic horizon for the « Centre Pompidou Enterprise. »

Maxime Gasnier
Publié le 23/09/2014
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Centre Pompidou © Thinkstock

Centre Pompidou
© Thinkstock

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