The Centre Pompidou is renowned for having the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe. The history of architecture and design is very much intertwined with the evolution of modern art, the disciplines intersect, the artists exchange and influence each other. This is why the Musée National d’Art Moderne also has a leading design collection. In 1991, Dominique Bozo, then director of the Centre Pompidou, decided to give the cultural institution a first-rate heritage collection devoted to design. Today, the Centre Pompidou’s design collections are among the most important in the world. They include nearly 8,000 works, representing 900 designers, and range from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. We have chosen to present exceptional works from the Centre Pompidou’s collections, representative of the evolution of ideas and concepts that have shaped the history of modern and, more recently, contemporary design.
In order to make our choice, we have highlighted the trends and eminent personalities that are strongly represented in the Centre’s collections. Let’s start with the beginning of the 20th century with exceptional pieces gathered around the French artists of the U.A.M. movement (Union des Artistes Modernes, 1929)
It is no coincidence that the Centre Pompidou has a large collection of French modern art around the great figures of the UAM. In 2018, it devoted an exhibition to this movement entitled ” UAM, une aventure moderne “, defending the idea that it was not Art Deco that blew the wind of modernity at the beginning of the previous century, but the UAM.
A new generation of creators and designers emerged at the beginning of the 20th century to do away with the bourgeois obsequiousness of decoration and furniture inherited from Art Nouveau and Art Deco. The first steering committee formed by Robert Mallet-Stevens included: Francis Jourdain, René Herbst, Hélène Henry and Raymond Templier, as well as personalities such as Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Jean Carlu, Pierre Chareau, Jean Prouvé, Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand and Eileen Gray.
A wind of modernism blew across Europe in the first third of the 20th century. The creators of the U.A.M. in France, but also the teachings of the famous Bauhaus School in Germany (1919-1933), and the Dutch De Stijl movement. The Centre Pompidou naturally has emblematic pieces from this period, including those by Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Gerrit Rietveld
The Centre Pompidou’s post-war design collection is marked by a major figure in Italian and international design. A very important collection has been built up around the creations of the architect and designer Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007). Why this attachment, you may ask? Because, like no other, the great Italian master produced a wide variety of objects throughout his life: ceramics, jewellery, tableware, furniture and industrial objects. But above all, he crossed eras, imprinting, at each major societal upheaval, an exceptional creative audacity.
Another designer with a strong presence in the Centre Pompidou’s design collections is the goldsmith-artist Serge Mouille (1922-1988), renowned worldwide for his lighting and floor lamps with simple metal shapes and uniform black paint. The Centre Pompidou also has an important collection dedicated to one of the major French designers of the post-war period: Pierre Paulin (1927-2009). The Musée National d’Art Moderne has a significant collection of drawings on Paulin.
Often considered the enfant terrible of French contemporary design, Philippe Starck (1949) is of course very present in the Centre Pompidou collections. More than 300 works tell the story of his career, his style and his modernity.
Internationally, the Musée National d’Art Moderne has brought together pieces by key contemporary designers such as Ron Arad (Israel, 1951), Jasper Morrison (England, 1959), Marcel Wanders (Netherlands, 1963) and Ross Lovegrove (Wales, 1958).
It is of course impossible to present all of the Centre’s design collections succinctly… The wealth of the French institution’s design holdings is representative of the evolution of techniques and creation in the world of design. The collections include not only pieces of furniture, but also drawings, sketches, models and magazine originals that reflect the creative process at work
For design lovers, the institution has increased the number of retrospectives devoted to designers in recent years (Charlotte Perriand in 2005, Ettore Sottsass (2008-2009), Eileen Gray in 2013, Pierre Paulin in 2016), giving the opportunity to discover the depth of its collections.
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