Culture

The design collection of the Centre Pompidou (Musée National d’Art Moderne)

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.

La collection design du Centre Pompidou (Musée National d’Art Moderne)
Exhibition of contemporary collections, 01/04/2007 – 23/03/2009 MNAM/CCI, Centre Pompidou, Paris Level 4 – “Philippe Starck

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)

Vue de l’exposition : « UAM, une aventure moderne » au Centre Pompidou (2018)
View of the exhibition: “UAM, une aventure moderne” at the Centre Pompidou (2018)

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.

Francis Jourdain (1876-1958), mobilier pour Georges Besson, 1911
Francis Jourdain (1876-1958), furniture for Georges Besson, 1911

Le fameux modèle Transat conçu par Eileen Gray (1878-1976) pour l’ameublement de la Villa E-1027. © Mnam-Cci/Jean-Claude Planchet. Dist. RMN-GP
The famous Transat model designed by Eileen Gray (1878-1976) for the furnishings of Villa E-1027. Mnam-Cci/Jean-Claude Planchet. Dist. RMN-GP
Desk for Robert Mallet-Stevens signed by Pierre Chareau (1883-1950), 1927 © DR © Centre Pompidou / service de la documentation photographique.
An exceptional document from the Centre Pompidou’s design collection. Francis Jourdain, Living-room, published in Répertoire du goût moderne, vol. 1, 1928, Paris, Albert Lévy, pl. 20, Centre Pompidou, Mnam-CCI, Paris, Bibliothèque Kandinsky © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI Bibliothèque Kandinsky / Dist. RMN-GP © Adagp, Paris, 2018

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.


Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, said, 1887-1965), Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, Fauteuil Grand Confort, 1928. Metal structure. Removable leather cushions. Photo credits © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Bertrand Prévost

Djo-Bourgeois (Georges Bourgeois, said, 1898 – 1937), Executive desk, 1929. Lacquered wood veneer and wood covered with metal plate. Inventory number AM 2007-1-24. Credit photo © Georges Meguerditchian – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI / Dist RMN-GP
René Herbst (1891- 1982), Desk, 1929. The structure is made of folded, welded and lacquered sheet metal. The base is made of chromed steel tube and the tops of bevelled glass. René Herbst. Photo credits © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat

Jean Prouvé (1901- 1984), Fauteuil de grand repos, 1930. The structure is made of lacquered sheet steel. The upholstery is made of horsehair and the cover is made of canvas. Tilting seat. Credit photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet.

Shaped table, Charlotte Perriand design, 1938. Solid pinewood top and varnished wood tripod base. Credit photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Georges Meguerditchian

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


Marcel Breuer (1902 – 1981), Lacquered wood table, nickel-plated steel tube, 1926. We are already far from the Art Deco period, rationalism and purity, the use of new materials such as steel marks an obvious break in the history of modern design… Credit photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Bertrand Prévost.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886- 1969), MR 10 Chair (1927 – 1930). Flexible cantilevered structure in chromed steel tube. Cane seat. Credit photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet.

The iconic Zigzag Armchair designed by Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964), from 1932 to 1933. The designer’s chairs have become cult favorites, notably the 1923 Military Chair, of which the Centre Pompidou owns a period copy, and the Red & Blue Armchair. Credit photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet.

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.


Attention cult object: the famous Valentine typewriter designed by Ettore Sottsass and Perry King for Olivetti in 1969. In 2003, the Centre Pompidou devoted an exhibition to the collaboration between Sottsass and the Italian firm.

An atypical design object: the Altare (Molto Privato) altar raises many questions. Design: Ettore Sottsass, 1969. Materials used: laminate print, plywood, black rubber. Photo credit © Centre Pompidou,

Ettore Sottsass, Armchair called Tappeto Volante, 1974. Materials: Cotton canvas, wood, felt, latex foam. Credit photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat

Spice mill MP 0214, design Ettore Sottsass for Alessi, 1994. These pieces are part of the Twergi Collection (Separable set). Material: stained beech, varnished. Credits © Adgap, Pa

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.


Object by Serge Mouille: Perfume display stands in cut metal, for Christian Dior perfumes, 1951-1952. Design: Serge Mouille. Credit photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Georges Meguerditchian.

Drawing by Serge Mouille, Etudes de formes série Bic, 1952-1960. Black Bic pen on paper mounted on paper. Credits © Adgap Paris. Credit photo © Georges Meguerditchian – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais.

Serge Mouille, Wall lamp in embossed aluminium (1953-1958). Credits © Adgap Paris. Credit photo © Jean-Claude Planchet – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais

Chair 577, known as “Langue”, designed by Pierre Paulin for Artifort, 1967. A typical Pierre Paulin seat with latex foam upholstery and removable polyester jersey cover. A model with unusual patterns on the cover. Credits © Pierre Paulin (for reproduction rights), © SAIF (for multimedia rights). Credit photo © Bertrand Prevost – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais.

Pierre Paulin, Tulip or Swan armchair, type F545, 1972. Credits © Pierre Paulin (for reproduction rights), © SAIF (for multimedia rights). Credit photo © Georges Meguerditchian – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais.

Drawing by Pierre Paulin, Interior perspective of foyer 1 on level 3 of the Hôtel Nikko, 1973. Pencil, felt pen and ink on tracing paper, pencil and felt pen on cardboard. Credits © Pierre Paulin (for reproduction rights), © SAIF (for multimedia rights). Credit photo © Georges Meguerditchian – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais.

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.


Pair of“Costes” chairs, designed by Philippe Starck for the Café Costes (Paris), 1981. With this chair model, which he later adapted into an armchair, Philippe Starck became famous. Starck designed a tripod to reduce the amount of space required and facilitate the movement of waiters. The Centre Pompidou has an all-aluminium “Costes” chair

Dr Glob chair, design by Philippe Starck, 1985-1989. Structure in varnished steel tube. Seat in polypropylene. Credits © Philippe Strack. Credit photo © Jean-Claude Planchet – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais.

Louis XX chair, design Philippe Starck, 1992. Polypropylene and aluminium. Credits © Philippe Strack. Credit photo © Georges Meguerditchian – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais.

Also in the Centre’s collections: Bedside Gun table lamp, design by Philippe Starck for the publisher

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).


Also in the Centre Pompidou’s design collections: Chairs model Clover, design Ron Arad for Driade, 2007

Atlas System tables, designed by Jasper Morrisson, 1992. The British designer claims a fair, simple, functional and coherent design. His creations can be found in the world’s greatest museums, such as the Atlas chair at the Centre Pompidou.

Carbon Balloon Chair Black, design Marcel Wanders, 2013. A stunning chair in the Centre Pompidou collections.

In the Centre Pompidou’s collections, a magnificent piece: the Cosmic Landscape luminaire by Welsh designer Ross Lovegrove, (2009-2011). A piece published by Artemide.

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.


View of the exhibition tracing the work of Pierre Paulin at the Centre Pompidou. From left to right: Tongue chair (1967), Artifort chair (1960), Mushroom chair (1963), Little Tulip chair (1963), Multimo chair (1975)

François Boutard