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Paris Eye Sore Or A Sight For Sore Eyes?

The best time on a weekend to go to the Centre Georges Pompidou to see an exhibit is Sunday evening about 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. I discovered this years ago. It’s open 11 a.m. till 10 p.m. every day except Tuesdays and May 1st.

As the weekend winds down, so do the visitors, the long lines to get tickets. Even the long lines are much shorter these days thanks to new automatic ticket machines that work similarly to the automatic posting machines at the Post Office and the ticket machines at the Métro stations.

The building, designed by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, with assistance by architectural firm Ove Arup and Partners, continues to receive criticism from Parisians who find its whimsical “Lego-like” structure an eyesore in the center of Paris.

My opinion is quite the opposite. I love the juxtaposition of its colorful and playfully exposed guts against the gray tones of the Marais. Not only is it a delight to spot from afar, but the views of the rest of the city from it as you climb to the top by way of its glass caterpillar-like escalator are breathtaking. Last night, La Tour Eiffel was doing her sparkling dance as we landed on the top floor to see two of the major exhibits on at present.

If you follow suit, be prepared for two very exhaustive and profound displays of the works of both Jean Cocteau and Sophie Calle. The Cocteau retrospective is the most comprehensive exhibition to date in France of his eclectic work (1889-1963)…poet, writer, critic, but also film director, drawing artist and player on the French musical scene. On show are 335 drawings, 300 photographs, 22 paintings by major artists who celebrated him, 50 or so manuscripts, objects and sculptures. A projection room also shows an anthology of his films. You need at least two hours to even glide through it without reading every word. I fell in love with his simple, yet powerful drawings and clearly saw how designer Jean-Paul Gautier may have been strongly influenced by him.

If you still have the energy, stop in next door at Sophie Calle’s “Douleur Exquise Works” (1984-2003) inspired by the experience of a break-up in love which the she describes as the most painful moment of her life. It’s open later on Thursdays — till 11 p.m., and you’ll need the time to work your way through the massive amount of photo and text. Her work left me cold…but the more intellectual French seemed to be totally engrossed in its profundity.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. For complete information about all the exhibits on at the Centre Pompidou, visit the official site at


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