New French museum rivals the art inside
By ANGELA DOLAND
METZ, France — It's France's newest architectural wonder, and it looks something like an enormous white floppy sun hat. Or a giant swimming manta ray, or maybe an alien spacecraft.
The new Pompidou Center art museum in the eastern French city of Metz opened May 12 and has generated a big buzz in the architecture world, largely for its complex freeform roof. The strange and arresting building will likely overshadow the Picassos, Dalis and Warhols it is exhibiting.
The building is all the more surreal for its setting amid the stern gray clocktowers and church steeples of Metz, chosen for its strategic location near Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.
Even many of those who find the exterior absurd will appreciate the galleries and how they interact with the art. On the ground floor, a hanging mirror reflects a maze of small, roofless rooms, giving art-gazers a contorted, ever-shifting view of the floor plan and art in other rooms.
The Pompidou Center is the first Paris museum to embark on what authorities call "cultural decentralization" — setting up art centers in unlikely areas outside the capital, with its hordes of masterpiece-worshipping tourists and savvy locals. The Louvre is also set to open a branch in the northern former mining town of Lens in 2012.
The roof, with its wooden frame covered over with fiberglass and Teflon is supported by external pillars. It hangs over the building without touching the tops of the walls, letting outside air flow in to the entrance hall.
The museum, which also has an auditorium and a restaurant, will showcase art on temporary loan from the main Pompidou Center in Paris, which has 65,000 works and room for only about 2,000 at a time.
The opening exhibit is called "Masterpieces?" and it includes nearly 800 works by artists including Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky and Miro and probes the nature of great works of art.
Admission is $9, free for anyone under 26. http://www.centrepompidou-metz.fr