Centre Pompidou – known as the Pompidou Center in the United States – has long been one of Paris’ most iconic cultural buildings, not merely for its often landmark exhibitions but for its modernist architecture. The world-famous gallery has recently announced that, along with its well-known modern art museum located in the Les Halles district of Paris, it will open a satellite site in North America.
Oddly, perhaps, the chosen site for the satellite gallery and cultural centre is in Jersey City, not a place that has traditionally been very associated with high culture. Nevertheless, given that Centre Pompidou has always been something of an avant-garde institution, not least with its exposed pipework and colourful exterior in the French capital, perhaps the choice is not so surprising, after all.
Above: The future Centre Pompidou x Jersey City in the Pathside Building, 25 Journal Square, Jersey City. Rendering via JCRA RFP
A Cultural Hub?
Jersey City is located in the northeastern corner of the state of New Jersey, just as short trip over the Hudson River from Manhattan Island, perhaps the most famous part of New York State where many of the world’s most renowned art galleries are already situated. The choice of this urban location is consequently both forward-looking and traditional. New Yorkers have a proven love of fine art and exhibitions and it is only a short journey from New York City to Jersey City where the satellite museum will be set up.
In fact, the chosen site is also quite close to Liberty Island, the speck of land on which the Statue of Liberty is located. Given the historic links between France and the United States – the statue was offered as a gift from France to the US after a design by Gustav Eiffel – perhaps the choice of Jersey City may not be as radical as it at first sounds. Of course, whether or not New Jersey’s residents will visit the satellite Pompidou Center in vast numbers is yet to be seen. For that matter, whether or not New Yorkers and tourists will make the trip from downtown is also an open question. Both the management team at Centre Pompidou and the mayor’s office in Jersey City think they will, however.
A Widening Remit
According to Serge Lasvignes, the current president of Centre Pompidou, the new museum space will be up and running by the time a major new renovation of the Pompidou’s main site will begin in the French capital. The Parisian gallery space alone accommodates some 120,000 modern works of art as well as numerous artefacts and musical items of interest. Slated to open n 2024, the new museum – billed as Centre Pompidou x Jersey City – will be the first time that the museum group has opened a permanent space in the United States. There are, however, Pompidou satellite sites in southern Spain as well as in Brussels, the Belgian capital. Two further sites exist, one in the French city of Metz and the other in Shanghai, China.
Redevelopment and Running Costs
In a move that has surprised some New Jersey inhabitants, the French side of the bargain is to provide art expertise and access to Centre Pompidou’s extensive collection of modernist artworks. Meanwhile, the city authorities in Jersey City will be footing the bill for developing the site and the gallery’s day-to-day running costs. This means that a municipal city with a population of just over 260,000 people will require in the region of $30 million for the renovation work alone, according to Jersey City’s mayor, Steven Fulop.
Along with the update of the historic Pathside Building where the gallery will be located, there will be a further tax burden of $6 million to bear for the museum’s running costs. This will be a phased-in expense for the city, however, over a period of five years from the museum’s opening. During that time Centre Pompidou will be responsible for the gallery’s exhibitions, cultural projects and wider educational programming.
Fulop went on to say that he hoped that much of the expenditure would be met from charitable donations and through the creation of a special business improvement district in the area of the museum since enterprises close to the site are likely to benefit from its establishment. The Pathside building was built in 1912 and acquired by the city in 2018 after which time it has been largely unused.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.