What to expect from the Centre Pompidou collaboration at West Bund Museum

Curated with local visitors in mind, it's a perfect starting point to get acquainted with modern art

Photograph: courtesy West Bund Museum
Named ‘the largest ever artistic exchange’ between China and France, West Bund Museum x Centre Pompidou, which opened to the public last week, is among the must-sees in Shanghai if you’re interested in modern art.


Photographs: Yu Zhiming

As part of a five-year cooperation between West Bund Museum and Centre Pompidou, there will be three major exhibitions spanning 18 months each, and ten temporary exhibitions that’ll be getting a refresh every six months. Two exhibitions chosen for the grand opening are titled The Shape of Time and Observations, both coming from the Centre Pompidou Collection. The purpose is to showcase the development of modern art through some of the most iconic paintings, sculptures and video projects. The take-home message: there's more than one definition of modern art.


Photographs: Yu Zhiming

The Shape of Time traces the changing concept of time through more than a hundred iconic works that shaped the outlook of modern art by big artists such as Vasily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock, not to mention household names such as Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. The exhibition pays particular attention to modern artists in Asia, showing the works of Ding Yi, Zao Wou-Ki, Zhang Huan and Kazuo Shiraga, facilitating a dialogue between Western and Eastern thinking and art traditions, but also providing a perspective other than a Eurocentric one.

Photograph: courtesy West Bund Museum

The temporary exhibition, Observations, showcases some highlights of the Centre Pompidou New Media Collection. Centred around the concept of ‘looking and being looked at’, these 16 or so video projects differentiate 'looking' from observation, voyeurism, surveillance and censorship. Some of the works invite spectators to take part in them – one piece asks you to sit in a chair and observe upside-down video images showing the artist’s studio (spoiler alert: nothing really happens).

Photograph: courtesy West Bund Museum

The highlight of the space downstairs is the Playground. Conceived by Chinese contemporary artist Shenyuan, the 365sqm space is transformed into an area full of ‘plastic’ with a large vortex at its centre to mirror the state of our oceans – everything is made from recycled materials. Kids are encouraged to take off their shoes and shuffle the installation around while learning about ways to save our oceans.

Photograph: courtesy West Bund Museum

For those who have been to Centre Pompidou in Paris (Europe’s largest modern and contemporary art museum), this museum feels like a condensed version that gives a fairly good introduction to the essentials. But at Pompidou Shanghai, you’ll get the feeling that it was curated with Asian patrons in mind rather than transporting a show directly from Paris to Shanghai. It’s a fantastic addition to the West Bund art zone – simple but beautiful.

Venue details

West Bund Museum

Designed by British architect David Chipperfield, this 25,000sqm museum has three galleries on the second and third floor, a museum shop and a gallery on the first and a sunken courtyard and 800sqm pu

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2600 Longteng Dadao

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