Centre Pompidou masterpieces

The Centre Pompidou in Paris is home to some of the world’s greatest works of modern art and design. 

From the early 20th century to the present day, the Centre Pompidou has been a hub of creativity, inspiring visitors from all over the globe. 

This article will explore some of the most iconic Centre Pompidou masterpieces. 

If you plan to explore Centre Pompidou and do not have the time to explore every section, ensure you have this masterpieces list to make the best of your visit.

With the Black bow

‘With the Black Bow’ is an oil painting by Vassily Kandinsky, who portrayed abstract visual language through art in 1912.

The painting describes a large black arch providing a barrier between three blocks of color poised to collide. 

This “three continents colliding” is reflected in the “douga,” a part of the traditional Russian harness used for three horses. 

The painting appears transformed into a world of shapes and colors, with subtle and dynamic movements.

On display: Level 5 – Room 14: Vassily Kandinsky

Pig Carousel

“Pig Carousel” is an oil Painting by Robert Delaunay from 1922 that captures the lively atmosphere of a twenties funfair. 

Delaunay used a bright and vibrant palette of colors to depict the scene, with his favorite motif of myriad colored discs radiating from a hat. 

This creates a sense of frenetic movement and sound, evocative of the modern city filled with advertising hoardings and exciting sports. 

At the forefront of the painting, Robert and Sonia Delaunay’s friend, dada poet Tristan Tzara, symbolizes their close ties to contemporary poetry.

On Display: Level 5 – Room 11: Robert and Sonia Delaunay

The bride and groom of the Eiffel Tower

“The bride and groom of the Eiffel Tower” is an oil on linen canvas painting by artist Marc Chagall. 

This Centre Pompidou masterpiece captures the newlyweds Chagall and his wife, Bella, amidst a hybrid of Russian and Parisian elements. 

The painting is a testament to their journey to Paris from 1911 to 1914 and their participation in the Bolshevik revolution. 

The artwork is full of symbolic imagery, including 

  • A white cockerel whisking the couple away
  • The Jewish quarter threatened by the upside-down angel
  • A chandelier ablaze

In 1938-1939, Chagall painted this piece to express his fragile optimism in the face of the looming war.

On Display: Level 5 – Room 12: Marc Chagall

The Romanian Blouse

“The Romanian Blouse” is an oil painting by Henri Matisse, crafted in April 1940. 

The artwork captures the ornamental embroideries of the blouse, reflecting Matisse’s fascination with the visual beauty of fabrics. 

Through careful stylization of the oak leaves’ central ornaments, the painter seeks to express his admiration for the craftsmanship. 

The blouse billows out, creating a pictorial space that is both a visual metaphor and an artistic representation. 

Eleven photographs document the various stages of the painting’s development, gradually erasing the young girl’s figure and emphasizing the embroidered blouse.

On Display: Level 5 – Central South Alley

New York City

“New York City” is an  oil painting by Piet Mondrian that captures the city’s vibrant life from the 1940s. 

This Centre Pompidou masterpiece artwork represents Mondrian’s final research period, following his neoplastic period and the introduction of black grids to his works. 

His vertical and horizontal lines come to life with the vibrant use of color, creating an optical dynamism and an impression of movement. 

The crisscrossing of the painting conveys the city’s new energy, particularly in its embrace of the boogie-woogie beat.

On Display: Level 5 – North Central Alley

Phoque II

“Phoque II” is a sculpture created by Constantin Brancusi in 1943, originally titled Miracle. 

It represents a seal, conveying the essence of the animal’s awkwardness on land and grace in the water. 

The seal’s polished, undulating body reflects Brancusi’s search for organic forms. 

This version of the sculpture is made of blue marble and displayed on a circular stone pedestal, accentuating the sense of balance and energy. 

Formerly, the sculpture could move freely due to a system of ball bearings.

On Display: Level 5 – North Central Alley

Triptych Blue I, Blue II, Blue III

“Triptych Blue I, Blue II, Blue III” is an oil painting created by Joan Miró in 1961. 

This artwork contrasts two principles: the meditative state associated with contemplation and the chaos of human emotions. 

Against a constant blue backdrop, twelve round shapes form the middle of the painting. 

A significant red slash traverses the space, disrupting the regular pattern of the shapes as if it were the beginning point of the composition. 

The black pebbles scattered throughout the painting bring to mind the rocks of a Zen garden in Japan, seemingly arranged randomly.

On Display: Level 5 – Room 24: Joan Miró, The three blues

SE 71, The Tree, Big Blue Sponge

“SE 71, The Tree, Big Blue Sponge” is a sculptural masterpiece by French artist Yves Klein, created in 1962. 

The artwork consists of pure pigment and synthetic resin applied to a sponge and plaster. 

Klein was inspired by the sponge’s capacity for absorption and decided to use it as a medium for his art. 

Since 1959, he began to use the sponge as a replacement for monochrome in his sculptures. 

This was one of his last works and is renowned for its monumental size and striking blue color mixed with plaster, symbolizing an artificial levitation.

On Display: Level 5 – North Central Alley

Ben’s Store

“Ben’s Store” is an artwork created by Ben between 1958 and 1973. 

Composed of miscellaneous materials, it is a testament to the aesthetic of “DIV” and its rejection of the solemnity associated with Fluxus. 

In 1958, Ben opened a shop in Nice where he sold objects, records and cameras. 

He transformed it into a “total art center,” a hub of publications, meetings and conversations that attracted artists of all backgrounds. 

He arranged the items into a continually transforming sculpture he called N’importe quoi. 

In 1974, Ben moved his shop to the museum, the walls, “blackboards,” and objects covered in his distinctive, naive handwriting. 

His phrases speak to life and probe the status of artists and the human experience.

On Display: Level 4 – Room 3: Ben or the aesthetics of DIY

The Winter Garden

The Winter Garden is an artwork by the famous French artist Jean Dubuffet, completed between 1968 and 1970. 

The piece involves using polyurethane on epoxy to create an expansive and uniquely sculptural environment. 

The process began with a vinyl-painted polystyrene mock-up, followed by an epoxy painting with polyurethane. 

The artist then enlarged and refined the project from June 1969 to August 1970. 

The result is a cavernous space adorned with only black lines on a white backdrop. 

Yet, Dubuffet’s work is much more than an optical illusion.

Its uneven and dented walls and ground suggest a contemplative architecture that encourages the viewer to reflect on their entire artwork experience.

On Display: Level 4 – Room 6: Jean Dubuffet, “The Winter Garden”

Layout of the antechamber to the private apartments at the Elysée for president Georges Pompidou

“Layout of the antechamber to the private apartments at the Elysée for president Georges Pompidou” is an artwork by Yaacov Agam.

This “kinetic” pictural space is a prime example of Agam’s “polymorphic imagery” principles applied to interior architecture. 

It features beveled, colored elements, abstract compositions and fluorescent tubes that change according to the viewer’s angle. 

The project was overseen by Mobilier National and was finished in 1974.

On Display: Level 4 – Room 10: Yaacov Agam


“Plight” is an experiential artwork by artist Joseph Beuys in 1985. 

It features a variety of elements, including felt, wool, varnished wood, metal, painted wood, glass and mercury, that create a unique and layered atmosphere. 

This artwork speaks to a personal mythology stemming from the artist’s experience of being saved by Tatars during the Second World War. 

Felt blankets were used to insulate and protect him, echoing in this artwork through a closed piano and a blackboard with a musical staff.

Visitors can explore the space and use their senses to discover the warmth, protection and silence of this ambivalent environment.

On Display: Level 4 – Room 15: Joseph Beuys, “Plight”

Precious Liquids

“Precious Liquids” is an artwork by renowned artist Louise Bourgeois, created in 1992. 

This piece focuses on childhood, intimacy and sexuality, using a feminist perspective informed by psychoanalysis. 

This art utilizes a combination of 

  • Cedar wood
  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Rubber
  • Fabric
  • Embroidery
  • Water
  • Alabaster 
  • Electricity

The work presents an old water tank that appears to have experienced a traumatic event. 

It tackles the notion of body fluids (such as tears, sweat and urine) secreted in moments of intense emotion and examines the influence of the father figure. 

The metal band inscribed “Art is a guarantee of sanity” reflects the Bourgeois’ guiding thoughts.

On Display: Level 4 – Room 21


“Spades” is an artwork by French artist Annette Messager, created between 1992 and 1993. 

The artwork uses steel, colored pencils, pastels on paper, glass, fabric, nylon stockings, string and stuffed animals.

Messager’s Spades reinforces the importance of the artist’s role in society as a witness of their time and explores the darker side of humanity. 

Through juxtaposing elements such as 

  • Tragic world news
  • Hybrid creatures
  • Victims
  • Executioners
  • Reality 
  • Fiction

The artwork ultimately reflects upon the female identity and its relationship to the more significant history.

On Display: Level 4 – Room 18: Annette Messager

Respirare l’ombra

Respirare l’ombra is an example of Giuseppe Penone’s exploration of nature and its relationship to human life. 

This Centre Pompidou masterpiece, crafted between 1999 and 2000 out of wire mesh, laurel leaves and gilded bronze, is a multi-sensory experience. 

The room is filled with the pervasive scent of laurel leaves and the bronze sculptures appear to be moved by an invisible breeze. 

Penone encourages viewers to contemplate the ephemeral quality of life through this artwork.

On Display: Level 4 – Room 13 bis

Featured Image: Centrepompidou.fr

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