From 12 May 2010 to 12 September 2011

Locations : Galerie 1 , Galerie 2 , Galerie 3 , Grande Nef
Category : Exhibitions
Public price : 7 € (tarif unique)
Public : All ages

Masterpieces? is a historic cultural event in many respects. As the opening exhibition of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, it proudly introduces the first decentralisation of a major national cultural institution – the Centre Pompidou – in partnership with regional authorities : the City of Metz, the Metz Métropole Urban Community, the Moselle Department and the Lorraine Region. Its concept encapsulates the cultural mission of this new institution in the heart of Europe, reaching out to wide audiences with an ambitious programme of exhibitions and events that shares the Centre Pompidou’s values – innovation, accessibility and cross-disciplinarity – while drawing on its know-how, network and reputation. One of the Centre Pompidou-Metz’s main assets is its preferential access to the nearly 100,000 works of the Musée national d’art moderne, Europe’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art. Gathering a rare and exceptional selection of major works, many of which have hardly ever been on loan before, Masterpieces? highlights the formidable wealth of this extraordinary collection.

A unique event with respect to its scenography and the diversity of works it comprises, Masterpieces? features the largest number of works on loan in the history of the Centre Pompidou. It embraces the over 5,000 sq.m. of exhibition spaces in the spectacular building designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines. The exhibition, which is divided into four chapters, sheds new light on the notion of masterpiece, past, present and future. To do so, it reexamines this long-standing and arguably antiquated concept while applying it to modern and contemporary works of art. Masterpieces? will gradually make way for temporary exhibitions and programmes designed to contribute to shape the cultural identity of the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

The masterpiece: “an accomplished work in its genre”, Le Petit Robert

The exhibition covers all the periods and areas of the Centre Pompidou’s collection: painting, sculpture, installation, graphic arts, photography, video, sound works, cinema, architecture, design, and more, since 1905.  Thanks to the extraordinary richness and diversity of the Centre Pompidou’s collection, some of the greatest figures of 20th century art are on display in Metz, artists such as Braque, Léger, Matisse and Picasso.

The exhibition presents a variety of famous works, but also reveals other works, less well-known. “Masterpieces” thus creates a surprising series of images, a kind of “collage”, that no traditional permanent collection could hope to offer with the same effect.  Visitors are thus invited to discover (or rediscover) major works from the Centre Pompidou’s collection , with the surprise of coming across unexpected “dialogues between works”.

Prestigious international institutions have accepted to contribute to the exhibition by loaning major works, thus enlarging the chronological scope of the Centre Pompidou’s collection. These works presented for the first time together thus allow visitors to reflect on the notions of taste, collections, museums and aesthetic judgement.

Criticitised at the start of the 20th century by the avant-garde movement who had decided to break with tradition, and then simply ignored, the masterpiece is now restored to its rightful place and given contemporary value through the eyes of artists commissioned to create specific works. These works guide visitors through the exhibition by means of quotations, diversions, reflections on the notion of acceptance, influences and filiations.

Sponsors and partners

Wendel Mécène fondateurSNCFINASaint Louis

In media partnership with

Radio FranceFrance Télévisions

"Masterpieces throughout history"
Grande Nef
From 12 May 2010 to 4 July 2011

The first part of the exhibition, Masterpieces throughout history, proposes a chronological journey through 17 rooms relating the changing notion of the masterpiece throughout the centuries.
This section examines acceptance of the notion of a masterpiece ever since it first emerged in the Middle Ages, a sort of history of “good taste” from then until the present day. It is also an opportunity to highlight certain key moments in the history of the Musée national d’art moderne and the compilation of its collection. A gigantic mirror is hung from the very high ceiling in this space, providing a reversed image of the exhibition inviting visitors to reflect on the notion of the masterpiece.

"Stories behind masterpieces"
Gallery 1
From 12 May 2010 to 4 July 2011

The second part of the exhibition, Stories behind masterpieces, is presented in Gallery 1. What is a masterpiece, if not the product of converging stories? Stories of an artist, a process of creation, a work and its fate at the hands of critics. After the work by Giuseppe Penone Respirare l’ombra, visitors have two possibilities: either a series of rooms dedicated to the avant-garde movement with its “isms” (fauvism, cubism, etc.), or another story, highlighting lesser known figures and movements of the 20th century.
This space consists of a network of rooms of varying sizes, offering vast perspectives and visual play-offs.

Masterpiece dreams
Gallery 2
From 12 May 2010 to 12 September 2011

The exhibition continues in Gallery 2 with Masterpiece dreams, a proposal of a “dream musuem” placing side by side containers – the museums –, and contents – the works. First we discover a parade of emblematic 20th century works of art in chronological order. On the other side of the wall, we then find for the first time a history of modern and contemporary art exhibition buildings built in France since 1937. Some thirty architectural achievements are shown off to their true value through a unique presentation of models, original drawings and filmed interviews.

Masterpieces ad infinitum
Galerie 3
From 12 May 2010 to 17 January 2011

The final part of the exhibition, Masterpieces ad infinitum, analyses how the notion of masterpiece has persisted throughout the 20th century at a time when images became easily reproducible.
With the development of new media such as film and digital imagery, contemporary artists have adopted a different approach to the concept of masterpiece. Many have made copies and reproductions a part of their work, prompting the viewer to reconsider the essential characteristic of any masterpiece : its uniqueness.
Lastly, the spread of reproductions has changed our relationship with art. What is a masterpiece today ? What is its future ? Without claiming to provide a single, unique answer, the final section of the exhibition invites viewers to question the value they ascribe to the art of their own day and time.
And finally the exhibition’s scenography calls the visitor’s attention to the scenic view on St. Stephen’s Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece by any standard. The optical illusion created - the cathedral diminishes, as the viewer draws nearer to it - offers a visual allegory of the unfathomable essence of the masterpiece, the definition of which eludes us while accommodating the most contradictory interpretations