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The West Bund Museum in Shanghai. Courtesy of the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Centre Pompidou’s Shanghai Outpost Opens Friday

After more than a decade of planning an expansion to China, the Centre Pompidou in Paris will finally open a branch of the modern and contemporary art museum in Shanghai on Friday, November 8. The institution unveiled its new venue, called Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project, in the recently completed David Chipperfield–designed West Bund Museum, located along a new seven-mile cultural corridor on the banks of the Huangpu River on Tuesday. Among those who attended the inauguration ceremony was French President Emmanuel Macron.

According to the New York Times, the Pompidou is calling the project—a collaboration with the Chinese state-owned developer the West Bund Group—the “largest ever cultural exchange” between France and China. While the two countries only agreed upon a five-year contract, they will be able to extend the partnership once the five years are up. Until then, Pompidou curators will pull from the museum’s collection to organize three semi-permanent shows per year for the outpost and will develop related programming such as screenings, performances, and conferences. In addition to covering operating costs, the West Bund Group will pay the Pompidou roughly 2.75 million euros each year.

Even though the museum doesn’t open its doors to the public until Friday, it has already faced challenges over the content of its upcoming shows, which must first be approved by the local authorities. Its inaugural exhibition, “The Shape of Time,” which will include one hundred works from the Pompidou’s holdings, including pieces by Vasily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Zhang Huan, had to ditch works that didn’t make it past China’s censors. Serge Lasvignes, the Pompidou’s president, confirmed that the museum was asked to replace four works for “various” reasons that were “not only political.”

“The authorization and approval process may seem complex but we know how to adapt,” Lasvignes said in a statement. “Ultimately, do we serve democracy better by ignoring China, or by being there, forging ties, providing access to Western culture and talking with partners, artists, and visitors?” He added: “We are determined to work together, finding common ground and coming to agreement on choices that make sense for both parties.”

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