The Center Pompidou takes its mark in Saudi Arabia… and expands to Korea


The Center Pompidou in Paris, August 10, 2022.

This is the sign of a certain warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and France, and for French cultural operators a small victory against their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in California, who had hoped to win the timpani. As The world had anticipated it in February, the Center Pompidou signed, on Sunday March 12, a cultural engineering contract to develop a large-scale museum project dedicated to artists from the Arab world, whose opening is planned for 2027-2028 on the splendid Nabataean site of Al-Ula, in the northwest of the kingdom.

In November 2019, already, Laurent Le Bon, then director of the Picasso Museum, had been part of the delegation of the Minister of Culture at the time, Franck Riester, the only French politician in office to go to Al-Ula a year later. the sordid assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The contract, in the pipeline since Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Riyadh in 2021 and validated by both parties since 2022, was only waiting for Rima Abdul Malak’s trip to Saudi Arabia on March 11 and 12 to be signed. by Laurent Le Bon, now president of the Center Pompidou, and Nora Aldabal, arts and culture director at the Royal Commission for Al-Ula.

The agreement provides for several phases of support, conservation advice, a policy of exhibitions and loans of works, as well as a scientific program of conferences and an educational strategy. According to our information, the two parties have three months to negotiate the financial counterparties.

The Center Pompidou enters the dance when the future museum began its acquisitions a year ago, which focused, in particular, on important sets of works by the Sudanese painter Ibrahim El-Salahi, and his Algerian colleague Rachid Koraïchi.

Other initiatives are floundering

But the ambitions of the Center Pompidou abroad also target Asia. According to our information, the Piano and Rogers refinery has just activated a partnership with the Hanwha Foundation, linked to a conglomerate of South Korean companies present in finance, armaments and renewable energies, for an envelope of 20 million euros over four years, which gives the right to use the “Centre Pompidou” brand. According to the memorandum of understanding, The world was able to consult, Beaubourg would be entrusted with the programming of ten annual exhibitions in a building of 11,500 m2 in Seoul, which will be renovated by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

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