The Mobile Pompidou Centre is the first mobile museum in the world.  It is currently at Boulogne-sur-Mer at the Gare Maritime, the port area abandoned by ferry companies in recent years.

The bright colours of this fantastically innovative structure are like a surreal beacon against the grey concrete of ageing car ramps, concrete car parks and grey buildings. A polymorphic structure of three tents can be adapted to any environment from shopping centres to historic town centres. The Mobile Pompidou Centre is a lightweight and transportable edifice and the intention of the creators was to invoke the spirit of the circus or carnival ”“ it certainly does that.   The design allows the Mobile Pompidou Centre to go anywhere in France and to bring great art to the wider public.

L’Aveugle dans la prairie (The Blind Man in the Meadow) by Niki de Saint Phalle

A selection of masterpieces from the main collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which houses one of the richest collections in the world, has been transported to their new exhibition area in the Mobile Pompidou Centre.  On display are paintings and sculptures which take the visitor on a journey into art since the early 20th  Century with some of the greatest contemporary artists of all time which takes as its theme ”“ Colour.
Les Grands plongeurs noirs (The Big Black Divers) by Fernard Léger

Picasso’s Femme en bleu (Woman in blue) 1944, Frantià… ¡ek Kupka’s La Gamme Jaune (Yellow Range) 1907, Jean Dubuffet’s amazing Papa Gymnastique, Fernand Léger’s  Les Grands Plongeurs noirs (The Big Black Divers) 1944 and many more (see website link below for more details).   My personal favourite was the Niki de Saint Phalle L’Aveugle dans la prairie (the Blind Man in the Meadow) 1974 exhibit, two separate sculptures; one a beautiful large colourful cow, the other a black and white man, reading a newspaper unable to appreciate the beauty of the coloured cow depicting modern man, always in too much of a hurry to appreciate his surroundings. Seen in a room on its own, alone, against the white of the interior, it was a quite amazing and moving sight.

Inside the structure the colours that lure the visitor in are replaced with white walls and ceilings and a neutral coloured floor ”“ allowing the artwork to take centre stage without distraction. Sculptures are viewed – not behind bars or ropes but displayed in all their glory in such a way that the viewer is able to walk around them and enjoy them in a close and intimate sense.   Paintings are behind safety glass but viewable from just inches away and I suspect members of the public are rarely able to enjoy such magnificent art in such close proximity.

I spoke to one of the administrators who told me that they have had many children visit the mobile Pompidou Centre and they certainly had younger visitors in mind when they put the collection together.

I arrived as the centre opened at 12.00 noon and had the place almost to myself for a while before a group of very young children aged 5-6 arrived.   They were fascinated by the optical glass disc and lamp sculpture by Olafur Eliasson which changed colour as the hanging glass and mirrored circles slowly turned and bounced light off of the white walls and around the room.

I was totally amazed to see such a collection ”“ eclectic, ephemeral and stunning, I felt privileged to have seen the beautiful works of art in this way and it is totally free to the public. A generous and generous spirited act from the organisers of this exhibition.

The Mobile Pompidou Centre will be moving from Boulogne-sur-Mer on September 16th  and will make its new temporary home in Libourne, in the Gironde (region Aquitaine) opening October 2012.

For more information visit the Centre Pompidou website.

This article was originally published on The Good Life France,  an Untapped Cities partner site.