Under the heading of the battles led in favor of equality for all in cultural matters, the name of Gaëtan Picon may be mentioned, as we are told by Agnès Callu, the author of a dissertation about this man, one of “history’s vanquished.” Picon is said to have consistently tried to impose an elitist form of taste via the loftiness of choices that were not only audacious but democratic, in that he campaigned so that the whole of the country would be reached, in particular by means of French-style community arts centers, the Maisons de la Culture. A French Nietzschean and a solitary figure who ultimately remained at the margins of contemporary discussions, Picon is said to have, despite all, left behind faint traces of a far-reaching project, one first imagined as early as 1937 and put into practice (but also impeded) when, starting in 1959, he served as Director for Arts and Letters under the ministry of André Malraux.
Laurent Le Bon, the new Director of the Pompidou Center-Metz (which was inaugurated in May 2010), responds to Callu on the level of achieved results. Le Bon has headed up an unprecedented experiment--one Picon would perhaps have approved of--that follows in the wake of what French President Georges Pompidou attempted and succeeded in imposing for Paris in 1977. The new Metz Museum is said to be the inspired sequel to the interdisciplinary Center that arose on the Beaubourg plain in Paris, and not a mere duplicate thereof, founded elsewhere. For, the atmosphere of the two projects is not the same, and history required that it be begun anew, in partnership with various local and regional authorities. The Metz version is also served by an architectural design that is transparent and user-friendly; inside and outside are brought into relation with each other. The outside, moreover, is necessarily altered by this architectural presence, which is open to a visiting public that is itself in the process of construction and that, as one already knows, goes far beyond the limit of regular visitors to cultural institutions.