The Pompidou Center’s Business Model Is “Unstable,” Find Auditors

An audit report conducted by France’s Court of Auditors revealed that the Centre Pompidou‘s economic model is unsustainable. The museum faces financial strain from an ongoing renovation project of its primary institution in Paris and the creation of a new branch in Massy, France.

“At the moment, let us say, the Centre Pompidou does not have the means to finance its development and investment projects on its own,” president of the Court of Auditors Pierre Moscovici told Le Monde, with a “message of extreme vigilance” to the museum as well as France’s Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for it.

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Released yesterday, the report accounts for the Centre Pompidou’s finances between 2013 and 2022. During this time, the museum took on the complete renovation of its flagship by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, which requires the museum to close for at least five years beginning in 2025. The additional construction of a new storage and exhibition space in the suburbs of Paris, expected to open in 2026, has only increased the financial burden.

The renovation project costs €358 million ($383 million) and, due to delays, required an internal restructuring that is estimated to run a minimum of €200 million ($214 million) extra. The institution must raise the money itself by the beginning of 2025 at the latest. As of now, it has raised €39 million ($42 million).

The Massy space is expected to cost €254 million ($271 million), with an additional €142 million ($152 million) in expenses due to the undervaluation of expenditures and inflation, according to the magistrates.

Unlike most major Parisian museums, ticket revenue is at a plateau, with 2.62 million admissions in 2023; attendance has not returned to that of 2022 or pre-pandemic levels. The magistrates expect the museum to operate at a loss of €15 million ($16 million) while undergoing renovation work.

Over the last decade, the Centre Pompidou has diversified its resources through the promotion of its brand and extensive collections of 120,000 works, which make it the second largest museum of Modern and contemporary art in the world. It has expanded to include such locations as Malaga in Spain, and Shanghai in China, as well as those coming soon, Jersey City in the United States and Seoul in South Korea.

The Centre Pompidou is relying on a long-term partnership with Saudi Arabia that was established last year to help generate revenue.

The audit report encouraged the museum to focus efforts on updating its management and better cushioning its budget. The court also recommends exercising better control of expenses, including payroll. The possibility of outsourcing labor, however, already resulted in a several-months-long strike.

Additionally, the institution and the Ministry of Culture were recommended to maintain a productive dialogue, so as to not weaken the country’s financial stability.

The Centre Pompidou has a strategic committee in place, which comes together with the cultural ministry and the budget department twice annually to take stock of various projects.

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