Terror attacks scared off visitors to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay last year, but the numbers kept on rising for the Pompidou Centre, its president Serge Lasvignes told AAPA members over lunch on Jan. 11 as the centre marks its 40th anniversary.

The nine percent rise at the Pompidou – 3.33 million people turned up in 2016 – was because the bulk of its visitors are French and they see the modern art museum as their own local cultural centre to which they return again and again, Mr. Lasvignes explained.

The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are more popular with foreign visitors – many of whom were scared by the recent spate of terror attacks – and that explains why they both reported a decline in visitor numbers last year, he said.

He spoke of the raft of celebration events that are scheduled throughout the year to mark the 40th birthday of the building that scandalised many French when it opened back in 1977, when Le Figaro newspaper dubbed it a “Loch Ness monster.”

Mr. Lasvignes also shared his thoughts on the “dilemma” he would face if Marine Le Pen wins the presidential election this spring.

“Unless it was impossible, I would stay in a spirit of resistance,” he said. “We would have to be in opposition to any government whose programme was about closing minds or about cultural conservatism. In that case, the Pompidou Centre and French culture would have to rediscover its militant role.”

-Rory Mulholland

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