A room within a room, the Atelier Brancusi at the Pompidou (1997 - present) is best seen as soon as its doors are open; one truly needs to consider the arrangement of the space without disturbance in order to properly appreciate the works of Constantin Brancusi.
The smudges from the many bodies, faces, and hands pressed up against the ambulatory panes are unmissable, but still, to witness the interaction of the sculptures against the backdrop of Brancusi's studio instruments is a hallowed experience in its own way. Intriguing to examine are the many preparatory casts of Brancusi's iconic sculptures like the Bird in Space and Sleeping Muse resting alongside a selection of completed works, rearranged as they might have been during his lifetime.
Bequeathed to the French Government by Brancusi with instructions to preserve his 'studio museum' upon his passing, the once embattled atelier has seen its fair share of obtuse adjustments and transience prior to settling at its current place at the Center Pompidou. Disturbed by the early treatment of his work by museum curators, and increasingly interested in how addressing the spatial concerns of the studio space could present a complete work - in and of itself - Brancusi used his atelier and living space as a showroom where invited guests could interact directly with the sculptures in a meaningful way.
In this regard, the Pompidou space is an oddity. It comes remarkably close to honouring the requests of Brancusi through an emphasis on conservation, but in so doing, it strips the place and its works of the original intimacy they were to represent. With glass panes separating the viewer from the works, it is easy to treat the atelier as a sterile, static whole, and easier still to miss the complexity of Brancusi's very craft-based method or the mark of his hand on the individual sculptures.
A walk-through installation of the atelier as seen recently in LACMA's staging of James Turrell's work and the reimagined Dick Bruna studio inside the Centraal Museum in Utrecht might have been fair considerations, but the impracticality of having a metered attendance or managing the safety of the a high volume of works arranged so closely and within easy reach are obvious concerns.
And yet, Atelier Brancusi is still an impressive, ceremonial thing to behold.
Special Thanks to the Center Pompidou