Sitting in the shadow of the flamboyant Centre Pompidou is an easy to miss modest concrete box. This is Atelier Brancusi, the re-created studio of one of the fathers of modern sculpture, Constantin Brancusi.
A lifelong Parisian, Constanin Brancusi emigrated from his native Romania to Paris in 1904. After studying sculpture at Scoala Natzionala de Arte Frumoase in Bucharest, he continued his studies in 1905 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The following year, his sculpture debuted at the Salon d’Automne, where he met the French master Auguste Rodin.
At the age of 30, Brancusi’s career path seemed secure when he joined Rodin’s Paris studio. But after just two months he left the employ of Rodin with the explanation “Nothing grows well under the shadow of big trees.”
Within a year Brancusi’s stone sculpture “The Kiss,” marked this change of direction. His reputation as one of the great innovators of modern sculpture was assured with the first “Sleeping Muse,” a marble ovoid head with delicate stylized features lying peacefully on its side.
The sculptor had settled in Paris but returned frequently to Bucharest and exhibited there almost every year. In 1913, five of Brancusi’s sculptures were included in the Armory Show in New York. Alfred Stieglitz presented the first solo show of Brancusi’s work at his gallery “291,” New York, in 1914.
In 1920, Brancusi sent his sculpture “Princess X” to the major Paris exhibition Salon des Independants. It was denounced by a conservative faction as indecent and police removed it from the show.
After the incident, Brancusi’s studio became his gallery and exhibition space. He was so disgusted with the Paris art world that he never exhibited in Paris again for the rest of his life.
Before his death in 1957, Brancusi willed his studio to the Paris Museum of Modern Art with the proviso that it be preserved intact. The Atelier Brancusi collection consists of of 137 sculptures, 87 bases, 41 drawings and over 1,600 photographic glass plates and original prints. Architect Renzo Piano successfully preserved the intimacy of Brancusi’s workshop studio while protecting it behind glass walls.
While Atelier Brancusi is free, most Paris museums have admission fees. The Museum Pass for Paris is a convenient multi-museum pass available online or at The Paris Tourist Office’s Main Welcome Center at 25 Rue de Pyramides. Skip the queues and visit as many times as you like. The Paris Museum Pass is available for 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days.