There are works by Picasso, Sonia Delaunay, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Bracusi, Chagal, Cy Tombly, Calder, Paul Klein, Miró, Joseph Beuys, Cristina Iglesias, Chinese artists like Zao Wou- Ki or Zhang Huan ...

But so significant (or more) than all the works of art that since yesterday can be contemplated in the newly opened Pompidou Center in Shanghai are those other pieces that were planned to be exhibited ... and that nonetheless are not. The Chinese authorities have forced them out , applying the censorship roll.

They are a small handful of the works of art that Beijing has vetoed and that, because of not creating a diplomatic conflict between China and France, have finally been left out of the two exhibitions that mark the starting gun of the Pompidou Center in Shanghai. "There are not five works that we have had to withdraw," confesses Serge Lasvignes, president of the space - the main French museum of modern and contemporary art and whose ownership is public - trying to take the matter off fire.

-And what works have been censored?

- That, as you will understand, I cannot tell you. The main thing for us now is to understand why these works have been considered inappropriate.

Lasvignes says all that in his native French. "Because in China it is very important what is said, the words that are used," he emphasizes, making it clear that he does not want to cause misunderstandings. And he adds: " There will be someone who believes that if you censor a work you cannot work with China . But I do not see it that way. That is not thinking of people, but of intellectuals," he says, in veiled allusion to the criticisms that French thinkers have aired that Paris collaborates culturally with a repressive regime and violates human rights.

There are even those who believe that, with all this operation, Paris could be contributing to whiten the international image of China . "The exterior image of China is not my business. The important thing for me is whether our presence here can foster dialogue between cultures," emphasizes Lasvignes, who believes that the opening of the new space in Shanghai will not damage the image of the Pompidou.

"On the contrary: I believe that the Pompidou Center will have a stronger image. First, because we have had the courage to come here. And secondly because we are going to demonstrate that interesting things can be done in China knowing what the situation is and the criteria of the Chinese authorities. "

And if they don't get it? "If we see that we cannot do interesting things, we will close and leave , " he says.

Serge Lasvignes also maintains that the agreement sealed between the Chinese and French authorities so that for five years (expandable) the Shanghai Pompidou Center has at its disposal a 25,000 square meter building designed by British architect David Chipperfield on the banks of the Huangpu River , in the Xuhui Waterfront neighborhood, it will not affect the exhibition program of that institution outside of China at all. In other words: in Paris, in Malaga or in Brussels, where the Pompidou already has branches , the center will continue to expose dissident Chinese artists or those involved in the mobilizations and protests that have shaken Hong Kong for weeks. "We are still free to do whatever we want, more would be missing," emphasizes Lasvignes.

Paris has needed more than 10 years and meticulous diplomatic negotiations to achieve what it qualifies as "the most important cultural cooperation project between France and China". "It is a world first" for a western museum, said on Tuesday taking off the French president, Emmanuel Macron, during the inauguration ceremony of the Pompidou center in Shanghai.

The involvement of Macron

" Macron has been completely involved in this project . It was not at all clear that a project like this could happen in China today," explains the head of the Pompidou Center. "Only in 2017 did he get the 'yes' from Chinese President Xi Jinping."

Lasvignes insists that the fundamental objective of this project is cultural cooperation and dialogue. But nobody escapes the economic background of this operation that has as main protagonists the Pompidou and the West Bund group, a Chinese state promoter company that in recent years, together with the Shanghai municipal authorities, has invested around 3,000 million euros to transform the Xuhui Waterfront industrial district into a huge cultural district with several museums, galleries, exhibition centers and restaurants.

It is the West Bund group that has paid for the construction of the Pompidou museum in Shanghai and that runs absolutely with all the expenses that the art center itself generates. In addition, it is also that company that each year will pay the French museum of modern and contemporary French art about 2.7 million euros (apart from transport and insurance) for lending him some pieces of his collection to exhibit them in which it is already known as the Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project Center.

"In the next few days we will communicate together with West Bund the exact figure, an amount that can vary from one year to another. But it is West Bund who runs all the expenses and who gives us compensation," explains Lasvignes.

And he concludes: "Being present here is more difficult than not being."

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