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Modern masterpieces to tour France in tent show

CHAUMONT, France, (AFP) – Fourteen modern masterpieces sat in a field, hours from the nearest big city: Paris’ Pompidou Centre hits the road Thursday with a nomad museum project aimed at taking art out to the people.

President Nicolas Sarkozy was to cut the ribbon on the traveling tent structure dubbed Pompidou Mobile, as it opens for three months in Chaumont, its first stop, on the Marne River three hours west of Paris.

Billed as a world first, the free-access show is part of a broader outreach strategy by the Pompidou Centre, one of the world’s top modern art museums, following the launch last year of a satellite in eastern Metz.

“It seemed vital to build our ability to take art to people who never set foot in a museum,” Pompidou Centre chairman Alain Seban told AFP, citing figures that suggest one in two French people have never visited a museum.

Three steel and alumimium modules covered in a brightly colored tent made of break-in proof fabric, the whole structure is about the size of a football field.

Safe behind protective casing, works by modern art masters Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, George Braque, Henri Matisse and Alexander Calder headline the first traveling collection, built around the theme of color.

“We went for a lightweight, collapsible structure that was as simple as undaunting as possible,” Seban said. “When it pulls into a town for three months, it should feel like a circus or funfair arriving.”

From Chaumont, the show will head to Cambrai in the north, Boulogne-sur-Mer on the Channel coast, with stops also planned in southwestern Aquitaine, the port of Le Havre and Aubagne near the Mediterranean city of Marseille.

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