Brancusi's World

Constantin Brancusi, selfportrait in his studio, ca. 1934, collection Centre Pompidou
Constantin Brancusi, selfportrait in his studio, ca. 1934, collection Centre Pompidou

I passed the Atelier Brancusi many times, and never found the time to enter.  Until now. Just before my interview with Dries Van Noten (you can read it in the December issue of the Dutch Harper’s Bazaar) I thought it wise to take a few moments to pass by the place that fascinated Constantin Brancusi all his life. Of course, the Romanian artist never worked in this very place. He created most of his works in the ateliers he occupied in the 15th arrondissement of Paris.  When he died in 1957, he had his will stating that the French state was to have his entire workshop, featuring a unique collection of 137 sculptures, 87 pedestals, 41 drawings, 2 paintings and more than 1.600 photographic glass plates and original photos by the artist. But entering the Atelier, one can feel where his passion once resided. In a working space full of tools, art, and most of all… excitement.


"Work like a slave, command like a king; create like a god." (Brancusi)


"When we are no longer children, we are already dead" (Brancusi)


"La Simplicité est la complexité résolue." (Brancusi)

The artist lived and worked in Paris from 1904 until his death in 1957 – he produced most of his work in the city of light. From 1916 until his death, Brancusi worked in various studios, at first 8, then 11 Impasse Ronsin, in Paris's 15th arrondissement. He used two and then three studios, knocking down the walls to create the first two rooms in which he exhibited his work. In 1936 and 1941, he added two other adjoining areas, which he used for works in progress and to house his workbench and tools. In 1956, Brancusi bequeathed his entire studio (completed works, sketches, furniture, tools, library, record library, photographs, etc.) to the French state, on condition that the studio just as it was at the artist's death would be reconstructed.  After an initial partial reconstruction in 1962 within the museum collections at the Palais de Tokyo, its exact replica was produced in 1977, opposite the Centre Pompidou. The Brancusi atelier as we know it today, was reconstructed on the piazza of the Centre Pompidou in 1997, by architect Renzo Piano.

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"Architecture is inhabited sculpture." (Brancusi)


"To see far is one thing, going there is another." (Brancusi)

What is so special about this place is that the body of work is closely linked to the space itself. It’s as if the specific works of art all need to be exactly where we find them. Moreover, at the end of his life, Brancusi stopped creating sculptures and focused solely on their relationship within the studio. Whenever a work of art was sold, he replaced it with a plaster copy so as not to destroy the unity of the group. Isn’t that amazing?


"Simplicity is not an objective in art, but one achieved simplicity despite one's self by entering into the real sense of things." (Brancusi)


"Les choses ne sont pas difficiles à faire, ce qui est difficile c'est de nous mettre en état de les faire." (Brancusi)