Paris: Underground artists go mainstream at 59Rivoli

Posted in: Paris Sights


A mural inside 59Rivoli. Photo by Liz Webber.
A mural inside 59Rivoli. Photo by Liz Webber.

Back in Picasso’s day, many Paris artists took up residence in a tenement in Montmartre called “Le Bateau-Lavoir.” More recently, cash-strapped artistes have resorted to squatting in abandoned buildings, in search of a cheap place to live or work.

What happens when someone comes in to kick out the squatters? In the case of 59Rivoli, the French government took over and eventually gave the building back to the artists.

Happily for art lovers, the location officially reopened to the public at the beginning of September 2009, offering free entry to the artists’ world.

Renovating the “aftersquat”

In 1999, the artists who squatted at 59 Rue de Rivoli had to sneak into the building through a window in the back. Then the government bought the building in 2002, and after pouring in 5.5 million euros in renovations, reestablished the space as an artists’ workshop.

Since the building is no longer technically a “squat,” it has been dubbed an “aftersquat.” Some critics complain the concept has been sanitized, but it still gives the artists a chance to work while exposing their creations to the public.

Discovering the art

The building’s six floors house 30 ateliers; 20 belong to the original artists’ collective, while the remaining 10 will be opened to invited artists on a temporary basis. The official announcement of the reopening states that visitors will not be permitted to visit the work spaces, but when this Cheapo visited, the workshops were open for viewing.

Year-round, 59Rivoli will host exhibitions featuring a particular artist or group. Upcoming expos include one devoted to South American artists from October 27 to November 8, 2009 and “Femininity and Others” from November 25 to December 6, 2009.

59Rivoli is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 PM to 8 PM, with an opening time of 11 AM on Saturday. It is located, unsurprisingly, at 59 rue de Rivoli. Metro: Châtelet.

We’ve also got a list of free museums for more art viewing on the cheap.

About the author

About the author: Liz Webber is a freelance journalist living and working in Paris. She has previously worked for the International Herald Tribune and Budget Travel.

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