It is impossible not to notice the façade of Rue de Rivoli’s most unexpected building – a bizarrely decorated, multifloor palace of Contemporary Art. Unlike a gallery where you only see a small amount of the artist’s work, 59 Rivoli allows you to truly penetrate into an artist’s universe and see how their work is actually created.
Here each resident artist has their atelier – an experimental zone, full of conceptual collages, psychedelic canvases, and unborn ideas. All of them apply the “open studio policy”, meaning you can witness a phase of their work, while wandering the halls on each floor, see what they are currently crafting, or even meet some of the artists if you’re lucky enough to bump into one of them.
Before becoming one of the most popular art spots in the whole of France, 59 rue de Rivoli was an empty building, serving no one for ten long years. Previously owned by the Crédit Lyonnais bank to be afterwards abandoned, the 6-story, mid-19th-century Haussmanian style building was taken over in 1999 by a group of daring young artists who broke in through the back window, settled in and made it their place of work, living and exposition.
Yet the building needed major renovation that the artists definitely couldn’t subsidize.
Closed in 2006 by the municipal government, in order to be restored and secured, the new Aftersquat (as it is now called) re-opened in September 2009 and today serves as studio space for 32 resident artists. Now, a public agreement allows selected artists to reside in the squat in exchange for a minimal fee (as low as 1 euro per day), as long as their work remains accessible to the public.
Whether you’re into sculpture, painting, installation, photography or else – you will find your thing here, in the multi-disciplinary cultural alternative in the heart of Paris.
Besides the 6 floors of artists’ studios and the free concerts each Saturday and Sunday at 6pm, you can also profit from the Igor Balut museum, while visiting the Aftersquat. This unique and imaginative world, displaying random salvaged objects in chaotic order, is crammed with nonsensical bric-a-brac – dime novels, road signs, colibri cages, old Christmas trees, timeworn plush toys, cartoon suitcases, wigs and old daubs… Igor Balut himself? He’s a non-existing, fictional character fabricated by two of the local artists – David Hardy and Gaspard Delanoë.
A funny place, 59 Rivoli, isn’t it? With its 40 000 visitors per year, it’s become the third most visited contemporary art museum in Paris, right after Beaubourg and Jeu de Paume, and for a good reason.
How to get there :
59, Rue de Rivoli
Metro station: Châtelet
Tuesday – Sunday: 1pm – 8pm