Walking through Rue de Rivoli, one of the most notorious street of Paris well-known not only for its very central location but also for hosting many high-brand shops including some of the most illustrious names in the fashion world, you wouldn’t expect to find a former squat occupied by artists, wouldn’t you?
To our delighted surprise there is one and it reminded us a little bit of the one we loved so much in Berlin, Tacheles. We will always try to see and discover places like 59 Rivoli because wherever there is art – especially free art for everyone to enjoy – that must be passion and commitment behind, at least we like to think so.
Here Is How the Story Begins
Everything started 15 years ago when a group of tenacious artists occupied the old building on 59, Rivoli which was abandoned first by a bank and after by the state. Their intentions were only to demonstrate how they could make a good use of such a big empty space towards an alternative and cultural activity by giving the artists a place to create and live in. This art squat lasted for a few years until in 2006 the government and the Paris mayor at that time decided to make it legal. In fact the place was closed to be renovated, cleaned up, made to conform to law and ready to be used legally by the artists. We wish more places had the same faith of 59 Rivoli, unfortunately many of them end up being shut down like Tacheles which we sadly saw with our own eyes 🙁
Time to Check It Out
When our awesome Parisian Couchsurfing hosts suggested to take us to 59 Rivoli after having explained what it was to start with and what it became in the recent years, we were very excited and very curious to see this legalized art squat.
It’s amazing how the building is open to everyone to visit and there is no entry fee to pay. It’s in fact possible to visit each floor and see the artists at work in their workshops, talk to them and buy some great art if wanted. Apparently there is always something new to discover because there are 20 permanent artists and 10 resident ones that have a studio for only 3 or 6 months time. In this way more than few have the chance to be part of this great art community, live in one of the most famous cities for the art scene and have the chance to expose their works to a big audience. In fact 59 Rivoli is always buzzing with visitors, it has now became an icon of the alternative and free Parisian art scene that many cannot miss.
Also for music lovers, there are concerts every weekend which we unfortunately missed because we only found out about them once we left Paris, not very smart I know!
I personally loved 59 Rivoli, its history, the tenacity of the people that occupied it back in 1999 and how they made it the great place it is today, I only wished we stayed in Paris long enough to go back and take more time to slowly explore it. It was quite overwhelming to see so much and different art all in one go, it’s something that happens to me when visiting a museum too.
I loved seeing the artists at work, creating something and interacting with the people, its’ something that doesn’t happen so often and in a way made me feel closer to what was displayed. Most of the time we don’t realize the amount of work and how many hours are spent by the artists to create something, being able to watch them actually doing it was very interesting and inspiring in a way. It almost made me want to go back to paint not to make a profit but just for fun and for my own pleasure.
Address : 59, Rue de Rivoli
Opened everyday from 1-8pm (except Mondays)
Considering how many abandoned places there are everywhere in the world, I wish more and more of them would become something like 59 Rivoli, where an alternative cultural community could grow, interact with the outside world, get more and more people involved and make use of a space forgotten and left to rot away.