Tucked between glitzy international stores in the premier arrondissement of Paris, the colourful façade of 59 Rivoli never fails to pique the curiosity of passersby – some often stop, throw a furtive glance at the interiors, and some even dare to venture in. Formerly an illegal artists’ squat, this colourful building is now a legitimised collective studio space and exhibition centre being used by more than thirty permanent and temporary resident artists.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Formerly used as a bank branch by Credit Lyonnais bank and later abandoned by the city for 15 years, this deteriorating building was taken over by three friends, Kalex, Gaspard et Bruno (who called themselves the ‘KGB’) in 1999. Soon some other artists joined the KGB to revive this unused empty space and create a lively, democratic place for the artists to create and exhibit their works. The new artist squat, which was now serving as an exhibition and performance space under the name “Chez Robert, électrons libres“, soon attracted the furore of the residents. With the pressure growing, the city government decided to evict the artists.
While the artists’ collective managed to get a stay on the eviction, the future of this gentrified squat still lay in a precarious balance. They then allied with Bertrand Delanoë, then a Mayoral candidate, who promised to legalise it if he won the elections. Following his win as the mayor, the city government acquired the building in 2006 and after three years of renovation, “59 Rivoli” reopened its doors in 2009 as a legitimate studio and exhibition space for the artists.
59 RIVOLI TODAY
A quirkily painted staircase leads you to the six floors of artists’ studios who pay minimal rent to use the space. The works are freely accessible by the visitors, who can browse through an enormous collection of eclectic artworks ranging from paintings, sculptures, mixed media and installations. The artworks keep changing with the artists who occupy their workspaces for anywhere between three to six months.
The artists are usually open to interactions with the visitors. Photography is allowed in the open spaces (that is, the stairway, the entrance and in Musée Igor Balut situated on the fourth floor). It is advisable to ask for the artist’s permission when photographing his/her works. If you see a sign ‘Pas de photos’ (No photos), please respect that. You can support the emerging artists by purchasing their artworks and prints on sale.
Studio 59 also organises concerts every weekend, and a live music and arts festival twice a year. Visit their website or Facebook page for updates about upcoming concerts and events.