Is The Best Art Museum in Paris Free?

59 Rivoli
Just a stones throw from the Louvre is possibly the best art museum in Paris - and it's FREE!

If you're looking for a touch of Parisian culture but avoiding any clichés, crowds and prices, then one place we recommend you visit is the art squat - 59 Rivoli. Easy to find on the street - a pretty innocuous door:

Based in an abandoned Crédit Lyonnais bank building, on the 1st November 1999 - known as the 'Festival of the Dead' day - 3 trailblazing artists known as the KGB (Kalex, Gaspard, Bruno) managed to open up the cemented doors and with a dozen other artists cleaned up a myriad of dead pigeons, syringes, rubbish and the like. Once you visit 59 Rivoli, you will get a sense of just how big of a job this must have been...

This wasn't a simple social enterprise as the artists had a manifesto:

1. Revive an unused empty place 2. Create a place for artists to create, live and expose 3. Prove the validity of a cultural alternative

The group of artists became known as "Chez Robert, Electron Libre".

We have to say, they have fully succeeded with this "squart" (a contraction of squat and art).

Needless to say, located in the heart of Paris, despite adding an abundance of new culture and cleaning up an unused building, the French state weren't too pleased. A planned eviction of the artists was saved due to public support and the support of the French mayor Bertrand Delano who promised to legalise the squat if (re)elected mayor.

A report by the Ministry of Culture in 2001 said that, with 40,000 visitors a year, the 'Chez Robert Electron Libre' squat had become the 3rd most visited centre of Contemporary Art in Paris! The newly appointed deputy of culture, Christophe Girard, then did everything to prevent the artists eviction.

To ensure it's future, the City of Paris bought the building to make it safer so that the art project was feasible. The group of artist's formed an association and called themselves "59 Rivoli".

In 2006 the building was renovated and in 2009 the artists were back at 59 Rivoli and doors opened for everyone to see the art project called - "L'ESSAIM D'ART".

At L'Essaim D'Art, the artists aims to make the project sustainable includes:

1. A SITE FOR CONTEMPORARY CREATION With 30 artist studios in the building, 59 Rivoli is a necessity in terms of cultural policy.

2. ARTIST'S STUDIOS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC Open 6 days of the week from 1pm - 8pm, they aim to democratise art for the masses as many of the world's most innovative and talented artists are locked out of the current artistic hegemony.

For us, 59 Rivoli presents the opportunity to experience an artists studio and meet the actual artists to discuss their completed and current work.

There are 20 permanently installed artists with 10 studios reserved for residencies of 3 - 6 months ensuring the constant evolution of the squat, and the art on show. These artists come from around the world making it a truly multicultural experience.

Photos are not allowed in every studio so the ones on this blog will only give you an idea.

The array of contemporary art is staggering with something for everyone. Our favourite was this abstract studio (how scary are the girls?!?):

Now if only the name could give us an indication of the address...

Please remember to leave a donation when you leave to help the sustainability and growth of this amazing art mecca.

Experience 59 Rivoli while immersing in Parisian life on one of our travel experiences that you can see here.

If pottery is your preferred art form, check out our Renaissance pottery experience in Florence here.

Have you been to 59 Rivoli before? What do you think of it? What are your other favourite art squats in Europe? Let us know!