Standing tall amongst the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest shopping streets in Paris, you will find 59 Rivoli. From one day to the next, the building will never look the same. With every changing front walls, plastered with balloons, banners and streamers - each day brings something new. It is clear from the first glance that creativity holds this building together.
59 Rivoli is an art gallery, which was legally transformed from what was once occupied by an artist squat since 1999. Today, it is renowned for its parties, exhibitions and performances. The walls and floors are plastered with sketches, text and paint, while the pieces of interior, notably the spiral staircase, are as much of an artist’s display as the studio rooms themselves. Creativity is alive in each room, with none of them being remotely similar. Every room captures the unique personality of the artist behind it.
It is located between the Louvre and the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). However, you may hear some locals referring to it as ‘Aftersquat’.
So what is the story behind it?
59 Rivoli was once an artist’s squat before being renovated by the city and returned to a collective of artists. In the mid-1980s, the building was abandoned by the Credit Lyonnais bank and the French state had not intervened to prevent its decline. In 1999, three artists known as Kalex, Gaspard, and Bruno (‘the KGB’) forcibly took over the building which had remained dormant for around 15 years. However, this was an illegal act and just three months later they were threatened with eviction notices. With some legal aid and support from Parisians and the press, ‘the KGB’ remained put in 59 Rue de Rivoli but remained ‘squatters’.
15 years of neglect took its toll on the building with the floors covered with dead pigeons and syringes. However, the artists had a vision to convert the building into a creative space for artists to live, work and exhibit their pieces.
By 2001, they were welcoming around 40,000 visitors a year, making it the third most visited centre for contemporary art in Paris. The building was open to the public between 1:30-7:30, now calling themselves “Chez Robert, Electron Libre”.
59 Rivoli today:
Open every day from 1pm-8pm
Closed every Monday
They house 30 artist studios open to the public. 15 studios are permanent and the other 10 are dedicated to residences from around 3 to 6 months. These studios are available to visit from every Tuesday to Sunday between 1pm and 8pm.
The gallery on the ground floor is an opportunity for artists outside of those already working in 59 Rivoli to use it as an exhibition space. These exhibitions last between two weeks to one month.
Every Saturday and Sunday evening, the gallery transforms into a venue for pop, jazz, classical and just about any other genre of music you could imagine!