I decided to have a proper wander through Paris yesterday. I started near Rue du Bac (7th arrondissement), made my way through little alleyways in Saint Germain des Près, stopped in at the Medieval Museum, and ended up on Rue de Rivoli, just a block away from the Louvre. But more on those explorations later…
What I was NOT expecting was to find an entire building FULL to the brim with art studios. The front door itself stands out like a neon sign on a dark night. Painted in every imaginable color, the door wide open, beckoning curious passerby inside. I think most people are a bit taken aback to see such a kitschy/ostentatious façade nestled among the monotonous trail of international-chain shopping stores that a huge chunk of Rue de Rivoli is (H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Mango, etc.). I was feeling the adventurous vibe, so I went in. Rainbow colors and open doors seem friendly enough.
I didn’t get a picture of the front door for some reason, but I did get many others from inside.
First off – the staircase was painted in a mismatched, haphazard way all the way up to the top floor. The text below reads “follow the dragon. ”
The studios themselves were so interesting to explore. It felt a bit voyeuristic, peeping into a person’s space like that. Even though these studios are advertised as public, creating art is generally, for most artists, a highly personal experience, and I kept wondering if they ever felt violated, having their artistic space be intruded upon by complete strangers everyday. I tried my best to be respectful, yet didn’t shy away from taking in small details. Any furniture seemed to be hand-me-down or even picked up off the street.
It was pretty clear when one artist’s space ended and another began. There was even a manifesto on the wall of a particular artist who worked in glass mosaic. It got me thinking about all the artists I learned about while studying at university. Oftentimes, you don’t really get a feel for where or how an artist actually created their work, but I do remember writing a research paper about a group of German Expressionists called Die Brücke who adopted a free, less organised, more communal lifestyle, producing “primitivist” art in a common studio in the early 1900s. I kinda felt like I had stepped into 21st century’s version of this. I know that artist studios are somewhat common these days, but I haven’t had the chance to visit any until now. Many of the artists had items for sale – paintings, postcards, etc. I seriously enjoyed seeing the work in progress vs. the finished work hanging on the wall. This artist was breaking coloured glass (I think it was glass) into small rectangular pieces, and then arranging them in mortar to make a portrait or scene.How cute are these handmade business cards?I also enjoyed looking out the windows on the higher floors. Our apartment in Versailles sits on the ground floor, so I don’t get a good view of rooftops very often. There’s something about (1) being able to see the sky, and (2) seeing the crooked, misaligned rooftops that is really satisfying. Also – the weather yesterday was so indecisive. Every 20 minutes it would flip-flop from heavy clouds and rain to bright sunlight.One area was transformed into a mini “Museum.” It was basically a pile of trinkets, junk, notes, signs, posters, figurines – you name it – piled up messily. If the items had any deeper meaning or significance, I’ll never know. It looked like a hoarder’s home actually. Thank you, TLC for bringing me Hoarding: Buried Alive, and showing me what extreme hoarding looks like (I joke). I thought the entrance sign, a simple sheet of printer paper with “Musée Igor Balut” scrawled on it, was kinda perfect.And lastly – here’s the view downwards from the very top of the stairs.They have a website: 59 Rivoli