If I were to paint the city of Paris, I would probably use various shades of grey and brown. I would dilute any primary or secondary colors with water so they’d be a little duller. Hence, my palette would include stormy grey, sickly green, frozen blue and dusty red. When I finished my work of art, I’d rub some dirt all over it for a final touch of realism. I might leave it out in the rain, too, just long enough to give the canvas that never-quite-dry smell.
But if I were to paint 59 Rivoli, a six-story artists’ squat in the first arrondissement, I would throw electric blue, ruby red, radioactive green and sun yellow at my canvas and cover it all in glitter. Or mismatched buttons. Or peacock feathers. Most likely all of those things at once, actually.
59 Rivoli is a living art gallery. Each level is filled with studios where the artists create and sell their pieces as visitors meander through the building. Some rooms are bare, save for a few large works of art. Others are piled to the ceiling with odd objects like severed manequins, overturned bicycles, opened umbrellas and stuffed monkeys.
The winding staircase that leads to the artists’ studios is painted in murals that seem to have been lifted straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. A cardboard sign hangs from the skylight into the middle of the staircase, reading, “Come to the sixth floor! There’s CANDY!”
The artists who occupy 59 Rivoli are more than happy to talk to visitors who come walking wide-eyed into their creative chaos. They can be found in every room, some of them working, others chatting with customers, the rest sipping beers on tattered sofas.
If you’re searching for something colorful and eccentric in Paris, this is the place to go. When I went to visit the squat last week, I was thrilled to find that despite this city’s dingy exterior, there are enclaves of creativity and imagination. The sun shines and the spirit soars at 59 Rivoli, never mind the Parisian gloom.
Want to visit 59 Rivoli?
Cost: FREE =D
When to go: Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 8 p.m.
Happy arting! And Joyeux Noël to all those who are celebrating!