Art Spaces

On the serious side, Paris is replete with breathtaking museums. World-class doesn’t even begin to describe Paris’ art treasures. Big flex: we are #1 in the whole wide world when it comes to places to see amazing art and antiquities. 

Then there’s the oth­er side of town: the ille­gal artists’ squats, the for­mer­ly ille­gal artists’ squats (the ones the city was forced to give per­mits to under polit­i­cal pres­sure), and then there’s the always clas­sic, ‘let’s take this boat and have shows on it’.

Wher­ev­er in Paris there is a spare palace or cool space lay­ing around, we will fill it with art and call it a muse­um or a gallery or even bet­ter, a ‘friche’ (which is trans­lat­ed to Eng­lish as ‘waste­land’ so I’m gonna say that’s not what we mean here). Where we have a water­way, some­one will buy some funky old house­boats or riv­er freighters from Ams­ter­dam and open a gallery/wine bar. Unused and vacant loft space?  Parisians respond by break­ing in and host­ing art shows and jams. It’s how we roll. 

While it’s hard to beat the Mon­et-Picas­so-DaVin­ci-lev­el of Fine Art that can be found at our opu­lent and (right­ly) famous gal­leries and muse­ums, we’ve also got float­ing con­cert barges, freaky semi-legal venues,  and a choco­late Eif­fel Tow­er to fin­ish on a sweet note.

So now you know what we know: that in Paris, alter­na­tive art spaces are on a spec­trum. Not only do we have protest spaces fund­ed one can of beer at a time…to the next gen of Frich­es with seri­ous artists mash­ing away on a Mac­Book with an organ­ic poke bowl at their side… and a few almost unclas­si­fi­able art spaces and bizarro muse­ums are here too. To get some of that freaky vibe, check out these out­side-the-box art spaces. Oui, some are more orga­nized and con­ven­tion­al than others. 

59 Rivoli

No, you’re not see­ing things. This is one of the many faces this build­ing wears every few months. This place is lit­er­al­ly off the wall. The 59 Riv­o­li opened its doors to suarts (squat­ting artists) on Novem­ber 1, 1999 after the build­ing sat aban­doned for fif­teen years. Its new pur­pose was to cre­ate a place for artists to live and work as they pleased. With that came con­flict with the French gov­ern­ment. They made com­plaints and threat­ened to evict the artists that lived there, but the media as well as polit­i­cal allies helped keep this artist safe haven afloat. Today it has 30 stu­dios open to the pub­lic six days a week. They have as many as 4,000 vis­i­tors stop by per week for expos and oth­er gath­er­ings, and what’s stop­ping you from being among them? It’s with­in walk­ing dis­tance from the Lou­vre mak­ing it the per­fect coun­ter­cul­ture answer to the gold standard.

ADDRESS: 59 Rue de Riv­o­li (1st arr.)

HOURS: Tues. — Sat. 1p-8p

MÉTRO: Châtelet (lines 1, 4, 7)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Châtelet

CHECK IT OUT

INSTAGRAM: @59rivoli

La Péniche Cinéma

Want to catch some short, art­sy films? Look no fur­ther. Since being anchored on the Canal de l’Ourcq in 2008, this barge serves as a cross­road of cre­ative ideas and ener­gies with the gen­er­al pub­lic. She’s host­ed sev­er­al film fes­ti­vals, movie-mak­ing work­shops, film screen­ings, and dis­cus­sions. By their own admis­sion, their pro­grams are ambi­tious, demand­ing, and eclec­tic. Most of the films that pre­mier here haven’t been shown any­where else. Any­one can stop by to glimpse the cre­ation of a film right before their very eyes.

ADDRESS: 59 Boule­vard Mac­don­ald (19th arr.)

HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 12p-3p; 5p-11pm

MÉTRO: Porte de la Vil­lette (line 7)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Vil­lette

NUMBER: +33 01 42 80 55 97

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INSTAGRAM: @la_peniche_cinema

Péniche Antipode

On April 10, 1942, this barge pre­miered and set sail. For the next 60 years, she would serve as a freight barge car­ry­ing car­go back and forth through coun­tries. Then in 2002, the Abri­cadabra the­atre com­pa­ny pur­chased the ves­sel and rede­vel­oped it into a cul­tur­al space. Not too long after, she dropped her anchor in Paris where she remains to this day. You can see con­certs, cabarets, screen­ings, and improv shows on board. Abricadabra’s per­for­mances are meant to be enjoyed by lev­els of blasé rang­ing from tod­dlers to adults. They per­form 300 shows a year and have attract­ed as many as 10,000 spec­ta­tors in that same peri­od of time.

ADDRESS: Face au, 55 Quai de la Seine (19th arr.)

HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 5:30p-2a; Sat.-Sun. 12:30p-2a

MÉTRO: Riquet (line 7)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Vil­lette

NUMBER: +33 01 42 03 39 07

CHECK IT OUT

INSTAGRAM: @peniche_antipode

Le Petit Bain

Le Petit Bain is not so much a barge, nor a boat, nor even just a piece of float­ing equip­ment. It’s more so an island pro­vid­ing an artis­tic cor­nu­copia of enter­tain­ment. Its con­tin­u­ing mis­sion has been to wel­come artists into the space since its moor­ing in May 2011. Its three-lev­el build­ing con­sists of a con­cert hall, rooftop gar­den, can­teen, and ter­race. The roof gar­den offers a 360 view of Paris and the Seine, and the con­cert hall has a capac­i­ty of 450 peo­ple. Music of any and all vari­eties is wel­come. All this so that you can tell your­self those Aper­ol Spritz’ are in the name of Art and Culture.

ADDRESS: 7 Port de la Gare (13th arr.)

HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 5p-12a; Sat.-Sun. 12p-12a

MÉTRO: Quai de la Gare (line 6)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Paris Rive Gauche

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INSTAGRAM: @petitbain

Les Frigos

Start­ing out as a pub­lic fridge keep­ing per­ish­able food from all across the coun­try safe, Les Fri­gos went into ser­vice in April 1921 before being decom­mis­sioned in 1985. Thank­ful­ly in 1997, the City of Paris bought the facil­i­ty and it has been serv­ing as a safe haven for cre­ators. Les Fri­gos offers a melt­ing pot of artis­tic trades such as botany, crafts­man­ship, graph­ic design­ers, and so on. You name a trade, and chances are you’ll find it here. From an indus­tri­al waste­land to a cul­tur­al won­der­land, this is one art space you can’t miss! 

ADDRESS: 19 Rue Des Fri­gos (13th arr.)

HOURS: 8am-6pm daily

MÉTRO: Bib­lio­thèque François Mit­ter­rand (line 14)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Paris Riv­er Gauche

NUMBER: +33 1 44 24 03 40

CHECK IT OUT

INSTAGRAM: @lesfrigos

Maison de la Radio

There are few places that let peo­ple see the gen­e­sis of music in real time, but the Mai­son de la Radio is one of those places. Its audi­to­ri­um, built on the for­mer sites of stu­dios 102 and 103, has about 1,461 seats and is equipped with an organ. Its acoustics were made so they’d cir­cu­late through­out the space. The Mai­son also has the Ago­ra in its heart. Here, the pub­lic and artists col­lide and con­gre­gate in the square. Stu­dios 105 and 106 also have live broad­casts and inti­mate con­certs for the pub­lic to hear and see. In this place, music is being made and heard all at once, so it could be a rea­son to check it out for yourself.

ADDRESS: 116 avenue du Prési­dent Kennedy (16th arr.)

HOURS: depend­ing on the calendar

MÉTRO: Passy (line 6), Ranelagh (line 9) or Jav­el-André Ci troën (line 10)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Passy

NUMBER: +33 01 56 40 22 22

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INSTAGRAM: @maisondelaradioetdelamusique

La Cité de la Mode et du Design

It’s rather remark­able how Paris can repur­pose indus­tri­al build­ings to help artists cre­ate. In 1907, this build­ing start­ed off as indus­tri­al ware­hous­es on the banks of the Seine. The design includ­ed a rein­forced con­crete struc­ture that wasn’t cov­ered, mak­ing it one of the first mod­ern docks of the day. In 2005, a team of archi­tects were brought in to start a recon­ver­sion project for the docks. It became ful­ly reborn and trans­fig­ured, so to speak, by 2009. Its skele­ton was kept, albeit cov­ered with a skin that gives the build­ings its bright col­or. Its pur­pose now is to show­case var­i­ous tal­ent, from pho­tog­ra­phers to fash­ion design­ers and styl­ists to land­scap­ers, like nev­er before. The build­ing has host­ed fash­ion shows, fairs, parades, con­fer­ences, launch­es, and so on, so artis­tic life nev­er gets too boring.

ADDRESS: 34 Quai d’Auster­litz (13th arr.)

HOURS: dai­ly, 10am — midnight

MÉTRO: Paris Auster­litz (lines 5, 10)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Salpêtrière

NUMBER: +33 01 76 77 25 30

INSTAGRAM: @citemodedesign

Cinémathèque Française

In 1936, this guy named Hen­ri Lan­glois was all “Hey, I want to cre­ate a space for the movies.” Not only is this place made to cel­e­brate movies, but it also cel­e­brates every­thing that makes a movie, such as archives, cos­tumes, cam­eras, books/scripts, adver­tise­ments, posters, etc. Almost every coun­try has a film pre­served here, includ­ing some Hol­ly­wood clas­sics. Name a flick and chances are that you’ll find it in the Ciné­math­èque Française.

ADDRESS: 51 Rue de Bercy (12th arr.)

HOURS: Mon, Wed-Fri 12 p‑7 p; Sat-Sun 11 a‑8p

MÉTRO: Paris Bercy Bour­gogne — Pays d’Au­vergne (lines 6, 14)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Bercy

NUMBER: +33 1 71 19 33 33

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INSTAGRAM: @cinemathequefr

Musée du Chocolat

Willy Won­ka, eat your heart out! Here’s a choco­late fac­to­ry-ish worth check­ing out. The orig­i­nal choco­late muse­um was built in Bel­gium in 2004, but it wasn’t too long before such a mag­i­cal expe­ri­ence made its way to Paris, as long as you don’t con­sid­er six years too long. Awak­en the sens­es by explor­ing the col­lec­tive 4,000 years of choco­late, how it’s made, what its uses were, and how it’s evolved to the sweet treat it is today. BUT, that’s not all. You can try their home­made choco­late made by their choco­latiers, and this place also offers work­shops that can help you cre­ate your own choco­late treats. It also has recre­ations of Paris mon­u­ments made entire­ly of chocolate.

P.S. If choco­late, but not like nor­mal choco­late is your thing, hit up Josephine Van­nier in le Marais.

ADDRESS: 28 Boule­vard de Bonne Nou­velle (10th arr.)

HOURS: dai­ly 10a-6p

MÉTRO: Bonne Nou­velle (lines 8, 9)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Porte Saint Denis

PRICE: €11, €35 with workshop

NUMBER: +33 01 42 29 68 60

HOW TO BOOK: online

Espace Shakirail

Espace Shaki­rail has ded­i­cat­ed itself to har­bor­ing artists since its open­ing on Feb­ru­ary 2011. The site has two build­ings that were pre­vi­ous­ly unused: a for­mer rail­way cloak­room and train­ing cen­ter. The Col­lec­tive Cur­ry Vavart reached an agree­ment to use the space as an artist safe haven. Not only are there work­shops and res­i­den­cies, but there are also shared gar­dens, bee­hives, and orchards. Accord­ing to their web­site, the site was threat­ened with clo­sure in 2023, and patrons are encour­aged to keep the place preserved.

ADDRESS: 72 Rue Riquet (18th arr.)

HOURS: depends on the cal­en­dar of events

MÉTRO: Marx Dor­moy (line 12), Riquet (line 9) or La Chapelle (line 2)

NEIGHBORHOOD: La Chapelle

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Fluctuart

Fluc­tu­art prides itself on being the world’s first float­ing urban art cen­ter, as well as one of those places that want to make art acces­si­ble to every­one. Walls (lit­er­al and fig­u­ra­tive) do not belong here: it’s the pas­sion for art that mat­ters. The per­ma­nent exhib­it is ded­i­cat­ed to urban art in var­i­ous shapes and tech­niques, and its cul­tur­al cal­en­dar is almost burst­ing with work­shops, con­fer­ences, debates and screen­ings. Artists vary as well, from pio­neers to con­tem­po­rary artists, or even stu­dents. Not into urban art? With its two cre­ative spaces, a book­store, a restau­rant, two bars and a per­fect loca­tion near the Invalides, Fluc­tu­art is a per­fect spot for every­one. Stop in for a drink on the rooftop and take advan­tage of the amaz­ing views of the Eif­fel Tow­er — and let the art speak for itself.

ADDRESS: 2 port du Gros Cail­lou, Berges de Seine (7th arr.)

HOURS: Win­ter: Wen-Sun 12p — 01a; Sum­mer dai­ly from 12p

MÉTRO: Invalides (lines 8 and 13) or Franklin D. Roo­sevelt (lines 1 and 9)

NEIGHBORHOOD: Berge de Seine

CHECK IT OUT

NUMBER: +33 7 67 02 44 37