104 Centquatre in Paris is an artists’ studio and exhibition space that’s reenergizing artistic life in Montmartre. Once home to visionaries such as Picasso, Dali, Monet, van Gogh, Montmartre inevitably became trendy and gentrified and too expensive for artists to inhabit.
But a new arts space has opened up in an old 19th century building that was, until 1997, home to the municipal undertakers, Pompes Funebres. At one time, this monopoly on funerals handled 27,000 burials a year! The huge building at 104 rue d’Aubervilliers in the 19th arrondisement was listed for demolition until the local mayor decided to save it. He made Paris sit up and see what a great and historically important building this is and, in 2003, redevelopment into an arts center began.
The centerpiece is the cavernous central hall with its glass ceiling. On ground level are exhibition spaces and shops, upstairs there are studios for emerging artists, all of whom are expected to produce work to exhibit downstairs at some point. The hall itself is used to bring together the local community in special days, exhibitions, events many of which involved the artists-in-residence.
On Saturdays there is a “bio market” selling organic vegetables, meat and cheeses, as well as weekend Qi Gong classes. (Hint to shoppers: “bio” is short for biologique, which in French means organically grown.) There’s no limit to what artists can do here and there is music, cinema, painting, photography and monthly performances.
At the moment, the hall is hosting a giant black monolithic sculpture and a group exhibition. During November there is a calendar of performances, theater, concerts, a circus, even a Ball one evening, and a popup restaurant another. The north of Paris is being reimagined!