Le Centquatre Keeps Paris' Artistic Spirit Alive

The City of Paris has opened a new space that is entirely dedicated to artistic creation. Thousands of people flocked to Paris’ 19th arrondissement last Saturday to discover the amazing multidisciplinary art establishment Le Centquatre. The all-day, all-night launch party was kicked off with a warm welcome speech by Bertrand Delanoë, the capital city’s charismatic mayor, followed by a colorful array of cultural offerings.

The project of directors Robert Cantarella and Frédéric Fisbach, Le Centquatre is intended to break down the barriers between artists, audiences and art mediums by enabling onsite creators to work in constant dialogue with reality and the public. The huge 39,000-square-meter, multi-purpose space includes 18 working ateliers, two show halls, 12 offices, a bookshop, a restaurant, a café and various spaces to host exhibitions, events, galas, fashion shows and fairs.

Constructed from metal, brick, wood and cement, the venue has a massive glass ceiling that floods the airy, studio-lined ally with light. The architectural project, led by Atelier Novembre, has given the historic place a new and open lightness with a modern, industrial feel. It is also the venue Martin Margiela chose to show his spring/summer ’09 collection during Paris Fashion Week.

Le Centquatre stands on the site of a former slaughterhouse, which was later turned into the Municipal Funeral Service of Paris. Once the hub of Paris’ death—between the train tracks of Gare de l’Est, the up-and-coming Bassin de la Villette and surrounded by social housing blocks—the cultural centre also seeks to transform the multicultural area into a trendy, vibrant and dynamic part of town. Indeed, during the festivities locals were amazed at the masses of trendy Parisian hipsters and culture-savvy art lovers who clogged the surrounding streets.

Before getting on stage in front of a massive crowd, Bristol-born trip-hop legend Tricky—one of the future residents—chatted with us about his new project: “I’m recording my new album here with people from the surrounding area. I want to get kids off the street and show them that anyone can play music. I want a lot of non-musicians, and let them do what they want.” This eager attitude is what gives Le Centquatre the potential to become Europe’s largest artist residency as well as a local public space with an international artistic community.

Residences are open to artists producing in any discipline (visual arts, music, dance, theatre, fashion, design, film, literature, architecture, digital arts) without any restriction regarding age or nationality. Technical, financial and human resources are all provided, while three yearly festivals show off the works produced by artists staying at Le Centquatre. Amid all these opportunities to make art and live performance, a monthly guest-edited review, the Centquatrevue, will also be printed.

For more information, see www.104.fr.

—Nora Baldenweg

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