This weekend a large artists’ residence in Montmartre opened its doors to the public. The building complex, called “Montmartre aux Artistes,” was established in the 1920s and consists of 180 ateliers. Many of these spaces are loft studios with tall windows that reach the ceiling and let the light in. Popping in these ateliers was a completely different experience from visiting a gallery; you saw not only paintings and other artwork displayed, but also the artists’ tools and living space. In one studio there was even food cooking on the stove. Personally I snuck looks at the books on their shelves.
Open ateliers were indicated by pink heart balloons.
Perhaps the artist who created these abstract paintings is in his blue period, but he was cheerful. “Look at the paintings,” he said (in French). “Or maybe it’s the paintings that are looking at you.”
I always enjoy taking a peek inside people’s livelihoods. These open studios provided a casual, inviting atmosphere for all ages (there were a surprising number of families with young kids). Because selling wasn’t the primary goal of the event, there was no reason to feel obligated to be a wealthy prospective buyer in order to view the art. And while I take pleasure in visiting art museums and galleries, these studios created an ambiance that some people may find warmer and more accessible than the echoing pristine galleries one often comes upon.
I entered one studio to find a middle-aged Polish couple eating and speaking in their native language. After we greeted each other with the customary “Bonjour,” they continued their conversation while I wandered around the small atelier. It was as if I had just walked into a stranger’s home and started looking at their belongings while they sat on the couch and left me to my own devices.
After strolling through Montmartre aux Artistes, I am happy to report that the art scene in this traditionally artistic neighborhood is alive and well.