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Mélanie Bouteloup

The mass of heritage in Paris is becoming a real benefit for contemporary creativity.


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Away from downtown Paris ? :

  • 30 mn away at max
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Mélanie Bouteloup

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Paris Ile-de-France as seen by...

Mélanie Bouteloup

Paris Ile-de-France as seen by... Mélanie Bouteloup

The mass of heritage in Paris is becoming a real benefit for contemporary creativity.

Mélanie Bouteloup, director of the multidisciplinary art and research centre Bétonsalon, located on Paris’s Left Bank, tells us about her perception of Paris in terms of contemporary art.

Numerous European capitals stand out for their dynamism in relation to contemporary art. What about Paris?
It is true that there are a striking number of alternative venues dedicated to contemporary art in cities like London and Berlin at the moment. But this is a first impression. Paris stands out for the quality of its venues - many of which are run by artists - and for its incredibly exciting contemporary art projects. These Parisian venues are at least as good as those in London and Berlin in terms of standards and quality, if not better.

Bétonsalon itself is an art centre based on an unusual concept.

It all started with an initiative launched in 2004 by an artist and two exhibition curators. We wanted to create a venue to show young artists, providing a fantastic stepping stone between leaving art school and finding a gallery. The City of Paris offered us these premises, in the centre of the ZAC Rive Gauche (Left Bank business park), near the François Mitterrand library, and our project immediately made the most of this position at the centre of a district undergoing massive change.
We work both with researchers from the Université Paris Diderot, an open Parisian campus, and with local associations, resident groups and nearby companies. This is a place of French architectural experimentation and an area whose identity is in the process of being constructed. Within its high-tech steel and smoked glass walls, the district - which may appear cold at first glance - proves to be extremely friendly and warm. Our venue is part of this initiative of investment in a completely new area and appropriation of the space by artists, researchers, architects, scientists, etc.
During events of all kinds - from exhibitions to talks, picnics, meetings, films, etc. - every week we offer something new, to reach as broad an audience as possible. This does not mean being over-the-top or vulgar, but rather being extremely demanding and specialised in contemporary art, while showing that art is not sacred but something living and open which everyone has a right to question.

Your position in this district which is changing so quickly must have significantly altered your perception of Paris.

This area certainly heralds the Paris of tomorrow in which boundaries will be blurred between Paris and the suburbs, in which genuine thought is given to urban planning, architecture and landscaping. We are a long way from the tourist clichés and conventional Paris. On top of this, I believe that the mass of heritage in Paris is becoming a real benefit for contemporary creativity. Many designers and artists, such as Didier Fiuza Faustino and Raphaël Zarka, are beginning to incorporate this dimension and undertake an extremely apposite critical reflection.

Where would you recommend an art lover passing through Paris to absolutely visit?

In my opinion the most interesting things happen outside institutions, in places frequently run by artists. They are less easy to find, but often known about abroad and operate as a network. La Générale, Castillo/Corrales, Super, Le Commissariat and Glassbox are first rate alternative venues to visit. Further out of Paris, there are also the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, the CAC de Brétigny and Anne + in Ivry-sur-Seine. Finally, the Kadist Art Foundation in Paris in the 18th arrondissement is also somewhere interesting I like a lot.


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