Quarrel over an artists' haven

Quarrel over an artists' haven

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Lugi De la Feria stands in his workshop at one of the most visited hubs of contemporary art in Paris - a former illegal artists' squat located on a busy central shopping street.

The city bought the building a decade ago and leased it back to the artists there legally, but now it wants to cut the number of permanent workshops so that more artists can move through, a plan the current users say will kill the family spirit of the site.

. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The “aftersquat" at 59 rue de Rivoli contains six floors of rooms, where visitors can come and view 30 painters and sculptors in the throes of the creative process.

Now, however, after a damning audit of the premises last year, city officials want to cut the number of permanent artists to 15, down from the 20 who are currently based there along with 10 visiting creatives.

A failure to reach an agreement on the terms of the lease renewal by the end of May could leave the artists occupying the building without legal claim or authority – meaning the "aftersquat" would be a squat once more.

. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

"It's a numbers game - they want to say more artists come here but artists are capable of better things when they have investment in a place," said French artist Gaspard Delanoe (centre), co-founder of the original squat and now president of the 59 Rivoli Association.

City officials, whose audit slammed the "aftersquat" for lacking transparency in distributing work spaces and other issues that ran against the terms of the lease, say they are "disappointed and shocked" at the rejection of their proposal.

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Slideshow

The front of the "aftersquat" building is festooned with a display made from hundreds of paper-stuffed gloves attached to lengthy wires. The slogan on the balcony reads: "Together, without being perfect, only ourselves."
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

The front of the "aftersquat" building is festooned with a display made from hundreds of paper-stuffed gloves attached to lengthy wires. The slogan on the balcony reads: "Together, without being perfect, only ourselves."

Originally a vast branch of the now defunct Credit Lyonnais bank, the building at No. 59 rue de Rivoli lay empty for 15 years until a band of wandering artists broke in through a first-floor window in late 1999 and squatted in the premises.
. PARIS, France. Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

Originally a vast branch of the now defunct Credit Lyonnais bank, the building at No. 59 rue de Rivoli lay empty for 15 years until a band of wandering artists broke in through a first-floor window in late 1999 and squatted in the premises.

The building’s six floors are accessible from a spiral central staircase, spattered with paint in psychedelic colours.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

The building’s six floors are accessible from a spiral central staircase, spattered with paint in psychedelic colours.

Algerian-Franco artist Slimane Hamadache poses during a photo shoot at the 59 Rivoli "aftersquat," which has drawn other artists from as far away as Japan and the United States.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Algerian-Franco artist Slimane Hamadache poses during a photo shoot at the 59 Rivoli "aftersquat," which has drawn other artists from as far away as Japan and the United States.

Polish artist Zofia Blazko poses during a photo shoot at the "aftersquat."
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Polish artist Zofia Blazko poses during a photo shoot at the "aftersquat."

French artist Maitena Barret poses for a picture.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

French artist Maitena Barret poses for a picture.

Artists (from left to right) Manuel Antonio Rodriguez, KA, Zofia Blazko and Isabel Loyer sit and eat lunch at the "aftersquat". The artists are not allowed to live in the building, but they thrive in their close-knit community there.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Artists (from left to right) Manuel Antonio Rodriguez, KA, Zofia Blazko and Isabel Loyer sit and eat lunch at the "aftersquat". The artists are not allowed to live in the building, but they thrive in their close-knit community there.

Paint brushes and a painting palette lie in the workshop of French artist Melissa Streicher.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Paint brushes and a painting palette lie in the workshop of French artist Melissa Streicher.

Francesco, another French artist, works in his studio.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Francesco, another French artist, works in his studio.

Japanese artist Mariko Saito paints in her workshop.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Japanese artist Mariko Saito paints in her workshop.

Art materials lie in Italian artist Lugi De la Feria's studio.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Art materials lie in Italian artist Lugi De la Feria's studio.

A French artist named Isabelle sits in her workshop.
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

A French artist named Isabelle sits in her workshop.

Artists (from left to right) Andrea Volpi, Lugi De la Feria, Zofia Blazko, Melissa Streicher, Aline Ivars, Geraldine Moreau, KA and (bottom row, left to right) Manuel Antonio Rodriguez, Sifat and Eve Tesorio pose during a photo shoot at the 59 Rivoli "aftersquat."
. PARIS, France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Artists (from left to right) Andrea Volpi, Lugi De la Feria, Zofia Blazko, Melissa Streicher, Aline Ivars, Geraldine Moreau, KA and (bottom row, left to right) Manuel Antonio Rodriguez, Sifat and Eve Tesorio pose during a photo shoot at the 59 Rivoli "aftersquat."