The CENTQUATRE (104), a cultural centre found in a working-class neighbourhood known as Flandre, just north of Canal Saint-Martin, is one of the newest additions to the Parisian cultural landscape. Formerly the municipal mortuary, the CentQuatre was transformed into a centre for the arts and opened in 2008. It has a unique mandate to open its performance spaces for public use. Dance and performance art in its various forms is thus permitted and encouraged in the cavernous exhibition spaces of this charming 19th century iron and brick structure. Its extensive progamme is divided into Dance, Circus, Visual Arts, Music and includes a schedule of festivals that happen throughout the year.
The online introduction explains: “as a forum for the dynamic arts, the 104 is a centre that is in constant dialogue with the community that surrounds it, which aims to contribute to the establishment of a durable political culture.” Much to its word, a visit to the centre on a Saturday, reveals a space filled with young people from all over Paris. The large concourse of the main building vibrates with music as young breakdancers from the neighbourhood defy gravity, twirling against the concrete as they morph into various forms. Modern dance seems to be what the group of people huddled in black clothing are doing in the room adjacent, and below, a vast 1-metre high swirling brown-cardboard sculpture by Michelangelo Pistoletto, billows out from a round circle, filling the exhibition space as though to demonstrate that it can dance too.
A large Emmaus (a second-hand clothing and furniture shop, run by the charity of the same name) sits alongside a large bookshop situated in the gallery on the right-hand side of the centre. Emmaus is a great place to bag a bargain, especially if you are looking for some cheap furniture. Clothes are also really cheap and the vinyls are only 1 euro a pop.
Exhibition spaces are situated to the back of the centre where monumental sculpture can be exhibited with plenty of space to spare. The last such exhibition was dedicated to the large sculptural works of New York artist Keith Haring, which mirror quite convincingly the dancers on the main concourse. A café and organic dry-goods store found at the entrance offers refreshments and a place to refuel.
The project being undertaken here is to be admired, especially because it has managed to assemble people from a wide cross-section of society. The openness to young people in the community and the wider appeal for the general public has made this a very appealing place to hang out for an afternoon. Deckchairs, which are dispersed around the centre, invite people to sit and make the space their own. Its geographical location between the outskirts of the city known as la banlieue and the city centre, opens up this intriguing part of the city to both Parisians and visitors who might be looking for an alternative to the regular tourist attractions.
5 rue Curial
Riquet & Crimée (line 7)
Stalingrad (lines 2, 5 & 7)
Max-Dormoy (line 12)
Tuesday to Friday 12am-7pm
Romain was AMAZING!!! I will 100% be recommending him to our friends! Our Louvre tour was one of my kids favorite things we did and they said it was because of Romain.
Highly recommend. Private tour is a great way to get more personalized insights on Paris history. Guide was very knowledgeable. Will definitely use again.
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