4 generations of street artists at work in Les Bains Douches

city | art insider got very lucky this week. We had a private viewing of Les Bains Douches ephemeral indoor street art installation, with Clemence Wolff from Magda Danysz gallery. There’s a lot to say, so let’s start at the beginning.

A little history

Les Bains Douches was a real baths, constructed by the Guerbois family in 1884. The first known celebrity to visit was Marcel Proust. Fast forward to the 1970s, when a fleet of fashion, music and art stars began visiting the eponymous nightclub downstairs, including Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Prince, Karl Lagerfeld, Cathy and David Guetta,  Basquiat and Keith Haring, to name a few.

Cut to the present

Closed in 2010 for a dangerous structural problem, the building is slated to become a luxurious, 3000 square meter hotel in 2014. Long-time building owner Jean-Pierre Marois inspiredly commissioned Magda Danisz to run an artist residency before serious renovation works begin. Danisz is a gallery owner, famous for her enduring support of street artists in Paris and Shangai.

The project has been a smashing success, with street artists from all over the world arriving make installations, despite zero budget and very short delay ! Artists like Jay One, Nasty and SKKI were motivated by their nostalgia for a space they had frequented as a night club, while others were attracted by the gargantuan space in such a dense urban location.  

Highlights

In former apartments above the old night club are exciting installations like that of Sambre, who mounted an exquisite suspended spherical structure between two floors, made of parquet recycled from an upstairs apartment.

Thomas Canto made an incredible 3D installation with painting on a wall and strings dividing and the large, bright space. Artists like L’Atlas and Parole have borrowed construction materials such as scaffolding to tag the external walls. Group 9e Concept created a happening; a video installation retraces the process. Ludo played with the furniture of a former office in front of his helicopter collage.

YZ brings a sweet touch, decorating ancient fireplaces and trims with reclining, feminine figures. Jeanne Suspuglas “addicted” neon ; C. Bernadotte created benches and high tables out of clingfilm left behind in the restaurant... and more from Vhils, C215, JayOne...

Kudos to SKKI who installed a pharaonic tribute in the middle of the golden swimming-pool, heart of the club and most VIP place at the nightclub! Nasty listed many drug names on a wall. Jerome Mesnager left one of his famous white human figures so common to Parisians.

Reflecting history

The project saw the collaboration between taggers used to working together or for the first time, like Sowat and Sambre.

Sowhat was in charge of the entrance of the building, whose spirit will live on in the future hotel. He opted for gilded tags and ornamental, geometrical shapes. If you pass by at night, you’ll see the windows light from the inside, covered with signatures of various taggers.

During the artists’ initial exploration of the building by the artists, they discovered gems like the big Space Invader from 2002 and even a graf by “master” Futura, dated (and signed!) 1985. In that room, 4 generations of street artists have been by to leave their mark in addition to Futura and Sowat : Jacques Villeglé, famous for his torn posters and now in his 87th year, couldn’t help leaving a note when he came to see the project: “Nous sommes dans un lieu historique. Silence! “ “We are in a historic place. Silence!”

On site

Les Bains Douches is, at this moment, truly a zone of creative construction and deconstruction, with a lively atmosphere and artists working all over the building. We know how much you’d love to visit, but... sadly... it’s all pop-up, with limited access, due to the instability of the building. Look forward instead to a forthcoming book that will keep the adventure alive.

If all this leaves you ravenous, book a street art tour with us: we’ll go to visit Magda Danisz and see her favorite artists in her gallery or attend one of the street artists performances at Centre Pompidou Studio 13/16 during April and May 2013.


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