Meet the Galleries of Paris’s Newest Contemporary Art Street
Aug 30, 2023 4:15PM
April Bey, installation view of “We Are Enough | AFRIKA ARTFEST” at 193 Gallery, Paris, 2023. Courtesy of 193 Gallery.
At the tip of the Marais, right below Place de la République, sits Rue Béranger. The street, which was historically populated by merchants (mainly selling clothes), is now home to several galleries that are pushing the limits—both literally and figuratively—of the famed Parisian art district.
In the last few years, four galleries—193 Gallery, Bim Bam, cadet capela, and DS Galerie—have made their home on Rue Béranger. 193 Gallery was the first to move in 2020, taking over its first of two spaces on the street. “There were spaces left abandoned that we’ve given a new life, spaces that have been adapted to our current times, an area for contemporary art,” said the gallery’s director César Levy.
It wasn’t necessarily just because of availability that Levy chose Rue Béranger (there’s a constant turnover of businesses in Paris): “It was really because I wanted to stay in the north Marais, as it’s the most dynamic area at the moment with regards to contemporary art in Paris,” he said.
Blake Daniels, Installation view of “A CONFESSION OF RAIN” at Cadet Capela, Paris, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Cadet Capela.
The Marais is an area that spans the majority of both the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, spreading from the river Seine, next to the islands, up to Place de la République. It is a highly attractive area for young galleries in Paris as it’s known to be the hub for galleries that take a more radical approach to programming, tending to favor young and early-career artists as opposed to the more blue-chip names often shown by galleries in the 6th and 8th arrondissements.
The history of the area is one of change, from the leatherwork factories that used to occupy the slim buildings, to its changing over to concept stores and boutiques, as well as its reputation as a gay neighborhood. It is difficult to squeeze past the crowds on the skinny sidewalks on the weekends, and there is a current jokey sentiment that the only people who own and live in the Marais are foreigners.
Rents have also gone up. Most galleries coming into the area don’t have the money to be near the two more traditional art nexuses—that surrounding the Centre Pompidou, in the southeast; and that of Rue de Turenne, which runs north to south near the west boundary line. Logically, the younger galleries have situated themselves farther north, where real estate is cheaper but is still within the bounds of the metropolitan area.
Some have left the Marais entirely, jumping a few blocks north or east to Belleville or Bastille, much like the spreading of galleries from Chelsea to Chinatown in New York. “It is the evolution of the Marais because, progressively, things extend,” said Thomas Havet, director of DS Galerie, which is on number 15 of Rue Béranger and opened six months ago. “It’s normal too because the heart of the Marais is already saturated. There are no more opportunities there so things have to change, and so, we, as a young emerging gallery, we have to change too.”
In a city where whether you belong to a certain set matters a lot, are the Rue Béranger galleries at the border of the Marais galleries or simply part of the extension outwards? “For a Parisian, it’s not really a Marais street,” said cadet capela director Mathieu Capela, who opened his space on the street last September. But at the same time, “I don’t see the galleries on the other side of Place de la République as part of the same circuit,” he said. “We cannot go farther north. And I think that if we go past it, we would be in another quarter, with another feeling. That may be a little snobbish, a little Parisian, but that would be another kind of gallery.”
At the same time, Rue Béranger’s closeness to Place de la République is an advantage. It has one of the largest metro stations in Paris, with five lines running through it, and is an easy place for people to go into the Haut Marais, the literal upper part of the district. “When I first visited the location, I thought to myself that I was going to be a bit isolated,” said Bim Bam director Baimba Kamara, who opened the space in March.
Exterior view of Bim Bam Gallery, Paris. Courtesy of Bim Bam Gallery.
Kamara realized the street was in fact in the middle of the hubbub, and also had the advantage of its potential gallery spaces being easily viewable from the street front. Frequently, because of Parisian architecture, many galleries are inside courtyards that visitors sometimes need to ring doorbells to access, let alone having to know a gallery is there in the first place.
The unconventional spaces on Rue Béranger that were available are also relatively large. 193 Gallery’s first space, which used to be a goldsmith and jeweler, is 3,800 square feet; its second, a former printer, is 2,500 square feet—far larger than its original space on another popular street for galleries, Rue des Filles du Calvaire, which was 600 square feet. Bim Bam’s space (2,200 square feet) was an organic grocery store that was completely redone, including new walls and raising the dropped ceilings. DS Galerie’s 1,100 square feet has two levels, a white cube on the ground floor and a “salon” (as Havet called it) below, where it shows “more experimental propositions.”
Meanwhile, cadet capela has three rooms in its 3,200 square feet, two of which have glass ceilings. “It isn’t so easy to find large spaces,” Capela said. The gallery has its other location on Rue Chapon, another gallery street with far smaller spaces, and its Rue Béranger space used to be a fashion showroom, which fell on hard times during the pandemic as Fashion Week was canceled for almost three years.
Exterior view of cadet capela, Paris. Courtesy of cadet capela.
Rue Béranger is, after all, integral to the Haut Marais fashion scene: Valentino’s show takes place every season in the Carreau du Temple, two blocks away; and many galleries in the surrounding area rent out their spaces for shows. The street is in a prime position to thrive from the international set, from both fashionistas and tourists who flock to the nearby Marché des Enfants Rouges and Café de la Poste—both within a 10-minute walk of the Rue Béranger galleries.
But it’s also in a spot that can incorporate those from demographics not often represented in art: There are large Indian, North African, and Kurdish communities on the other side of Place de la République. Levy said his gallery has been frequented a lot by those from the banlieue suburbs outside the Paris boundary line: “We have the possibility of bringing in other populations and a mix in these areas of the Marais that remain somewhat elitist,” he said.