The mid-1800s Haussmann era building at 59 Rivoli was an artist squat for years before being renovated by the city and returned to a collective of artists.
After Crédit Lyonnais abandoned the space, a group of artists called “KGB” (standing for Kalex, Gaspard, and Bruno) claimed the building in 1999. Despite the dead pigeons and syringes that littered the deteriorating structure, the group was soon hosting exhibitions and performances under the name “Chez Robert, électrons libres.” Although the space was illegally occupied, by 2001 it was getting 40,000 visitors a year, making it the third most visited center for contemporary art in Paris.
In 2006, the city of Paris acquired 59 Rivoli as part of its effort to bring legality and building safety to popular illegal artist squats. After renovations, it reopened in 2009 with studios for over 30 artists who pay minimal rent. The six stories of 59 Rivoli and its exhibits are free and open to the public. While the wild art that once covered the facade is now much more tame, there are still whimsical and expressive installations that turn up on the stone exterior.