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French funeral parlour comes to life as unique artistic venue

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This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.

The Cent Quatre (One Hundred and Four) is not only exceptional because of its artistic exhibitions and surrounding French district, but also because of its history…

Formerly, the Paris Municipal Funeral Services were situated here. Today the Cent Quatre no longer accommodates the deceased, but welcomes artists of all stripes (living ones!) as well as the general public, playing a key role in the success of this unique space.

Here’s an idea for a rainy day outing: start your day with a French brunch at Café Caché, be sure to make the most of the exhibitions, enjoy a spot of  dancing, then finish your tour at the restaurant Les Grandes Tables!

A French cultural exception

While most French and international institutions concentrate on one particular form of art, the Cent Quatre is open to all. Thus dance, digital arts, theatre, music and even circus arts all coexist in the 35,000m2 building. Artists can exhibit here for several months and/or have different technical installations. The only obligation: to be fully available to interact with the public and, since 2010, with young businesses working in the cultural sector.

This allows you to wander through a contemporary exhibit while watching children play and street kids dance to the latest Hip Hop beats.  This concept of artistic creation is unique in France and indeed in the world. Only Berlin, Rome and Madrid have a similar venue.

What is there to do in this temple of contemporary French art?

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The question is not so much what to do here, but how to decide between the plethora of choices.

One of many suggestions is to visit  the collective exhibition currently being held, Par Nature. Eight artists were given free rein to use nature to interpret our lifestyles. The result has produced some humorous and moving installations such as that of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot who invites us to wander into a cage filled with dozens of birds with electric guitars to perch on.

There you are audience to a deafening concert of birdsong and off notes.

Also make a detour through the poetic garden of Joana Vasconcelos or of Hema Upadhyay. Or else dream of freedom and lend yourself to the game for a photo in front of the two giant wings.  The Cent Quatre was also lucky enough to host the Museum of Broken Hearts in France.

Finally, don’t miss the work of Pascale Marthine Tayou, which frames the office door. Dozens of illuminated signs cover the Mur Ouvert (open wall) aiming to challenge  visitors at the entrance of the building by calling into question their open-mindedness towards others.

The Cent Quatre, a place of French style conviviality

Another feature of the Cent Quatre is its plan to create a lasting relationship with the residents of the neighborhood where it is located.  At the heart of the building you will find the apartment of Emmaüs, a charity association selling used goods and providing jobs for people in difficult social situations.

Other original initiatives include the pizza truck, the organic market and even a space where you can exchange your old books for others.

Paris en toutes lettres 2011

Also remember to keep an eye on the different events organized by the Cent Quatre such as the ‘Bal Pop’ organised once a month. It’s the perfect chance to  put on your dancing shoes and dance the java, a classical waltz or more contemporary styles.

Finally, a special mention  for the attention given to children, with age appropriate visits, activities based on artistic creation and even a veritable ‘Littlies House’ where adults join their children in the discovery of contemporary art.

The only thing that isn’t on the program at the Cent Quatre? Boredom!

References :
1. 104 official website.
2. 104 program.
3. Emmaüs official website. 
4. ‘Littlies House’ at 104.

Credits images :
1. Le 104 : espace plénière, by Altaide on Flickr.  
2. Par nature au 104, on Slash.
3. Nuit blanche sans permission de minuit pour les minus, on blogs.paris.fr.



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