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La Kommune, the end of a wonderful street art utopia in Paris

After decades of hosting part of the Paris street art scene, the old factory is bound to disappear to be turned into regular appartements.

As a very architecturally consistent city, Paris doesn’t offer so many spots for street artists. Vacant lots, or even just plain walls, are not as common in Paris as they are in Los Angeles, Brussels or London. And the places officially dedicated to street art in the City of Lights can be counted on your hands’s fingers. La Kommune, in Belleville, was one of them.

This small old factory became the street art temple of Paris. While the building itself was used as artist studios by several noticeable street artists, such as Jean Faucheur, L’Atlas or Teurk, the substantial vacant lot around it became the outside Sixtine Chapel of contemporary murals. Visitors were greeted with a huge 60 feet tall mural, and a constent wave of graphic talent would ornate the lowest part of it. It was indeed the best place within the Boulevard Périphérique to see cutting-edge art.

Well that now is over. It is unclear what exactly happened; Different associations were fighting for the place, and one can easily imagine some greedy and powerful real estate contractors, with the right connections to the City Hall, had been ambushed for years in the area, having wet dreams about the day they would raise here a 7 stories building. But the result is there: The Kommune is dead.

It is always sad to see art disappear, of course, but it is extremely aggravating to see such a great opportunity taken away. I do believe, and I am not the only one, that Street Art is the most amazing and iconic art of our era; and as a tour guide, I can see all year round how important it is for a major city to have a vivid street art scene. I constantly get request for street art tours, and I do consider that street art is a healthy sign of artistic and creative dynamism for a 21st century metropolis. And I perfectly understand that it is a challenge to the Authorities: on one hand, the City Hall cannot totally promote doodling on the walls, which remains an offense; but on the other hand, the same City Hall is well aware of the power of attraction of Street Art, and organize places and event to promote it. So la Kommune should have been protected in that matter.

Of course, one can object that the real estate project offers 4 artists studio. But everybody knows who’s going to get it: some secondary artists with -again- the right connections. And the most important remains the loss of the vacant lot, which is just another loss in the long hard road of street art. Already, the Theater ruins of the Cité de l’Ermitage has been destroy. The wall of rue des Pyrénnées is bound to disappear soon, and the Point Ephémère seems to be going through complex times with la Mairie. What do they exactly want? To leave a 12 million people city with 2 walls to express their art in the center (rue Denoyez and Ordener for instance)? To push street art definitely in the outskirts (Vitry, Montreuil or Pantin)?

We, the people of Paris, have a right to street art. The people we elect must understand that it is their duty to create and protect the places where this embematic movement can appear, develop and be seen. They must understand that this one of the prerequisites for Pari not to become a museum city. Because that is not what Paris is, nor is it what Paris wants to be. It is not only a way to display our creativity and modernism, but also a big tourist attraction.

It is obviously too late for la Kommune: the cranes have already started their burial office. But Paris desperately needs to keep its street art scene lively and visible. I do hope that soon, new places will arise and have the same in-your-face quality and creativity than la Kommune. But for now, one can only be disappointed. And anxious.