Hidden on a small street in the 18th arrondissement, at the foot of Montmartre cemetery, I discovered (again thanks to the Journées du Patrimoine) a beautiful and fascinating building, La Villa des Arts. Built in 1888, the Villa des Arts has been home to artists such as Cezanne (he painted the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard here), Renoir and Picabia, to name but a few, and has witnessed almost every artistic movement through the work of its residents. Famous visitors to the artists in residence included Picasso, Joan Miro, Gertrude Stein, André Breton… Fellini also came here, filming Les Clowns, as did other cineastes such as James Ivory for his film Quartet.
The Villa consists of a group of artists studios set around a pretty courtyard garden. Belonging to the same family since 1888, in 2007 it was bought and renovated by the City of Paris – saved by its residents who formed an association to prevent real estate agents from buying and breaking up the studios. Today it is still home to artists of all kinds – painters, sculptors, filmmakers, photographers, writers and poets, and part of the building is also let out as social housing. In order to be able to rent one of the studios, you have to be a working artist, and apply via the Ville de Paris. It can be a long and complicated process, but it ensures that buildings such as these are preserved and remain true to their vocation.
Inside we were able to admire the magnificent monumental staircase, and beautiful ironwork on the balustrades and in the structure.
And finally, to really understand the size and scope of the Villa des Arts, head around to the rue Ganneron, from where you get a spectacular view of the studios overlooking the Montmartre Cemetery.
There is also a gallery, run by the Association to promote the work of their artist members. Check out their Facebook page and website for information about events and visits. The Villa is not open to the public generally, but will open for special events such as the Journées du Patrimoine, and also occasionally for weekend visits guided by one of the residents.
- La Villa des Arts, 15 rue Hégésippe Moreau, 75018 Paris. metro: La Fourche