Fluctuart is a gallery, but not a white cube. It’s a street-art gallery, but it’s located on the River Seine, not on the street. And, interestingly, graffiti artists would have a hard time defacing (or beautifying, depending on your point of view) this handsome three-level structure, since its walls are made of glass.
This purpose-built floating gallery, stationed near Paris’s Pont des Invalides, is apparently the first of its kind in the world. It’s unusual in other ways as well: admission to its permanent and temporary exhibitions is free, it is open every day until midnight, and visitors can eat and drink there while enjoying great views of the river. It also has a specialist bookstore and holds events and workshops.
The wonderful temporary exhibition now on show (on the left as you enter), “Time Capsule,” features an installation by New York street artist Swoon that amounts to a mini-retrospective of her career. She cleverly fitted her works into the spaces of the gallery, with the gaps connected by new decorative works.
Swoon likes to make portraits of ordinary New Yorkers, depicting their life stories on the clothes they wear. A construction site adorns the body of a laborer carrying a beam, for example, while a lone elderly man’s clothing bears images of his (presumably) lost family.
As visitors walk through a tunnel-like space to get from one part of the exhibition to another, they find themselves in the New York subway as depicted by Swoon, looking through the train windows at the great variety of anonymous passengers in their transport trances and stances.
The small permanent exhibition in the bar area includes works by some of the stars of street art past and present, among them Dran, Shepard Fairey, Invader, JR, Rammellzee, Futura 2000 and Keith Haring. There is even a piece by Banksy (who objects to his works being hung on walls; when one of his works was sold at auction recently, it mysteriously self-destructed when the buyer went up to claim it).
One of the great things about Fluctuart is that you can hang out there while enjoying a drink or upscale snack food (gazpacho, focaccia, falafels, accras, etc.) and watching the boats pass by on the Seine from the rooftop terrace when the weather is good or through the glass walls when it’s not.
Paris needs more places like this: well-designed, well-run and lots of fun. May it never sink!