This is maybe the only time in my life when I wished I had smoked something before visiting a new place, les Frigos is such an underground, surrealistic place!
Here is the story: in 1914-18 Paris woke up from the Big War and it was time to provide Les Halles market with fresh products. Built in 1921 Les Entrepôts Frigorifiques de Paris-Ivry, better known as les Frigos (the Fridges), was a huge hangar with many refrigerated rooms used to stock all the products transported by SNCF from the countryside to Paris. With its 18.000m3 of capacity, these refrigerated rooms could stock up to 6.000 tons of frozen meat.
In the sixties the Halles Market disappeared and les Frigos stopped their activity being abandoned soon after.
In 1980 the SNCF (the French National railway company), les Frigos’ owners since 1945, decided to rent out parts of the warehouse to artisans and artists (some of them were already squatting here) and les Frigos was transformed into some sort of artists’ mothership, taken under the wing of the Paris Rive Gauche program.
Today Les Frigos hosts 87 workshops bringing together 14 different professions: painters, sculptors, photographers, architects share their everyday life in a very special atmosphere.
This place can be visited every day to buy the artists’ production but once a year, normally by the end of May, les Frigos organise an Open Doors weekend where visitors can enjoy dozens of exhibitions, small concerts and much more.
In May 2016 World in Paris finally decided to visit Les Frigos and, well armed with our cameras, we started the exploration of this intriguing place.
At first sight les Frigos is not very appealing: it is an ugly concrete construction, a kind of haunted place not very welcoming.
The walls are super thick to keep the cold. On workshops and corridors we still can see some remains of its former use but full of Street Art.
The journey into Les Frigos begins – and ends – with its winding stairwell where every possible surface is covered in paint. These stairs, les Frigos’ old water tank, are the only way to get to the other four floors. Each floor takes you on an expedition into the unknown, every studio is a cave of surprises.
Apart from visiting the artists workshops, there were many mini events to entertain the public. We LOVED this small improvised poetry-concerts for example.
Some of our favourite works:
XIIIth Arrondissement. 19 rue des Frigos, M. Bibliothèque F. Mitterrand L14. Entrance free.
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