La Ruche

La Ruche (93)

In the heart of Montparnasse you can come across several contemporary constructions of which we would like to highlight The Beehive, “La Ruche” in French, a building with a curious history.

The Beehive was built at the initiative of the sculptor Alfred Boucher. From a poor family, this artist eventually accumulated a small fortune sculpting busts of famous people at the end of the 19th century. As he was always aware of his humble origins, he wanted to do something useful with part of his money and decided to buy some land to build a complex that would be a type of artists’ guesthouse.

Boucher wanted to recover buildings from the Universal Exhibition of 1900, such as the Rotunda of the Wines, a polygonal building in the form of a beehive designed by Eiffel himself, which he later had divided into small studios for its future tenants. This is where it gets its name of beehive, “ruche” in French.

Finally in 1902 his project was officially opened. The Beehive housed 200 artists at unimaginably cheap rents and had room for a large collective workshop. This is why artists of all different types and nationalities passed through here. For example, Fernand Léger settled in 1905 and shortly after came Chagall, Modigliani and other famous figures.

This is how the “Paris School” came into being, the Villa Medicis of the poor. In the Second World War many of its tenants were deported and the activity of the Beehive almost disappeared. Shortly after, at the end of the 60s, the building was nearly demolished due to a property development, but the activism of several artists managed to save it from demolition, until in 1972 it was declared of artistic interest.

The heirs of that hospitable tradition of the Beehive can be found today in the studios of the Quai de la Gare, 91. There, since 1981 you can find a space full of art and artists called “Les Frigos”, for being located in some old refrigeration storerooms.

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