Art on Water: Fluctuart, First Floating Urban Gallery, Opens in Paris

(Last Updated On: November 6, 2019)
Image: Fluctuart in Paris, the first floating art gallery on the Seine River
Image: Courtesy of Fluctuart

Opened in July 2019, Fluctuart is the world’s first floating “urban art center”. Docked at the foot of The Pont des Invalides on the left bank of the Seine River, this free gallery on water spans three stories and features work from street artists of all backgrounds– newcomers and pioneers alike. Works by the elusive Banksy and French artist Invader can be seen alongside ones from up-and-coming talents in the urban art scene. 

If you’re looking for a great spot to get a drink, grab a bite and/or see some cool art while taking in waterside views, Fluctuart might just be the ideal place.

The innovative space was four years in the making, born out of an initiative from the Paris city government to reinvent the banks of the Seine as a cultural hotspot.

It’s open year-round and is a nice alternative to the neighboring string of overcrowded bars and restaurants. In addition, unlike other Paris museums and galleries, which only open till 6pm or so (excepting special night hours), Fluctuart welcomes visitors until midnight.

So if you’re street- art curious or just looking to sneak a peek of the Eiffel Tower from the expansive rooftop terrace, come and check it out!

A Free Space to Showcase Street Art

Street art is showcased at Fluctuart, Paris, France
Image: Courtesy of Fluctuart

Sprawling over 1,000 square meters, the tri-level, transparent barge was especially built to showcase local street art.

Every detail was carefully planned, every inch attended to and optimized to give space to a medium that isn’t normally contained. This modular structure is essential to the center’s mission.

The whole project was designed as a place where people could meet and interact with the art. It doesn’t have the kind of static feel of museums– it’s filled with lifeIt moves and adapts,” Fluctuart co-founder Nicolas Laugero Lasserre tells me.

Exploring the Space

Image: Fluctuart at night. Courtesy of Fluctuart/Official Facebook Page
Image: Fluctuart/Official Facebook Page

Inside, the lighting is dim and the staff welcoming. The highly curated décor of graffiti rugs and menus pasted on empty spray cans and skateboards is a neat nod to the space’s urban theme.

Plus, the barge’s occasional sway is a pleasant reminder that taking in large-scale art on a boat with a tall drink in hand is a moment well-spent.

On the lower floor, short documentary films on the topic of street art are played round the clock– to the delight of aficionados parked on the small wooden benches, there to catch a glimpse of their urban heroes.

The crowd is a diverse one: part youngsters in street clothes, part curious passersby drawn in by the casual vibe. The idea here is to offer a window into an art form that’s often looked down on or viewed as less significant than so-called “high” art.

Street art has been a passion of ours for twenty years. We really wanted to share that passion with the public by giving them unique access to a scene that’s been so generous,” comments Lasserre. 

A “Free-Exchange Zone” Outside of the Elitist Art World

Art workshop at Fluctuart, Paris
Image: Courtesy of Fluctuart

Street art is the most ubiquitous and accessible genre of contemporary art, and Paris is one city that seems to have fully embraced it as a tool to draw people to places otherwise seen as unworthy of mention.

The thirteenth arrondissement offers one clear example of that. The southern district’s unglamorous residential towers–hastily built in the late 1960s– have been transformed into an urban gallery of vibrant frescoes painted on the sides of buildings. Tourists now routinely flock there, excitedly snapping photos of these giant murals.

Museums have been slow to show the same enthusiasm, however. Even as the likes of Banksy have taken the art form to new heights and prices for their work have soared, the problem of perceived legitimacy remains on both sides.

Banksy’s pranks have shown that street art– anti-establishment by nature– isn’t for sale and belongs to the streets. Similarly, the art world has had a hard time with institutional validation, and has been at pains to rebrand a genre plagued by mostly negative associations.

That’s why Fluctuart is such an interesting concept. It’s not a museum. It’s small, warm and low-key. It’s a place to connect and explore; a kind of free- exchange zone.

Read related: Inside the Atelier des Lumières, Paris’ First All-Digital Art Museum

Fluctuart is also a cultural platform and residence for young artists, and provides creative and educational workshops designed to foster emerging talents, along with access to a well-stocked library.

The floating building can also be privatized for cultural or private events. This shows how flexible the concept is, adapting to meet the needs of the community it was intended to serve.

Since its inauguration in July, Fluctuart has welcomed more than 150,000 visitors, a success its cofounders attribute to the space’s singular approach– art accessible to all and free of charge. This includes guided tours.

There is no telling how successful this floating Seine art center will be over the long run, especially with cold weather approaching and the place’s focus limited to street art. But it is unquestionably worth the trip, if only for the unusual venue and concept. Plus, the snacks, albeit pricey, are pretty good.

Free Temporary Exhibits at Fluctuart

The center offers a program of free temporary exhibits; you can see the current program here. Fluctuart’s second temporary show, “Vedi, Vini, Vinci” is set to run from November 8th 2019 to April 19th 2020. It will pay homage to Italian master Leonardo Da Vinci on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of his death in France.

Read Related: Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre through February 2020

The show, which will feature tributes by 20 international urban artists, is to parallel The Louvre’s major retrospective. It will succeed exhibit “Time Capsule” (September – October 22nd) that showcased American mixed media artist Swoon’s recent and most-iconic works.

Fluctuart: Getting There & Contact Details

Street art gallery on the Seine in Paris, Fluctuart
Image: Courtesy of Fluctuart
  • Location: Port du Gros Caillou, 75007 Paris
  • Access/Metro: Invalides (lines 8 and 13); Champs-Elysées Clémenceau (lines 1 and 13); Franklin D. Roosevelt (lines 1 and 9)
  • Opening Hours: Winter–Wednesday through Sunday from noon to midnight; Summer: daily from noon to midnight
  • Entry price: Free (including guided tours)
  • Visit the official website

About the Author

Paris Unlocked Contributor Patricia De Oliveira has written for various publications, including music magazines The Blue Walrus and TEEZ’FM. She lives in Paris and is currently working on her first novel.

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