Curious about what lays behind the wonderful curved entrance, I request a visit and am warmly welcomed by the gallery's art director, Françoise Morin. She's a dynamic bundle of energy with a passion for photography and photographers that she seems to be itching to pass on. My visit corresponds with the last few days of the Bruce Wrighton exhibition and his bold colours and striking portraits contrast sharply with the white wall tiles. Its a perfect fit for this location, and I can immediately see the magic this place seems to possess.
As we discuss the various projects Françoise Morin manages, she shows me round the venue. It has been transformed by the architects and graphic designers who have passed through its walls, but its previous existence as a public baths is still clearly evident. The baths were on the ground and first floors, with a wonderful staircase between the two. The gallery is upstairs, surrounded by the yellow water pipes and tiled shower units that are still in place (one of which is still in working order!) but which now house kitchen units and micro-office spaces.
"When we found the venue, we saw at once that it would be perfect for what we wanted to do" explains Françoise. She's curious to know how I discovered it though, as seemingly few people end up here by chance. It's situated close to the Canal Saint Martin in the 10th arrondissement, but in a side street that sees little foot traffic. People have to know where the gallery is situated and really want to visit an exhibition to come, but that should not be a problem for her next installation which begins on March 2nd - the portraits and abstracts of Arnold Newman.
Through her passion and curiousity, Françoise is able to attract original and fascinating collections to her gallery. However, her work doesn't end there. She also looks after an organisation known as Ville Ouverte which is a "lieu de création, de diffusion et de réflexion sur la ville et l'architecture" (a place for creation, distribution and reflections on the city and architecture). Françoise shows me some of the publications they have worked produced, with both young and more experienced photographers, which explore our environments, be they industrial, urban or occasionally more bucolic.
"We want to promote a knowledge of cities, how they are built and their history through the medium of photography" she explains. The organisation aims to bring together architects, journalists and photographers to work on artistic projects, but it is also building up a stock of thousands of photos relating to the architecture and history of cities which are available through the Artedia service.
Françoise enjoys bringing all of these elements together, organising lectures, debates and book signings at the gallery, and even proposing a series of conferences and training sessions for photographers. She's a busy person, but very happy in her environment. "I have a great job as I do what I love and have the freedom to organise the events that interest me personally" she tells me. Looking around the venue, its easy to believe her.
Les Douches La Galerie
5 Rue Legouvé, 75010
Open Wednesday to Friday, 1pm to 7pm, Sunday 2pm - 6pm, and by appointment (+33 (0)1 78 94 03 00)
For more information on the gallery and the exhibitions of the past, present and future, see http://www.lesdoucheslagalerie.com/Site/Accueilang.html.