History of LE BAL

  • Chez Isis - Les fausses archives du BAL

  • LE BAL en travaux

  • LE BAL en travaux

  • La salle du bas du BAL

  • Vue de l'exposition Anonymes

  • © Marc Domage

  • © Marc Domage


Chez Isis was a haven of drinking and dancing in the Roaring Twenties. Customers came in droves, eager to let their hair down in its ground-floor restaurant, basement dance floor and upstairs in its “no questions asked” hotel. After the Second World War, it became France’s biggest betting shop until 1992, after which it was left to go to ruin.
The building, in north Paris’ 18th arrondissement, was bought by the City of Paris in 2006, following a proposal by the Association des Amis de Magnum Photos, as the venue for the future LE BAL.


Ten architects submitted projects in the competition to transform the site of LE BAL. The commission was awarded to Agence Search (Caroline Barat and Thomas Dubuisson).
A young team with significant international experience, the agency’s proposition is for a beautiful, functional architecture that will not dominate the works on show. The different spaces flow naturally, each echoing the other.
At the heart of the project are the 300 square metres of exhibition space on two levels. The rectangular space (100 sq m) on the ground floor is covered by an Art Deco glass canopy. The split-level rectangular space in the basement (200 sq m) will accommodate multiple formats, installations and screenings.
LE BAL CAFÉ and LE BAL BOOKS open onto the alley, a community garden and the neighbourhood as a whole. A glass- walled terrace provides a view of the garden and a moment of calm, just a hundred metres from the hustle and bustle of Avenue de Clichy.


Over the past three years, the project has grown and become more precise. True to our original instinct, it will blaze a trail, open our eyes and reveal new possibilities. Its ambition is clear: to seize every possible means — exhibitions, talks, publications, grants, workshops — to confront the public with documentary works that combine, to differing degrees, investigation, experience, recording, analysis, description and formal invention.