My Paris Stories

Place du Tertre: For artists only

Well, then your day has come: You can become an artist on Place du Tertre in Montmartre. You just need to write a letter of application to the town house of the Montmartre district. And who knows, may be you’ll be the lucky one.

You think every Sunday painter can practice here? You’re wrong. Only 298 artists are allowed to propose their services to the tourists on Place du Tertre. They do sketches - either making you look like a monster or portraying you in a way Monet would have done. If you like, your face will look like a true Picasso. It really depends on your taste.

Portraying tourists on Place de Tertre is a real business. Ten million tourists visit the famous square on the top of Montmartre every year. The painters have to pay quite a lot for their licence: 554 Euros for one square meter per year if they share their spot with another artist and occupy it only half time.

Until recently, whether you could join the illustrious circle of painters and portraitists was a question of what French call magouille . Magouille literally means: wheeling. In France you can translate it as: there is just no clear rule. You’d better know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. Or you are the son of the mayor. Or you pay someone some money. Many roads lead to Rome when it comes to magouille.

Despite all these unwritten rules, the competition has become very tough in recent years on Place du Tertre. Unaccredited artists try to sell their paintings. Sometimes their work is “made in China”. Others propose their services so cheaply that they probably live in a tent before returning home to Rumania or Albany. The accredited artists are not amused at all. This is the reason why they wanted to change the procedure and give others chance. But you have to be talented. And work there and then.

Tempted? You can find forms on the following website of the townhouse But hurry up. 30th of October is the deadline for application letters.