PARIS – Montmartre, a normally peaceful and artistic neighborhood situated on a hill dominating the right bank of the French capital’s River Seine looked set on Wednesday to make good its link to the Roman god of war, after which it was named.
The 18th arrondissement, as it is also designated, is known worldwide for the white-domed Sacré-Cœur Basilica on its summit, its nightclubs, as the cradle of the Belle Epoque and for hosting the studios of once-bohemian master artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Amadeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro or Pablo Picasso.
The district’s toponym originates from the Latin, Mons Martis, or “Mount of Mars,” honoring Rome’s God of War, a name that survived until Merovingian times (5th century AD) to be later gallicised as Montmartre.
A major war erupted between its iconic terraces and its equally celebrated street artists who have increasingly grown tired of the seven bars and restaurants located inside Montmartre’s Place du Tertre which have gradually encroached on every available space for their terrace chairs and tables.
Some artists now said they were considering abandoning the area altogether.
“We have one square meter (1.1 square yards) right on the pavement’s curb,” Midani M’Barki, president of the Paris-Montmartre cultural association told EFE.
Since Paris’ City Hall announced a district rehabilitation plan, nearly 300 street artists have lobbied local authorities to set aside a fair share of the square’s available space during the capital’s April-Nov. tourist high season.
The Town Hall has pledged it will ensure artists can work in “comfortable conditions.”
The rehabilitation project, due to start last Jan., was postponed to allow both parties to seek a solution.
However, M’Barki considers the city hall’s proposal amounts to little after it conceded street artists “only 20 centimeters (seven inches) more.”
“There must be terraces, we aren’t against them, but they occupy nearly 80 percent of all public space,” said the Montmartre artist who for the past 47 years has attracted tourists and sold them portraits and caricatures in the square.
Even tourists who revisit are surprised by the changes, even more so in winter when only street artists remain in the square.
Leopoldo Aristoy, a Mexican tourist who visited Paris two decades ago told EFE: “The terraces have become slightly exaggerated.”
However, not all street artists support this war, claiming they have no problem either with the coveted square’s status-quo nor its rehabilitation plans.