Le Chat Noir (French for "The Black Cat") was a 19th-century cabaret, meaning entertainment, in the bohemian Montmartre district of Paris. It was opened on 18 November 1881 at 84 Boulevard Rochechouart by the artist Rodolphe Salis, and closed in 1897 after Salis' death (much to the disappointment of Picasso and others who looked for it when they came to Paris for the Exposition in 1900). Its imitators have included cabarets from St. Petersburg (The Stray Dog) to Barcelona (Els Quatre Gats).
Perhaps best known now by its iconic Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen poster art, in its heyday it was a bustling nightclub — part artist salon, part rowdy music hall. The cabaret published its own journal Le Chat Noir. It began as a small, two room affair, but within three and a half years its popularity forced it to move into larger accommodations a few doors down. Salis most often played, with exaggerated, ironic politeness, the role of conférencier (post-performance lecturer, or Emcee). It was here that the Salon des Arts Incohérents (Salon of Incoherent Arts), the "shadow plays" and the comic monologues got their start.
According to Salis: "The Chat Noir is the most extraordinary cabaret in the world. You rub shoulders with the most famous men of Paris, meeting there with foreigners from every corner of the world."
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Théophile Steinlen, Tournée du Chat Noir, 1896, 135.9 x 95.9 cm, The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The poster is Steinlen's 1896 advertisement for a tour to other cities ("coming soon") of the Le Chat Noir's cabaret artists.