In an abandoned chemical plant on the edge of Paris, two young art enthusiasts have installed a score of young artists -- sculptors, painters, video makers and illustrators -- giving them free ateliers in a combination studio/gallery/performance space they call the Ephemeral Factory.

Caroline Andrieux and Christophe Pasquet are a natural pair of art entrepreneurs. She is a 24-year-old native of Cannes with a doctorate in art history from the Sorbonne. He is a 23-year-old Parisian, a business-school graduate and guitarist in a rock band.

"We wanted to help young painters and artists make themselves known, and we wanted to make contemporary art more accessible to the public," says Pasquet. "We thought that creating an artistic concentration like the Factory would in itself attract visitors and buyers. We could show them new art, young painters, contemporary theater -- everything that could be done by young people."

Jean-Pierre Lavignes, owner of a major contemporary art gallery near the Bastille, credits Andrieux and Pasquet with having shown the way to promote young, undiscovered artists. And, he adds, "The prices are honest, about a tenth of what they would be in New York."

Currently, canvases by Factory artists are priced at $850 to $3,500, and drawings and other works on paper sell for $85 to $450.

"We chose all the artists on the basis of rather subjective criteria," says Andrieux. "Most of them are people I know who are good artists." As might be expected: While writing her thesis -- on Julian Schnabel, David Salle and the "Young New York Generation" -- Andrieux organized exhibitions and sales for young French artists, and she has worked in top-name galleries on both sides of the Atlantic.

Last spring, Andrieux and Pasquet approached a regional real estate developer to sponsor a live outdoor art show called "Palissart": 50 young artists, each painting a 6-by-10 foot wooden panel {called a palissade in French}. "They offered us this site for Palissart, and then we asked if we could keep the building until they tore it down," says Pasquet.

The factory is a multilevel labyrinth of high-ceilinged, sky-lighted galleries and modest-sized studios, where leftover white-tiled counter tops run along the walls, and old coal-burning ceramic stoves ward off the worst of the winter chill.

Andrieux and Pasquet convinced sponsors to paint and rehabilitate the 25,000-square-foot plant, and found other sponsors to supply a year's worth of acrylic paint, as well as the wine and cheese for exhibition openings.

"But we painted the outside ourselves," says Andrieux, pointing to the colorful lizards and other creatures adorning the second-floor windows. "We rented some mountaineering equipment, and the artists rappelled down the side of the building to paint."

While the factory itself is a nonprofit project, the two handle the sale of art like a gallery, keeping 20 to 50 percent of the sale price of the art sold.

"This is a business," says Andrieux. "I wouldn't be working a 90-hour week if we weren't trying to make a profit." For now, though, most of the income goes to pay overhead.

Other revenue comes from publishing ventures, such as a color catalogue of the Palissart exhibition. They also lend the Factory for theater productions and parties, keeping a portion of the receipts. Each month, the Factory plays host to a major event, either an exhibition or a performance. One recent exhibit brought in more than $3,000, Pasquet says.

In addition to about 15 resident artists, the Factory offers visiting artists free studio space, a rarity in Paris. The avant-garde German artist Rolf Lukaschewski holed up there last fall to paint six hang gliders, which were then shown at Paris' prestigious FICA exhibition of contemporary art. The hang gliders were later sold at an auction to benefit AIDS research, for $14,000.

Several of the Factory artists have signed on with professional galleries. But the two entrepreneurs have not yet figured out how to protect themselves from giving away their artists -- and the attendant commissions -- to other galleries.

The ambiance at the Factory is something like that of an extended family or a college dormitory. The atmosphere is relaxed, and there is no pressure on the artists to produce commercially viable art. When there are exhibitions to be hung or performance spaces to be set up, everyone chips in to help the six-person, largely volunteer staff.

The artists are enthusiastic about the set-up. "You can do things here you wouldn't be able to do in an ordinary artist-gallery relationship, more unconventional things," says 25-year-old Cat Loray.

Julio Villani, 31, an Italian-Brazilian painter, calls the Factory "hyper-contemporary. You find things here that are really fresh, that you find nowhere else."

Emmanuelle Renard, 24, a graduate of Nice's Ecole des Arts decoratifs, says she is "enchanted" by the Factory: "It's great to have all this space, free. You can spread out, get dirty." Working surrounded by other artists, she says, "creates a dynamism, which helps motivate me."

"At the same time," she adds, "you have to know when to shut the door and get to work."

The Ephemeral Factory opened last June, and will keep producing until next December, when the building is set to be razed.

"Hopefully we'll have another location by then," says Andrieux. The Ephemeral Factory (l'Usine Ephemere), 14 Rue David d'Angers, Paris, 19th arrondissement. Usually open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but check in advance. The nearest Metro stop is the Danube. Peter S. Green is a free-lance journalist based in Paris.