It’s a good idea to have opened the Galerie Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, at Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac, to the brilliant artist Barthélémy Toguo, who was born near Yaoundé in Cameroon and lives between Paris and there. His colorful and meaningful paintings and installations give extra life to the collection of African statues, recently acquired by the businessman, and bequeathed to the museum. Toguo’s installation “Water Matters” especially conceived for the place, is particularly striking with its multiple glass bottles and the tragic depiction of a thirsty man. The show is called “Désir d’Humanité” (a Desire for humanism).
This series of paintings and installations on prominent themes, like water shortage, death and life illustrated by plants which infiltrate skulls, is both very dark and very uplifting because talent is there. There is a coffin with hands offering balls coming out of it which intrigues me enormously. Three large standing vases in porcelain, called “Vaincre le virus” (win over the virus) were made in 2016 (already) after Toguo’s visit to Jingdezhen, the ceramic capital of China. The red hands represent the chain of contamination, blood, disease and death, while his self-portrait on one of the vases can be interpreted as him witnessing the disaster. This work is obviously prescient.
Another work is very political: it is “Road to Exile” (2008) and is made of a wooden boat with packs of fabric, plastic teapots and bottles. It is both the symbol of all migrants fleeing war and misery and of the colonial slave trade, as well as the image of one travelling towards one’s death.
The show is conceived by Fondation Dapper, which supports “African art from yesterday and today” which is well illustrated in the show. Again I loved the idea of traditional sculpture and contemporary paintings mixed together. This was the topic of the show downstairs in the museum which unfortunately just closed. A.R. Penck and Theo Mercier among many others are European artists who were inspired by African art.
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