Barthélémy Toguo, The Pillar of the Missing Migrants

Contemporary Art

21 September 2022

As part of the exhibition Things: A History of Still Life (12 October 2022–23 January 2022), curated by art historian Laurence Bertrand Dorléac, the Musée du Louvre is proud to host The Pillar of the Missing Migrants by artist Barthélémy Toguo beneath its Pyramid. Toguo’s work brings a renewed look at objects and their representation.

The central column beneath I. M. Pei’s Pyramid was from the beginning designed to serve as a base for monumental sculptures, in order to mark the museum’s entrance with a work of art. The most recent installation was Kohei Nawa’s Throne in 2018. Now, in 2022, as part of the exhibition Things, Barthélémy Toguo’s The Pillar of the Missing Migrants is going up here, too.

A renewed look at objects and their representation

Barthélémy Toguo’s large, colourful bundles in African fabrics are spectacular, but the long braid of makeshift luggage also invites us to contemplate exile. This is not the first time the artist has crafted bundles like these; in his earlier works, they have appeared atop overloaded boats and monumental chairs. Reimagined for the Musée du Louvre’s exhibition Things: A History of Still Life, their placement beneath the Pyramid of this historic museum makes them all the more striking in their simplicity.

Barthélémy Toguo, The Pillar of the Missing Migrants (detail)

They recall, in their way, the daily evolution of our contemporary history, crisscrossed as it is with the forced displacements of all the refugees around the globe, risking their very lives to make the journey to a livable world. A distant echo of the slave trade, perhaps? What is certain is that they are a sign of all the dangerous trajectories taken by the men, women and children fleeing war, famine, poverty and environmental disasters. The Louvre Pyramid becomes the glass case in which these conspicuously ownerless bundles float. Clustered around a flexible central mast, they form a rescue ladder the artist sets against the nightmare of history from which he cannot wake.

An artist of beauty, emotion – and getting involved

Barthélémy Toguo’s talent lies in reconciling beauty, emotion and social engagement. The Cameroonian artist studied at the École des Beaux-Arts d'Abidjan, the École des Beaux-Arts de Grenoble, and the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. He now splits his time between Paris and Bandjoun Station, where he promotes other ways of being, dialogue between the arts of the global North and South, and the giving back to the African continent of that which has been consistently stolen from it. Though he does not deny the political dimension of his art, he seeks not to give us lessons, but rather a new art form responsive to the world as it affects us and outrages us.

Text written by art historian Laurence Bertrand Dorléac.

Barthélémy Toguo’s The Pillar of the Missing Migrants will be visible beneath the Pyramid until 23 January 2023.

With the support of HdM GALLERY.

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