A current exhibition at Centre Malmaison takes the visitor on a tour through the painter and sculptor’s humanistic and eclectic “Kingdom of Faith”

Barthélemy Toguo is one of those artists whose work is memorable and much loved around the world. He addresses pertinent topics like migration, colonialism, race, exile, and displacement, and is one of the most prolific contemporary creators. He has a long list of prestigious exhibitions to show for, and is a pioneer artist in the recognition of African art in the world. Yet in France, outside Paris, his name remains strangely obscure to the general public. Now visitors of the Centre Malmaison in Cannes have the opportunity to get better acquainted with Barthélémy Toguo’s astonishing range of topics and techniques through over 100 pastels, watercolours, and installations on display in a comprehensive exhibition running through November 14.

Born in Mbalmayo, Cameroon in 1967, Barthélémy Toguo grew up admiring the great European masters, notably Rubens, Titian, and Goya. Between 1989 and 1993, he studied plastic arts first at the Abidjan School of Fine Arts, then at the Grenoble School of Fine Arts and finally at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. Although he settled in Europe, becoming a French citizen, Barthélémy Toguo remains deeply rooted in Cameroon, to which he returns very regularly.

Barthélémy Toguo expo poster

Today, he is a highly accomplished multidisciplinary artist whose work has attracted the eye of some of the world’s most noted critics. He happily experiments with a variety of media: watercolour, drawings, installation, photography, sculpture, video, performance, etc.

From a young age on, he was fascinated by passports, stamps, and postcards, symbols of travel, overcoming borders, and freedom. This is reflected in his Cannes show, which he carefully curated as a five-stop journey:

The first room at the Malmaison expo develops the theme of the portrait and presents a series of pastels made by Barthélémy Toguo during the confinement in 2020. This is one of the first times he ventured into this technique.

In the second room he poses the question of destiny, centered around three series of works: “Vanities”, three works from the “What’s your name?” series and a large format watercolour (“Talking to the Moon”). With these works the artist links life and death, two inseparable subjects at the heart of his work, which he summarises as a celebration of life

Barthélémy Toguo - Talking To The Moon

Barthélémy Toguo – Talking To The Moon

Circling back to his fascination with passports and stamps, the third room presents an installation based on the bust-shaped stamps that he has been making since 1996 (“The New World Climax”). These oversized stamps refer to those affixed to passports when crossing borders. This work raises the question of migration and displacement. The slogans engraved on them refer to moments in contemporary history (the Arab Spring, the Black Lives Matter movement, etc.);

Moving on to the fourth room, the artist creates an installation on the walls around the issue of agriculture and subsistence. This is a subject that is particularly close to his heart because he divides his life between Paris and Bandjoun, where he has created a unique art centre. (More about that further below).

The fifth and final room features a work from the “Head above the Water” series that Barthélémy Toguo created in Rwanda. This work is composed of postcards that the artist watercoloured and on which he collected the words of young girls born during the genocide. The artist is a witness who transmits dreams of peace and gives a voice to people who are rarely heard.

Other than the exhibition at Malmaison in Cannes, Barthélémy Toguo currently also has two other shows in Paris: one at the Musée du quai Branly, and another one at Musée Rodin where he is one of three invited artists to create artwork for Hôtel Biron, centering around the elements. Here he presents four Earth-themed lintels.

Bandjoun Station

Barthélémy Toguo is not only a fine artist but a keen observer who fearlessly addresses social pain points. He continually seeks to bridge both his creative side with that of being a community activist. In 2013, he inaugurated Bandjoun Station in his native Cameroon, a foundation which hosts artists and researchers from all over the world in residence, to develop projects aligned with the local community. “My idea with Bandjoun Station was to marry classical African art and contemporary world art, to exhibit these works in the same space, without ghettoisation or hierarchy of values. This is how Bandjoun Station will become a crossroads, a real meeting place between classical and contemporary art”, he explains. He is also pursuing agricultural projects like coffee and corn plantations with respect for nature and traditions in the spirit of sustainable and healthy development.

Barthélémy Toguo - Lockdown Selfportrait 10

Barthélémy Toguo – Lockdown Selfportrait 10

Barthélémy Toguo’s works can be found in numerous collections, including those of the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Paris), Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris), Musée National de l’Histoire du Judaïsme (Paris), MAC/VAL (Paris), Tate Modern (London), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Museum of Contemporary Art (Miami), Pérez Art Museum (Miami), Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création (Paris), Agnès B. Collection (Paris), Bandjoun Museum (Paris), Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), and Museum of Contemporary Art (Miami).

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Centre d’art La Malmaison
47 boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes

Opening hours :
– August: daily 10 am to 7 pm
– September: daily 10 am to 6 pm
– October and November: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm.

For more information, call +33 (0)4 97 06 45 21 or email centredartlamalmaison@ville-cannes.fr
Admission €6 / concessions available

“Pass sanitaire” and masks required

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All images courtesy Centre d’Art La Malmaison/Mairie de Cannes and Barthélémy Toguo and as follows

Lead image Barthélémy Toguo
Octobre 2017
Courtesy Bandjoun Station et Galerie Lelong & Co,
Photographie Fabrice Gibert

Talking to the Moon I
2013 Aquarelle sur papier marouflé sur toile
250 x 240 cm
Courtesy Bandjoun Station, Cameroun &
Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris

Lockdown Selfportrait 10
Lavis, encre et pastel gras sur papier
35 x 25 cm
Courtesy Bandjoun Station, Cameroun &
Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris

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