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Artist of African descent must create France's new slavery memorial, campaign group says

Culture ministry launches open call for monument that will be sited near the Musée du Louvre

The Tuileries Gardens in Paris will be the home of the new memorial commemorating victims of slavery © Kris Atomic

The French government has launched an open call for a memorial commemorating victims of slavery to be installed in the Tuileries Gardens near the Musée du Louvre. The move was welcomed by the Paris-based black advocacy group, the Representative council of France’s Black Associations (Cran), but “the artist chosen must be of African descent”, says the association's honorary president Louis-Georges Tin.

In 2016, former president François Hollande announced the establishment of a foundation to create a slavery memorial and museum in Paris. On 27 April 2018, the 170th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in French colonies, President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement: “The [proposed] foundation will put slavery back into the long history of France, from the first French colonial empire to the present day.” In May last year, Macron confirmed that a slavery memorial would be built in Paris.

Tin says: “Hollande’s idea ultimately came to nothing. A memorial is a good idea but a museum would be better. It is high time we had a museum in Paris; there also needs to be some kind of financial compensation.” He adds that the Representative council of France’s Black Associations has compiled a report calling for a new museum, which will be submitted to the new mayor of Paris after the forthcoming mayoral election (second round is scheduled for 28 June).

Officials at the Louvre will be responsible for the project management of the new monument. A steering committee comprised of figures “in the field of slavery commemoration… and also in contemporary art and the conservation of historical monuments” will oversee the project. City of Paris representatives will also sit on the panel. The work will be owned by the French state, forming part of the national collection (Fonds national d’art contemporain).

The French ministry of culture says that “the work of art must be harmoniously integrated into the garden and take into account [any] site constraints.”The winning artist will be announced early 2021 with the work scheduled for completion by the end of next year. The application deadline is 1 September.