A contemporary painter returns to fresco the walls of the Louvre: he is Luc Tuymans

A contemporary painter will return to fresco the walls of the Louvre: the Paris museum has commissioned Belgian Luc Tuymans to paint one of his works

One of the most important contemporary artists, Belgian Luc Tuymans (Mortsel, 1958), is featured in an exhibition from May 22, 2024 at the Louvre through May 2025. Indeed, the Paris museum has invited Tuymans to create an ephemeral work in a rotunda located in the heart of the French painting collections, the rotonde Valentin, near the Flemish schools. A former royal residence transformed into a museum, the Louvre is filled with decorations, created at all the great moments of its history by the greatest artists, and Luc Tuymans’ exceptional intervention, completely unprecedented for contemporary times, marks the return of painting in and on the walls of the Louvre.

Tuymans has never stopped exploring painting. “I don’t want to make art for art’s sake,” he said, “but I want to make a painting of history, or rather a painting of memory and trauma.” His paintings have been exhibited in the world’s greatest museums and private collections. For this first major achievement in a French museum, Tuymans will create a temporary fresco in situ entitled L’Orphelin (“The Orphan”).

Composed of four frescoed compartments, this work assembles three images representing the cleaning of a painter’s palette, loaded with pigments. As usual, Tuymans chose images he keeps, sometimes for years, in his archives. Images from the media or collected from the internet, photographed with a smartphone or instant camera, are long processed, interpreted, then suddenly restored through rapid execution, directly on the Louvre wall.

The Orphelin also intends to testify to the museum’s special role as a school, an inspiration for artists by artists, a place of copying in academic times and a territory of creation very much alive today. The image depicting the palette being cleaned or re-cleaned is then joined by a fourth image, that of a work painted in 1990 and lost by the artist, entitled precisely L’Orphelin, which gives the cycle its title. It depicts the back of a doll’s head without attributes, its neck open to view.

A year from now, in May 2025, this fresco cycle will be covered by the repainting of the rotunda and the room will return to the Louvre’s collections. Located in the heart of the collections of 17th-century French painting, at the intersection of the so-called “Sully” and “Richelieu” wings, in the room known as the “rotonde Valentin,” named after Valentin de Boulogne, whose masterpieces it has long exhibited, this space, bathed in light and shadow, has also for years exhibited The Four Seasons, the famous cycle by Nicolas Poussin. The cycle produced by Tuymans, called to be covered, thus wants to fit into the continuity of this reflection on time, on the layers of time, with which he establishes another relationship.

Image: Luc Tuymans, Gloves (2021; oil on canvas). Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner.

A contemporary painter returns to fresco the walls of the Louvre: he is Luc Tuymans
A contemporary painter returns to fresco the walls of the Louvre: he is Luc Tuymans

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