France is commissioning a new monument memorializing the victims of slavery—and it’s asking the public for ideas.
Last week, the country’s ministry of culture launched an open call for the design and production of the public work, which will be installed in Paris’s Tuileries Gardens, next to the Musée du Louvre.
“This project expresses the desire to honor the victims of slavery and to recognize their invaluable contribution to the nation,” the prompt for the open call reads. “The memorial aims to be a commemorative place” that has “a strong educational dimension.”
The Representative Council of France’s Black Associations, an advocacy organization that has been among the most vocal in calling for the creation of the monument, supported the move—with one caveat. “The artist chosen must be of African descent,” the council’s former president Louis-Georges Tin told The Art Newspaper.
The project was initially announced in 2016 when former French president François Hollande established a foundation to oversee the creation of a slavery memorial and dedicated museum. Hollande’s vision was echoed by his successor, Emmanuel Macron, who, in April 2018—on the 170th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the French colonies—vowed to realize the memorial and museum.
“The foundation will put slavery back into the long history of France, from the first French colonial empire to the present day,” Macron said at the time.
But little tangible progress had been made on the development of the either undertaking until now. “Hollande’s idea ultimately came to nothing,” Tin told TAN. “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.”
The council plans to file a report with the new mayor of Paris, who will be elected this summer, outlining plans for a museum, Tin adds.
The deadline for monument proposals is September 1, with the chosen artist set to be announced early next year. The final monument is scheduled to be installed by the fall of 2021.