Johari – Brass Band Sammy Baloji

Johari - Brass Band
Sammy Baloji
october 20th 2020 – February 24, 2021
Grand Palais,
in front of the Clemenceau staircase

Wished and announced by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron to
Ouagadougou in 2017 and then launched in Lagos in 2018, the Africa 2020 Season (initially scheduled from June to December 2020) will invite visitors in France from early December 2020 to mid-July 2021 to look at and understand the world from an African perspective through exhibitions and events throughout the country. The Rmn - Grand Palais is associated with this event by inviting the artist Sammy Baloji to design two exceptional sculptures for the pedestals of the facade of the Grand Palais, on the Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau side.

At the beginning of the 19th century, France which was weakened by the revolt and the subsequent loss of Santo Domingo, sold its colony of Louisiana to the United States. The French troops left this territory while abandoning their musical instruments on site. The brass instruments were recovered by Afro-American slaves with which they created Brass Bands.
The two sculptures of Sammy Baloji, in the shape of a sousaphone and a French horn,  are inspired by this telling chapter in colonial history. The copper reflect patterns of body scarification, echoing traditional Congolese practices eradicated by the colonial presence. The instruments are incorporated into metal structures that evoke the form of ores from Katanga, a Congolese province with a wealth of mineral resources, overexploited by international companies from colonizing countries since 1885. Johari - Brass Band is a triumphant symbol of Africa’s reappropriation of its own history.

Sammy Baloji was born in 1978 in Lubumbashi, Congo and has been living between Lubumbashi and Brussels since 2006. He never stops exploring the memory and history of his country of origin. His work is an ongoing research on the cultural, architectural and industrial heritage of the Katanga region, as well as a questioning of the impact of Belgian colonisation. His critical view of contemporary societies is a warning about how cultural clichés continue to shape collective memories and thus allow social and political power games to continue to dictate human behaviour.
Already exhibited in New York (Museum for African Art, 2009), Washington (Smithsonian Museum, 2010), London (Tate Modern, 2011), Venice (Biennale 2015) and Kassel (Documenta 2017), a former resident of the Villa Medicis and presented in December in the Salle Foch des Beaux-Arts in Paris as part of the Festival d’Automne (for which he also designed the poster), Sammy Baloji’s work has joined the largest French and international collections. His residency from 2008 to 2010 at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren enabled him to work on the collections of this museum commissioned in 1897 by Leopold II to Charles Girault, the architect of the Grand Palais.

The two exceptional sculptures, on display at the Grand Palais until its closure in January 2021, which refer to the 1900 Universal Exhibition, will return for its reopening to celebrate the inaugural exhibition of the restored Grand Palais.
Johari - Brass Band is a strong and committed work, a link between today’s Grand Palais and the restored Grand Palais, and fits perfectly with the new artistic vision of the Rmn - Grand Palais set up by Chris Dercon, its president.
The Beaux-Arts de Paris school presents Sammy Baloji’s first solo exhibition in June 2021.
Sammy Baloji is represented by the Imane Farès Gallery.
Sammy Baloji biography
curator : Chris Dercon, President of the Rmn - Grand Palais
production: Estelle Lecaille, Twenty Nine Studio, Bruxelles
design & production : Ismaël Bennani & Orfée Grandhomme, Bruxelles
materialisation & Fabrication : Jean-Daniel Bourgeois, Bruxelles - Dinanderie Clabots, Dinant
Monday 7 December at 6.30 pm
Auditorium of the Grand Palais
Public sculptures: why and for whom?
Roundtable meeting moderated by Chris Dercon, President of the Rmn-Grand Palais with Sammy Baloji, visual artist, Yves Le Fur, general curator of heritage, director of the department of heritage and collections at the musée du quai Branly, Simon Njami, writer, art critic, specialist in contemporary African art  and Dominique Taffin, General Curator of Heritage, Director of the Foundation for the Memory of Slavery

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Florence Le Moing