We could be heroes

Raphaël Barontini I Panthéon - Centre des Monuments Nationaux
Raphaël Barontini unveiled a major presentation at the Panthéon in Paris on October 19, 2023 and is on view through to February 11, 2024. The show is part of “one artist, one monument” program by the Centre des monuments nationaux.
The Centre des monuments nationaux has invited artist Raphaël Barontini to hold an exhibition in the Panthéon as part of the program titled Histoire & mémoires des combats contre l’esclavage (history and remembrances of anti-slavery struggles). The artist carried out his mission by designing two strong and interdependent components: a monumental installation, visible all throughout the exhibition, and a live performance on the opening day, and on October 22nd 2023.
With this monument of national memory, which honors numerous and important figures in the abolitionist movement (i.e. Condorcet, abbé Grégoire, Toussaint Louverture, Louis Delgrès, Schoelcher, Félix Éboué), Raphaël Barontini aims to shine a spotlight on heroic figures of the fight against slavery. Whether well-known or not, each played critical roles in achieving abolition.
The artist has designed an on-site installation composed of flags and banners in a guard of honor. The north and south transepts host two monumental textile installations. Several large-format textile works are suspended at different heights. Raphaël Barontini created a live performance that was premiered during the opening with carnival band Mas Choukaj and the musician Mike Ladd.
Raphaël Barontini wishes to grace the Panthéon’s nave with “a fresco that is both historic and sensitive, creolizing our imaginations, giving a sharp focus on not just the famed men and women who fought for liberty and equality, but also on the masses of anonymous enslaved persons.”
The first part of the textile and pictorial installation is set up in the entrance to the monument, arranged along the lines of a guard of honor. Large banners and flags line each side of the nave. They offer stylized portraits of historic figures in the fights for emancipation and the abolition of slavery.
The middle and most important part of the installation is hung in the north and south transepts of the monument. Several expansive textile pieces composed of diverse strata are hung at varying heights.
Barontini shares, “Directly linked to the historic paintings of Jules-Eugène Lenepveu, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and Jean-Paul Laurens, in narrating certain episodes in the history of France, these textile pieces will also have their own narrative dimension and will offer a historic counterpoint.”
The installation is animated by the performative event taking place throughout the space several times during the exhibition. The artist feels this exhibition must also be “a collective moment of reflection and sharing of a still painful chapter in history, symbolized by the performances.”
The performance occurs in two acts. First, an original sound creation, composed by Mike Ladd, followed by a collective procession of a group of musicians and dancers from a West Indies carnival mas based just outside of Paris in the city of Saint-Denis. Then the parade pays homage to the historic figures honored on the banners that make up the artist’s own imaginary pantheon.
Barontini believes that the symbolic result of fusing visual art with participative performance will allow a blending of “artistic, historical, and societal issues, thus spurring social and cultural connections of great value.”
The project was carried out in collaboration with students from Fashion and Textile Design Master’s degrees at L’École d’Art Appliqué Duperré in Paris.
July 21, 2023