On October 17, 2011, members of various associations of Liévin discovered on Place du Trocadéro in Paris, a slab inaugurated in 1987 by Father Joseph Wresinski and bearing the inscription: "Where men are condemned to live in misery, human rights are violated. Uniting to enforce them is a sacred duty."
Residents of the Marichelles district in Liévin have expressed their wish to see one day the installation on their territory of a replica of this Slab of the Refusal of misery. To carry out this project, several associations formed in December 2011 a collective called Comité de la Dalle (Committee of the Slab). The members of this collective are the MRAP (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples), the League of Human Rights, Souchez-Solidarité Partage, ATD Quart-Monde, the JOC (Young Christian Workers) and the Raoul-Follereau Foundation.
Gradually, these activists of an exemplary commitment have pushed forward their initial project to create a replica of the Trocadero slab. As part of Fondation de France's New Patrons initiative, they decided to commission a contemporary artwork to pay tribute to those who are constantly struggling to improve their daily living conditions. They also wished that this work could be installed in a symbolic place, chosen by the patrons themselves: the park of Louvre-Lens. Highly committed to the museum's relationship with local audiences, Marie Lavandier, director of the Louvre-Lens, enthusiastically welcomed the idea and participated in the completion of the project.
artconnexion, a contemporary art production organization and mediator approved by Fondation de France for the New Patrons’ action in Hauts-de-France, proposed to the group of patrons to work with Françoise Pétrovitch, an artist whose work is particularly interested in individuals at the margins, whose she grasps fragility, anxieties and aspirations. In response to the commission, Françoise Pétrovitch proposed to make a monumental bronze sculpture of allegorical significance. She represents a young woman half-body, hugging a small reversed figure. Her attitude evokes determination, solidarity and resistance. The sculpture was unveiled to the public on October 17, 2018, on the occasion of World Day for the Refusal of Poverty.
To accompany the installation of Françoise Pétrovitch's work in the Louvre-Lens Park, the museum invited the artist to present a selection of her recent works in the Glass Pavilion, from October 17 to 29, 2018.
For this sculpture, Françoise Petrovitch has drawn from her visual world a double representation, associating a young woman and a hybrid figure, half man, half rabbit, which she holds reversed against her. At first glance, the scene could be read as a fragment of childish play. Nevertheless, the gesture filled with firmness and determination of the young woman and his gaze turned inward, as in search of a personal strength to overcome a test, gives the group an allegorical dimension. This ambivalence is a quality specific to the artist's works. The reversal of the central figure, which could be banal in a playful posture, also attracts attention and raises questions.
The materiality of the sculpture, keeping track of the physical work of modeling, merges the two figures together and reinforces the idea of solidarity and mutual aid. This materiality is expressed more freely at the back of the sculpture, the hair of the young woman tending to be confused with his clothing. It is also brought by the color patina that bathes the group in subtle nuances ranging from black to blue.
The vision that Françoise Pétrovitch proposes with this sculpture does not make the choice of anger, nor of a misérabilist vision seeking to arouse pity. The artist pays homage to the silent, often solitary, force of people who have struggled or are still struggling against misery. It also recalls very simply, with the choice of a banal scene, the daily and permanent reality of this fight.
The sculpture, cast in bronze then patinated, is designed to measure nearly 2 meters high and be set on a base. The choice of monumental dimensions, long reserved for the representation of the figures of power, confers on this allegory of the fight against precariousness a manifest, primordial presence. The artist has chosen to increase his size so as not to minimize the issues expressed.
Françoise Pétrovitch's biases in terms of dimensions, materials and seating of the sculpture, placed on a pedestal, situate her answer in a history of the public monument whose conventions she adopts. It thus offers the patrons a rare and remarkable example of a citizen monument.
"Françoise Pétrovitch creates a singular work, deeply inscribed in our world, nourished by it and yet terribly intimate. Through the words of others, in the glazed earth, in the ink of her drawings - drawing of which she is today one of the reinventors - Françoise Pétrovitch takes us into a world where the word says the world, and the silence the intimate.” Alexia Fabre, 2009.
Born in 1964 in Chambéry, Françoise Pétrovitch lives in Cachan and teaches at École Estienne, a school of communication design and book arts in Paris.
Since the 1990s, Françoise Petrovitch has been creating a unique and strong work through numerous media: drawing, painting, sculpture, video, engraving and ceramics.
Playing on formats and on a constantly evolving work, Françoise Pétrovitch reveals an ambiguous, silent and often disturbing world, playing off conventional boundaries and overstepping temporal categories. The intimate and the collective, the everyday and the universal, animals and human beings, childhood and adolescence mingle, exploring the absence, the fragment, the disappearance.
The artworks of Françoise Pétrovitch are among the collections of Centre Georges Pompidou - Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (FR), National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. (USA), Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Tarpon Springs (USA), Keramis centre, La Louvière (BE), Musée d’art moderne de Saint- Etienne (FR), Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg (FR), MAC / VAL, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Vitry-sur-Seine (FR) and many other FRAC.
She has many solo exhibitions in France and abroad, including Keramis - centre for ceramics and Centre de la Gravure et de l’Image Imprimée at La Louvière (BE), FRAC PACA, Marseille (FR), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chambéry (FR), or Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris (FR). Françoise Pétrovitch is represented by Semiose, Paris.
Park of the museum, open everday (including on Tuesday):
from April 16 to October 31, from 7 am to 9 pm;
from November 1 to April 15, from 8 am to 7 pm.
Access to the park is free.
Musée du Louvre-Lens, 99 rue Paul Bert, 62300 Lens, France