June 24, 2019 - Musée de l'Elysée - Luis Carlos Tovar awarded the third edition of the Prix Elysée
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June 24, 2019

Musée de l'Elysée

Luis Carlos Tovar, My Father’s Garden, 2019. Prix Elysée. © the artist.

Luis Carlos Tovar awarded the third edition of the Prix Elysée

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The Musée de l’Elysée is pleased to announce the winner of the 3rd edition of the Prix Elysée: the Colombian photographer Luis Carlos Tovar. Chosen by an international jury of experts among eight nominees, his identity was revealed to the public during the Nuit des images, Saturday, June 22, 2019. Luis Carlos Tovar’s work aims at "revealing/unveiling how memory takes shape" more precisely how "overlaying personal and historical memory gave [him] the opportunity to re-think the ecology and metabolism of photographs." Luis Carlos Tovar receives the sum of CHF 80,000, to be divided between the completion of the proposed project and the publication of the accompanying book in June 2020.

The starting point for Luis Carlos Tovar’s work is a photograph, but, paradoxically, one that he has never seen. It is the “proof of life” of his father, taken hostage by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in Colombia. Tovar has other traces to fill his father’s silences—the titles of the books he read in the jungle, the turquoise butterflies he kept between the books’ pages, and the Amazon landscapes he tries to recreate in his garden. These enable him to imagine his father’s pain, but never to fully understand it.

Luis Carlos Tovar speaks about his project
"The day he was stripped of his freedom, my father held me in his arms. He says that during his kidnapping, nineteen guerrillas attempted to indoctrinate him by means of three books: Karl Marx’s Capital, The Bolivian Diary of Ernesto Che Guevara and Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? My father’s salvation was laughter and the bold statement that, if he were to die, he would do so with the satisfaction of having lived a full life. A while later, having read the indoctrinating books, my father tried to strike up a dialogue. This initiative revealed that none of the guerrillas guarding him could read. Because the son in his arms was so small and the memory of his features so blurred, my father invented a way of remembering: he hunted turquoise butterflies (Morpho amathonte), preserving them between the page of the books. Chasing butterflies became a metaphor for his struggle for freedom. While he was held hostage, my father was taken through stretches of the Amazon and saw landscapes he had never seen before. He contemplated the jungle and when he was finally freed, he began to inhabit places surrounded by plants. Since then, he has been seeking to recreate nature in his new home in the city far from the town of his childhood. The pain of others is always abstract and indistinct. Our perception of it is extremely elusive. We can imagine it but never fully understand it, never truly inhabit it. This impossibility is symbolized in two ways: my father adamantly refuses to show me the photograph and my work on it begins without ever having seen it."

Luis Carlos Tovar’s background
Luis Carlos Tovar is a visual artist and educator who lives and works in Paris. He considers art as a vessel for reflection, a catalyst for building resilience, and an agent for inner and outer transformation. Tovar explores mutable geographies (i.e. displacement), how otherness is created, and the role of memory in the present. He has worked with vulnerable populations in his country and with refugees in Europe. Committed to social justice, he has developed decentralized pedagogical spaces, where participants inhabit their individual and collective journeys. His work integrates different mediums such as photography, painting, mixed media and video installation. He has exhibited in Buenos Aires, Bogotà, Rome, Paris, Madrid and Pingyao. He won the PhotoEspaña Discovery Prize (Madrid) in 2017, completed a residency at the Musée du quai Branly (2017-18) and another at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris (2018-19).

The jury of the third edition
The jury was composed of Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh, Founder and Director of the Silk Road Gallery (Tehran), Curt Holtz, Editor of Prestel Publishing (Munich), Yasufumi Nakamori, Chief Curator of international art (photography) at the Tate Modern (London), agnès b, Fashion designer, Galery owner and Collector (Paris) and the founding partners Tatyana Franck, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée and Michel Parmigiani, Founder of Parmigiani Fleurier (Fleurier). The jury also acknowledges the seven nominees, Laia Abril, Mathieu Asselin, Claude Baechtold, Nicola Lo Calzo, Alexandra Catiere, Alinka Echevarría and Gregory Halpern for their invaluable contributions, particularly within the framework of the Nominees’ Book.

About the Prix Elysée
Launched in 2014, the Prix Elysée is a prize supporting artistic production in the field of photography. Result of a partnership between the Musée de l’Elysée and Parmigiani Fleurier, it offers financial help and curatorial guidance to artists with a passion for photography and books, so they can take a decisive step in their career.

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