Luc Tuymans Mural Exhibition to Open Wednesday at Louvre

Luc Tuymans and The Orphan. Source: Louvre Museum.


For his latest ephemeral exhibition, Luc Tuymans painted directly onto the walls of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Featuring four large wall paintings, The Orphan references the Antwerp-based artist’s lost 1990 work by the same name. The exhibition opens to the public on Wednesday, May 22. The murals will remain in situ at the Louvre until May 26, 2025, after which they will be painted over.


The Louvre Murals Reference a Missing Painting

The Orphan by Luc Tuymans. Source: Louvre Museum.


The missing 1990 piece by Luc Tuymans was a small oil painting based on a photograph of a German doll head. The artist’s 2024 Louvre Museum mural series is comprised of four 4.5-meter images applied directly to the gallery walls with theatre paint. The Orphan exhibition includes three images depicting the cleaning of a paint palette, related to Tuymans’s 2022 show at David Zwirner gallery in Paris, for which he used stills from a video of a New Zealand painter cleaning his supplies. These images refer to the role of the museum in an artist’s education and creative process. The fourth mural in the series is an enlarged version of the missing titular original. Like the lost painting, this mural depicts the back of a head, focusing on the nape of a nondescript neck.


By painting the gallery walls instead of hanging framed pieces, Tuymans intentionally confronts viewers with the temporality of his work. In May 2025, The Orphan will be painted over, and art from the Louvre Museum’s permanent collection will be reinstalled on the walls.


The Orphan Is Among—But Not About—the Old Masters

The artist painting the mural on the gallery wall. Source: Louvre Museum.


The Louvre Museum invited Tuymans to create the temporary mural exhibition in the Rotunda Valentin de Boulogne, located between the Sully and Richelieu wings. Tuymans selected this particular gallery because it sits at the crossroads between the museum’s French and Flemish art collections—symbolizing the blended languages and traditions of his home country of Belgium. The Orphan is installed in the midst of historic masterpieces by Poussin, Bruegel, Rubens, and Van Eyck. However, Tuymans was not interested in directly referencing these Old Masters in The Orphan. He explained, “I didn’t want to make anything about the Louvre…because that would be kind of stupid.”

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Who is Luc Tuymans?

Luc Tuymans at the Louvre Museum. Source: Louvre Museum.

Born in 1958, Luc Tuymans is a contemporary Belgian artist who visually explores the fraught relationship between humanity and its history. He is among a group of artists who helped repopularize figurative painting in a creative climate dominated by abstraction and advancements in digital art. Having exhibited in some of the largest art museums in the world, Tuymans is best known for his nearly monochromatic, intentionally out-of-focus figurative paintings, which are often inspired by found photographic and cinematic imagery. He is especially interested in creating ephemeral pieces, which are installed in a specific location for a set amount of time. “I think it’s great,” Tuymans said of the inevitable destruction of his temporary artwork. “It goes into memory.”

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