July 29, 2021

Art brut takes its quarters in Beaubourg

Over 900 works of art! It is a considerable donation that the National Museum of Modern Art has just received from documentary director Bruno Decharme. “A profound upheaval for the museum”, abounds Bernard Blistène, its director, quite proud of the big blow he made a few days before his departure from the Center Pompidou on June 28.

If this donation shakes the Parisian institution, it is because it is not made up of market gondola heads or trendy young plastic artists who are usually coveted by museums. The artists who join Beaubourg today are called Aloïse, Madge Gill, Adolf Wölfli, Henry Darger, Pascal-Désir Maisonneuve, Augustin Lesage or Fleury Joseph Crépin.

Theorized in 1945 by Jean Dubuffet

For the most part, they are outsiders held to be crazy, sophisticated minds lost in the twists and turns of their unconscious, passionate autodidacts, tormented simpletons. All of them produced an “art brut”, theorized in 1945 by the artist Jean Dubuffet, who thus designated creators who were irreducible to the standards of scholarly culture.

This inspired painter had carefully collected their productions and even considered depositing them at the Center Pompidou. Before giving it up, preferring to entrust its set of 5,000 works, in 1971, to the city of Lausanne. Five years later, the Collection d’Art Brut was inaugurated there. It was there that Bruno Decharme, a philosophy student trained in cinema by Jacques Tati, discovered in 1977 these “Artists of a particular genre who offer us a different kind of knowledge, tell us essential things which resonate with us”.

A revelation that he sometimes struggles to formulate. “It’s like asking someone why they fall in love”, he used to say, appreciating the disarming quest for truth of these creators. In the early 1980s, he bought his first works of art brut. He now has nearly 6,000 of them. A devouring passion. Since 1998, he has been producing and directing documentaries devoted to this art form, notably Sky red.

Unlike Dubuffet, who advocated setting aside art brut to better protect it, Bruno Decharme has never ceased to reveal it to a large audience. In 1999, he founded the association abcd (art brut knowledge & dissemination), to organize exhibitions from his collection, produce films on these little-known authors and publish books. He succeeded in convincing the Palais de Tokyo to present, in 2012, one of his discoveries, Zdenek Kosek, a Czech artist persuaded, among other things, to determine weather variations.

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