Art Brut in the 21st Century Notes on a Lecture by Barbra Safarova

Barbara Safarova, one of the best researchers of art brut/outsider art, discusses the contemporary world of outsider art, the most important collections and the connections between outsider art and modern art.


The term art brut was invented by French painter Jean Dubuffet in the 1945 in 1945, and he actually refused to define the word argued for a very long time. He wrote in one of his texts, Arbroath is our route and everyone has understood not quite well.

Came after IIWW after the Second World War, and as you might know, probably, as you might probably know, that Second World War is the period of time when the Nazi government has regrouped works of the German avant garde artists with artists from mental asylums and has shown them together under the title of degenerate art exhibitions, the German asylums, the German artists coming from the asylums where a lot of them were victims to the T4 program of euthanasia, which you might have heard about as well.

So this is maybe something that questions the difference between what is self-taught and what is not, because it shows clearly that there are some artists who might have had a period in their life in which they did something that is completely different from the academic education they went through. So it’s not like you are one or the other that you might go from one one, one creation to another within within the within your life. The example of Lucetta, the person who did the finger paintings is also a very good example, because he was he went from something that is very academic to something that is much freer, much more free and is just before his death, basically. What is also questionable is why Dubuffet restricted the the works in which he was interested to European works only basically because when you look today at the collection Tallowwood and all the other collections of Arbroath, you realize that there are artists from other parts of the planet. And it’s also the case of the collection I am in charge of. This is a Chinese artist who became famous actually to the white public because she was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2013 extensively. Her name was Go. Thank You. She died recently and she was she was trying to heal herself through her works and she was trying to heal other people. She was actually painting some actual factual points on the human body, which are incorporated in her works. And again, there are semi automatic drawings. She also apparently heard voices and meditated. And she says, clearly, I paint to gain knowledge.

“…what really matters. And showing the works in exactly the same way as we would show works of contemporary artist. I think that’s what’s important to us today. And the catagories don’t really matter. I mean, that is what we try to do us as an organization and that’s what we believe in as a structural.”

Miroslav Teehee, I’m not sure he wanted to have his work shown. I think he didn’t care at all that his works are worth a lot of money on the markets and he didn’t even see most of the money himself. So, yes, it is controversial and he didn’t seem very interested in the in the exhibitions in that fragment that I’ve shown you on the other side. I think, for example, someone like Daniel Kozik, he was extremely happy about the fact that his works travel. And he said, I’m very happy about the fact that people can finally see what the human brain is capable of, whereas Esperance’s is very, very ashamed of the work he did in the time he he threw most of them away. And it did change something for him, the fact that people were interested in his works. We have invited to the exhibition we made in Paris two years ago a German artist who is working in a studio in Frankfurt, and he makes huge planes out of shoeboxes and he’s convinced he’s making real planes, which can save humanity in a few years because the earth, we won’t be able to live anymore on the Earth. So we would have to leave for space.

I think there is not a big problem today with a group of art of people who are mentally ill, because in our research, it was relatively easy to find this artist because they are research, because there’s this label and the label is artificial, but it works. So these people are visible. And the biggest problem is people who are not mentally ill or disabled, but they are different and they are not professional. And then they fall into a black hole, like, for instance, this photographer, because he’s not ill, he has normal family. And he did this project for 50 years and nobody cared because he’s not professional and he’s not into a category. So I think this should be really research what you said, different fields of exclusion and not on the mental illness. So maybe in this way it should be Refaat or maybe some new category should be found out.

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