When I heard about an upcoming symposium on art brut at the Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent, Belgium I was intrigued for a few reasons. I enjoyed the first one there in 2003 but I had also been thinking about seeing some important destinations in France, and this would provide a decisive excuse to book my trip.
Speaking at the symposium were noted luminaries in the field of art brut including Bruno DeCharme(a,b,c,d Paris) Lucienne Peiry (Collection de L'Art Brut,Lausanne), Thomas Roëske (Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg), Charlotte Zander (Museum Charlotte Zander, Bonnigheim), Savine Faupin(Museum d'arte moderne Lille Metropole), Nina Katschnig(Gugging),Carine Fol(Art en Marge,Brussels) and others. Colleagues such as Roger Cardinal, Valérie Rousseau(Société des arts indisciplinés, Montreal) and Nico van der Endt (Galerie Hamer, Amsterdam) were in attendance as well.
Highlights included Bruno DeCharme's description of his obsession with collecting, likening it to a drug addiction. Charlotte Zander was highly entertaining as well. Her anecdote about smuggling her art purchases home from Jamaica in a coffin was particularly memorable. She closed her presentation with the lines "There are only good or bad paintings. Quality is the only thing that counts".
The Museum Dr. Guislain is the home of the De Stadshof Collection, originally from Holland, and features a large selection of works by Willem Van Genk. The highlight of the exhibitions on view there was a room devoted to Van Genk (the Dutch master passed away in May of this year).
After the two-day event and a wonderful dinner in Ghent I drove to Lille, France from where I proceeded to the third and final installment of "Dubuffet and Art Brut" at the Musée d'arte moderne Lille Métropole. I had seen the exhibition in May in its first rendition at the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf.
The museum grounds were beautiful and the exhibition was a bit more intimate than in Düsseldorf. Neuve invention artists like Chaissac and Soutter were not included this time and one had the feeling that, given the smaller space, the Lille presentation was closer to the spirit of the original exhibitions of the Compagnie de L'art Brut.
I had the rare honor and pleasure to view the exhibit with Roger Cardinal. It was great to listen to his detailed observations on the fantastic Wölfli drawings as well as his comments on much of the work in the show.
After the 2 1/2 hour drive to Paris I had time to check into my hotel in St. Germain and go over to see Bruno and Barbara at the a,b,c,d Gallery which is featuring a marvelous exhibit of two Czech art brut artists, Janko Domsic and Zdenek Kosek, one of whose work can currently be seen at Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York.
The next morning I met Christian Berst, the owner of the new Objet Trouvé Gallery in Paris. A book publisher by trade, Christian opened his gallery one year ago. His space is lovely and he had some very new and interesting work there. I strongly suggest that anyone planning a visit to Paris stop by.
After a great lunch with Christian and the art brut scholar Laurent Danchin I headed for my last appointment at La Maison Rouge. La Maison Rouge is part of the Fondation de Galbert, a private foundation created by renowned businessman and art collector Antoine de Galbert. The exhibition space is very impressive and has been the site of important contemporary art exhibitions. La Maison Rouge will present a Henry Darger solo exhibition in the summer of 2006. It was a pleasure and honor to meet Mr. de Galbert and Paula Aisemberg and to talk about Darger and the continued importance of presenting his work to contemporary art audiences. For more go to www.lamaisonrouge.org
I'd like to thank my many gracious hosts in Belgium and in France. I hope they will come visit us in New York soon. It is quite something to meet so many people with such pure enthusiasm for this work. Somehow, some way, the historic "Dubuffet and Art Brut" exhibit must find museum venues in America. It would be the single most important exhibit we could have here in terms of expanding the audience for art brut and outsider art. Again, the highest compliments are due to the Museum Kunst Palast Director Jean-Hubert Martin, the curator of this brilliant exhibition.
Thank you for your listening.