Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne

January 27, 2013

Around Lausanne, Travel

And now for something completely different. Last week I visited what is perhaps Lausanne’s best known art museum, the small but fascinating Collection de l’Art Brut.  The French term “art brut”  translates roughly as crude, raw or unrefined art.

The thread running through the collection, which was originally gathered and curated by Jean Dubuffet starting in the 1940s, is that all the works are by self-taught individuals whose artistic expression and production was carried out in isolation from any kind of artistic tradition, school of thought, or influence. The artists are a diverse mix of loners, hermits, autistics, psychiatric patients, obsessives, and prison inmates, who worked in isolation and who exercised their creative impulses and created work for their own reasons, seldom with any intention of displaying it to others (indeed, many hid their works, which were only discovered after their deaths). Some the artists displayed are still living and producing work, and the collection now contains over 60,000 works.

Some of the work, as expected, is crude, full of raw emotion and psychosis, and frankly bizarre, while other pieces are incredibly beautiful and/or thought-provoking and meticulously executed. I thought I would stay for a half hour or so, but ended up staying for 2 hours!

The accompanying artist biographies are quite poignant as well. While there is clearly room for exploitation in displaying the works of such marginalized and vulnerable people, the artists and their works are treated with dignity and respect. Pictured below are a selection of artists and works displayed, with each artist biographic description followed by one or two samples of their work.


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