Centre Pompidou gifted 921 works from Bruno Decharme's collection of outsider art

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Centre Pompidou gifted 921 works from Bruno Decharme's collection of outsider art
Auguste Forestier (1887 – 1958), Sans titre, entre 1935 et 1949. Assemblage de matériaux divers, 75 x 115 x 24 cm © Centre Pompidou. Photo: © César Decharme

PARIS.- The National Museum of Modern Art has been enriched by the exceptional acquisition of 921 artworks by 242 artists from Bruno Decharme’s collection of outsider art. Presented at the second acquisitions commission which met on 2 June last, the donation consists of works from the plastic arts (374 works), graphic arts (540 works) and photography (7 works).

For Bernard Blistène, Director of the National Museum of Modern Art: " This exceptional donation endows the Museum collection with a new and unexpected dimension. To be able to constitute such an ensemble today is unimaginable, given the rareness of the works offered to us by Bruno and Barbara Decharme. These works are in resonance with Dubuffet’s very rich ensemble of works, present in the collection; and of course with the works in the Cordier Donation, which account for most of the works of outsider art in the museum; naturally with André Breton’s studio and also with the very recent donation by Kopac, who was part of the adventure of outsider art. "

For Bruno Decharme: " It was essential for me to create a body of work that brought together the major pieces of the collection. Many have no equivalent and nothing like them exists today. To render them inalienable, to protect them from the risk of dispersion associated with the ups and downs of time and family successions. To highlight them by offering them to a prestigious museum. To thus enable the creation of a section for outsider art that contributes to overturning the dogmas of ideas, contributing to thinking art differently. Lastly, to render unto these creators who are so often ostracised the place they deserve alongside great and well-known names. And more simply to offer visitors an opportunity to discover or to rediscover extraordinary and enigmatic artworks. "

The collector made his choice based on two main lines of approach: the reference figures in outsider art, including those retained by Jean Dubuffet and, continuing on from the "classics", the works of the last thirty years. The selection also took into account the possibility of developing certain themes specific to outsider art, such as mediumistic works, great scientific inventions and the creation of languages. Moreover, many nationalities are represented in this selection.

Major works were brought together for each of these lines of approach. The reference figures particularly include: Aloïse Corbaz (1886-1964), notably with an inestimable, nearly four-metre-high monumental two-sided drawing; Fleury-Joseph Crépin (1875-1948), with an exceptional triptych from 1941; Henry Darger (1892-1973), with several very large two-sided drawings, perfectly representative of the work; Adolf Wölfli (1864-1930), featuring a magnificent two-sided graphite and coloured pencil drawing from 1915, nearly three metres in width; Augustin Lesage (1876-1954), with an imposing oil on canvas of remarkable quality dating from 1936; Charles Albert Dellschau (1830-1923), featuring an extremely rare complete album book; Miguel Hernandez (1893-1957); Francis Palanc (1928-2015); Pascal-Désir Maisonneuve (1863-1934); Auguste Forestier (1887-1958); Madge Gill (1882- 1961); Janko Domsic (1915-1983), with a very rare large format; a sculpture from the Barbus Müller series (1844-1919), etc.

In terms of more contemporary work, it is worth mentioning the nearly six-metre-long letter written by Harald Stoffers (born in 1961) to his mother; an exceptional assemblage by ACM (born in 1951); the most important work by Judith Scott (1943-2005); a considerable ensemble by Luboš Plný (born in 1961), and others.

The Ave Luïa donation also includes an ensemble of works based on Christian iconography made between 2014 and 2016 in the framework of La "S" Grand Atelier, a centre of creation for mentally handicapped people in Vielsalm in Belgium, known for the originality of its approach to outsider art.

Certain works come from prestigious sources that consolidate the historical dimension of this collection: embroidery by Jeanne Tripier (1869-1944) from Jean Dubuffet’s old collection; anonymous works such as those discovered in a small village in Angola and acquired by Charles Ratton; the work reproduced in the Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme (Abridged Dictionary of Surrealism) by André Breton, 1938; a work that belonged to doctor Gaston Ferdière, chief doctor at the Rodez asylum, a work that belonged to Anatole Jakovsky, and others from the old collection of Doctor Marie, chief doctor at the Villejuif asylum, and from Claude Wiart, founder of the French Society of the Psychopathology of Expression.

Jean Dubuffet, in his famous definition given in his text Outsider Art preferred to the cultural arts, dating from 1949, described the productions of outsider art as "executed by people untouched by artistic culture, in which therefore mimicry, contrary to what happens in intellectuals, plays little or no part, so that their authors draw everything (subjects, choice of materials employed, means of transposition, rhythms, ways of writing, etc.) from their own depths and not from clichés of classical art or art that is fashionable." Bruno Decharme’s work in building up his collection follows in this tradition. Thus, with this donation and the room devoted to it in the heart of the Museum, the collector wished to show the specificity of this creative domain. But whereas Dubuffet sought to oppose it to the "cultural arts" in order to better preserve its authenticity, Bruno Decharme adopts a more open approach by proposing to promote a dialogue between these outsider artworks and those of modern and contemporary art. Bruno Decharme, a collector and filmmaker, began his collection of outsider art (now comprising more than 6000 works) in the late 1970s. He opened it up to the public in 1999 with the creation of the abcd (outsider art knowledge & distribution) association, whose mission was to develop research into outsider art based on the works in his collection and by promoting studies and publication, by exhibiting them in various places in France and abroad, in a monographic or thematic manner, and by producing films devoted to some of these artists.

Bruno Decharme wished to make an exceptional donation of nearly one thousand major works from his collection to a large French institution in order for a research centre to be developed within the institution to continue the work already engaged on outside art, particularly with the help of Barbara Safarova, PhD in literature and aesthetics, president of the abcd association and director of the programme of the International College of Philosophy.

A permanent room devoted to this donation, the content of which will rotate every six months in order to take conservation considerations into account, will open on 23 June on level 5 of the National Museum of Modern Art. A reference exhibition on outsider art based on the donation will be programmed after the major works of 2023.

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