Current and coming exhibitions

Hand of God. Photo: Yanan Li
The Archer. Photo: Yanan Li
Carl Milles. Angel musicians. Photo: Yanan Li

Art as primal force
1 June – 1 September 2024

What is art and who determines that? These are questions evoked by the exhibition L’ART BRUT ̶ Art as primal force, which opens at Millesgården on 1 June 2024. The French expression l’art brut, or 'raw art', was coined by French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901 - 1985). The term refers to the works of creators who are outside the established art world and its academic structure. During his lifetime, Dubuffet collected over 5,000 works and today the collection boasts over 70,000 works. In the Art Gallery at Millesgården, the works are arranged thematically and show geometric image compositions, colourful paintings with emblematic figures and scraps of paper with cartoon picture stories followed by writings, sculptures, works with animal motifs and landscape depictions. The exhibition at Millesgården is a collaboration with Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland and it is based on 19 Swiss creators and presents over 100 works.    


Art brut is a French word meaning 'raw art' or outsider art. But how do we define art? Throughout history, humans have to immortalised and expressed their inner emotional life to the outside world in various ways. Archeological remains and artefacts have been found across the globe, in every culture. Are humans endowed with a crude and natural artistic impulse? Is art a concept devised by modern man or do we have an ancient driving force within us? These are some of the questions being addressed in Millesgården’s upcoming exhibition L’ART BRUT ̶ Art as primal force.  


Several artists and trends throughout history have been inspired by these questions, sought answers to the ultimate truth and endeavoured to find the "origin"  ̶  the authentic and unspoiled. French artist Jean Dubuffet was one of these artists. In the summer of 1945, Dubuffet set out to Switzerland to study unconventional art and collect material with the aim of publishing a number of writings on the subject. He believed that the human need for art is primal and fundamental, and wanted to find examples of pure and unadulterated – raw – artistic expression that was not distorted by the conventions of society.   As a contrast to traditional art, which he referred to as 'art culturel', Dubuffet described what he considered to be real art as art brut - 'raw art'. He believed he could see this among people who, in one way or another, were outside the boundaries and norms of society. He wanted to find authentic artistic expression that came about without the intention of being art, for example among hermits, psychiatric hospital patients and inmates in prisons or among children. On his trip, Dubuffet acquired both knowledge – he met, among others, a psychiatrist who had studied the subject extensively – and works that would form the basis of his collection.  


"By this [Art Brut] we mean pieces of work 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. Here we are witnessing an artistic operation that is completely pure, raw, reinvented in all its phases by its author, based solely on his own impulses. Art, therefore, in which is manifested the sole function of invention, and not those, constantly seen in cultural art, of the chameleon and the monkey."

Jean Dubuffet, 1949.  


During his lifetime, Dubuffet collected over 5,000 works by 133 people that he donated to the city of Lausanne in Switzerland in 1971. Over the years, the collection has grown and today consists of 70,000 works housed at the Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne, which opened to the public in 1976.  


Arranged thematically, the exhibition begins with Adolf Wölfli’s characteristic and geometric pictorial compositions and Aloïse Corbaz’s colourful paintings with emblematic figures. Works by Adolf Wölfli are among the first acquisitions in Dubuffet’s collection. This is followed by a collection of works acquired from the country’s psychiatric hospitals. These works are characterised by their format: small pieces of paper with cartoon picture stories by creators such as Julie Bar and Jules Doudin. Works are also presented in which the authors refer to their own selves, including Justine Python’s writings, Gaston Teuscher's turbulent motifs and Angelo Meani’s sculptures. Finally, we encounter Aloïs Wey’s imaginary palace architecture and Samuel Failloubaz’s animal motifs together with Benjamin Bonjour’s landscapes.  


Exhibitors: Julie Bar, Benjamin Bonjour, Aloïse Corbaz, Gaspard Corpataux, Diego, Jules Doudin, Samuel Failloubaz, Anne-Lise Jeanneret, Pierre Kocher, Hans Krüsi, Angelo Meani, Justine Python, Jean Radovic, Armand Schulthess, Gaston Teuscher, Johann Trösch, Berthe Urasco, Alois Wey and Adolf Wölfli.  


About the exhibition

The exhibition is a collaboration with the Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland. Dubuffet’s large collection of paintings and sculptures as well as installations, collages and texts led to the establishment of the museum, which opened in 1976 and houses over 70,000 works.