in with the outcasts

Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne

A dark, moody estate with thousands of works done by unorthodox artists sounds more like the plot for a film noir than the setting for a brilliant collection. However, the four-storrey building, which houses the collection, makes excellent display for the eccentric works within. Situated in the city of Lausanne, the Collection de l’Art Brut is one not to miss because you would never forget it once inside.

Art mimicry, no thanks

The basis of the Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne is art that is not chained down by influence from artists, schooling, or formal training. These free agents of Art Brut mutilate the traditional ideas associated with art and then sew them back together. The collection is made up of thousands of works by various Dr. Frankensteins, if you will. The original founder of the Collection, Mr. Jean Dubuffet, once said that he wanted work in which “mimicry” played no part whatsoever — a trait otherwise recognisable in anyone who has trained in art. In essence, He was keen to collect works of art from people who had been sheltered from societal influences.

The collection comprises of art by the criminally insane, the delusional, and the secluded and marginalised

Art Brut artists

There are stunning, expressive works done by Aloïse Corbaz, a Swiss governess at the court of Wilhelm II. While at court, she experienced such a passionate love for the Emperor that her emotions became an everlasting theme in her art. The art aptly included princes, princesses and others engaged in romances. In addition, much of her art was completed in secret while in an asylum in Lausanne.

Colourful primary colors and naïve shapes make up the work of Josef Wittlich, who barely completed elementary school and went on to draw and paint works inspired by film stars and photographs of the Pope. There are thousands of pages of girls with male genitalia done by Henry Darger, who worked in seclusion and whose work was only discovered after his death in Chicago.

The story of these artists is inseparable from the art in the art collection. This is perhaps something that makes the museum so unique- that the identity of the artist is so incredibly vested in the art iself.

Many of the artists created art for no other reason than a primal need to express themselves, perhaps comparable to light, sleep, and air. Often the artists were equally haunted and blessed by an irrepressible compulsion to create art. It explains in part why so many of them worked in secret with unusual media such as toothpaste, crushed flowers, and anything else that could further their work.

Consider also that none of these individuals were ever sought out by a buyer or the public. This museum, then, is a unique venture, where somebody choses to see something truly spectacular in what others would dismiss. The museum then promote us placing a value on the sheer creative merit within the art.

By the act of curation, the Collection de l’Art Brut literally create or boost the value to these pieces. Collectors take note: this is a place where the only reason this is thought of as art is because someone whole-heartedly believed it was. The Colletion de l’Art Brut is one big enigma.

1) the people who created the art have pasts that aren’t the norm for artists (although that too tends to have a very wide definition)
2) the art they created is definitely not the art
that we would expect to see displayed, and
3) the choice of this gorgeous building all raise
more questions than answers.

The art in the collection is laid out by each artist. In turn, each artist gets a biography, and then the art is
shown around the biography. The variety in styles between artist is great. Some works go from subtle, muted tones to violent, wrenching pieces. Clearly, the Museum is an emotional place, where the art is almost screaming at you.

What you take with you when you leave the museum

The Collection de l’Art Brut not only addresses the unusual, it also gives us more insight into the souls who created the art with such gusto. By so doing, we get to terms with ourselves and our mark making culture by seing what art is when it is stripped from societal norms and expectations.

Contribution by Kate van Genderen

Collection de l’Art Brut, “Definition”,
Collection de l’Art Brut, “Authors”,