CELESTIAL EPICS. Art Brut in the Decharme Collection

© Collection Bruno Decharme | Aloïse Corbaz, Sans titre, Entre 1940 et 1950


From 01 Marzo 2024 to 19 Maggio 2024


Place: Accademia di Francia a Roma - Villa Medici

Address: Viale della Trinità dei Monti 1

Responsibles: Bruno Decharme e Barbara Safarova

Telefono per informazioni: +39 06 67611

Official site: http://www.villamedici.it

From March 1 to May 19, 2024, the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici will be presenting the exhibition CELESTIAL EPICS. Art Brut in the Decharme Collection featuring a selection of 180 works from Bruno Decharme’s collection, offering a veritable panorama of art brut.
The concept of art brut is attributed to the French painter Jean Dubuffet (Le Havre, 1901 - Paris, 1985), who from 1945 onwards built up a collection of objects and productions made by psychiatric hospital patients, prisoners, marginalized people, loners, and other individuals “outside the system.” These self-taught creators produce without concern about others’ opinions, thereby helping to shape new languages, inventions, and techniques.  
In his essay, L'Art Brut préféré aux arts culturels (Art Brut Preferred to the Cultural Arts. Paris, Galerie René Drouin, 1949), Jean Dubuffet defines art brut as “works executed by people untouched by artistic culture, in which mimicry, contrary to what happens with intellectuals, has little or no part, so that their authors draw everything (...) from their own background, and not from the clichés of classical or fashionable art. Here we are witnessing a pure, raw, artistic operation, reinvented in all its phases by its creator, based solely on their own impulses.” 
Art brut has never ceased to shake up the history of art and nourish minds resistant to norms as it questions classic notions of art and creation as well as those relating to the normal and the pathological. But who are they, these artists of a special kind, witnesses to another world, strangers to stylistic trends and influences? They stay—or are kept—away from the culture of fine art as well as the codes and places that constitute it such as schools, academies, museums, art fairs, etc.
While art brut’s domain is that of “the common man at work,” as Dubuffet put it, it can also be said that the fate of the latter is uncommon, characterized by a knot made between history and the artist’s private life, where one can no longer distinguish one from the other. 
Works considered to be art brut, or outsider art in the English-speaking world, employ highly creative abilities that are directly in touch with the anomalies of the contemporary world such as war, destruction, social and economic injustice, child abuse (Henry Darger), propaganda images, and oppressive regimes (Ramon Losa, Lázaro Antonio Martínez Durán, Alexander Lobanov). 
Isolation, confinement, or exile sometimes drive the artist to escape into a fictional exploration of the universe (Adolf Wölfli), reinvent a parallel world (Aloïse Corbaz), or summon spirits, ghosts, hybrid creatures, and monstrous beasts that have always inhabited our collective unconscious.
Anthropomorphic figures, intimate geographies, talismanic drawings, mental cartographies, Indian temples, and Baroque architecture are all encountered on this journey between the margins. On the farthest fringes of the imagination, lost in reality, splashed with stars, the “outsiders” are constantly redrawing the contours of a universe they invent as they go along. With freedom and otherness as their only compasses, they gather, collect, fill in, decipher, blacken, distort, amplify, organize, and build. Without filters, they embark on great celestial epics.
The obsession and perseverance of collector Bruno Decharme, who has devoted his life to building up one of the world’s most important collections of art brut, invites us to question our convictions and take a benevolent look at the very notion of creation, putting forward the idea that to create a world is to create art.