Lausanne : The Collection de l’Art Brut
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A fifteen-minute walk northwest of Bel-Air (or bus #2 from St-François or Bel-Air to Beaulieu) brings you to one of the most original art galleries in the country, the Collection de l’Art Brut, 11 Avenue des Bergières (Tues–Sun 11am–1pm & 2–6pm; Fr.6; SMP). This quite unique collection is devoted to what’s been called “outsider art”, the creative output of ordinary people with no artistic training at all – often loners, psychotics or the criminally insane – who for some reason suddenly began making their own art, on many occasions in middle or old age. What results is art entirely free from any conception of formal artistic rules or conventions, which challenges both how we tend to view such “outsiders” in our own communities, and our expectations of what art should be about. Without really doing or saying anything, the gallery and its collection forces you to be open minded; even though short biographies of the artists alongside each piece tell some heart-rendingly sad or disturbing stories. The gallery displays art by Henry Darger, a hospital porter in Chicago, who died alone, an old man unknown by his neighbours; it was only after his death that his 19,000-page novel, illustrated with dozens of detailed watercolours up to three metres long, came to light. Scottie Wilson, an illiterate Glaswegian junk dealer, began at the age of 40 to produce whimsical and incredibly intricate Escheresque drawings; while a London art gallery was selling his drawings for hundreds of pounds, Wilson was found outside in the street hawking others to passers-by for a pound or two. There’s art on show from a factory worker whose talent was only discovered because he pinned his drawings up in his workshop, from a medium imprisoned in the 1930s for her interest in spirituality, from a postman who believed his hand was being directed by an external force, and so on.

As well as its permanent collection, founded by the late Jean Dubuffet, the gallery has regular temporary exhibitions of art brut from artists around the world. Whatever is showing, it’s worth going some distance out of your way to see.

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