Words of Advice For Artists From Jean Dubuffet, Advocate for Art Brut, on His Birthday

Believe in magic.

Jean Dubuffet, 1945. Photo courtesy of Phaidon.

Jean Dubuffet, 1945. Photo courtesy of Phaidon.

French artist Jean Dubuffet introduced the world to Art Brut, a predecessor of contemporary “outsider” art. He debuted Coucou Bazar, an “animated painting,” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1973. The work consisted of moving paintings, brought to life by actors in an hour-long performance.

As a champion of artists he regarded as part of Art Brut, Dubuffet collected works from those on the fringes of society, such as the mentally ill, imprisoned, and disenfranchised. He saw immense value in work created outside of formal art institutions, which he found to be constrictive and stultifying.

The maverick artist was born on July 31, 1901, and passed away on May 12, 1985.

Jean Dubuffet, L'Homme a la Rose (1949). Photo courtesy of Phaidon.

Jean Dubuffet, L’Homme a la Rose (1949). Photo courtesy of Phaidon.

1. Get drunk on art.
“There is no art without intoxication. But I mean a mad intoxication! Let reason teeter! Delirium!”

Jean Dubuffet at work on a polystyrene sculpture in Paris, June 1967. Photograph by Luc Joubert. © Archives Fondation Dubuffet , Paris. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Jean Dubuffet at work on a polystyrene sculpture in Paris, June 1967. Photograph by Luc Joubert. © Archives Fondation Dubuffet , Paris. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

2. Don’t follow trends.
“I take hardly any interest in the work of other painters. I rarely visit art galleries. It is very possible that art based on the constant use of references to earlier works could be very legitimate… [but] in my own work I use nothing of the kind.”

Jean Dubuffet, the Cow with the Subtle Nose (1954). Photo courtesy of WikiArt.

Jean Dubuffet, the Cow with the Subtle Nose (1954). Photo courtesy of WikiArt.

3. Be unconventional.
“The creators of Art Brut draw their themes, ideas and means of expression from their “own resources,” from their “impulses and humors, without referring to the usual means, without any consideration for the accepted conventions.”

Jean Dubuffet, Mire G 96 (Kowloon) (1983). Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery.

Jean Dubuffet, Mire G 96 (Kowloon) (1983). Photo courtesy of Pace Gallery.

4. Believe in magic.
Dubuffet claimed that Art Brut possessed “a strength that derived from desire, from magic…Isolated from society [the brut-ists] create their own feasts.”

Jean Dubuffet, Le Mentonneux (1959). Photo courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

Jean Dubuffet, Le Mentonneux (1959). Photo courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.

5. Don’t think you’re the one in control.
“Art does not just lie in the bed we made for it; it would sooner run away than say its own name. What it likes is to be incognito. Its best moments is when it forgets what its own name is.”

Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet by Ida Kar, 2 1/4 inch square colour transparency, 1964.Photo: Courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Jean Philippe Arthur Dubuffet by Ida Kar, 2 1/4 inch square colour transparency, 1964.
Photo: Courtesy National Portrait Gallery.

Sources:

1. Flavorwire
2. Art Brut education kit
3. ABCD, Montreuil
4. Pizzuti Collection
5. Fondation Jean Dubuffet


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