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What Is the Art Brut Museum?

The Swiss city of Lausanne is home to a famous Art Brut museum.
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  • Written By: Bobbie Fredericks
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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Art Brut, or "rough art," is artwork produced by people who are totally uninfluenced by art culture or even the desire to create art. Many collections are not discovered until the person's death. Art Brut has been produced by prison inmates, mental patients, and poor or "ordinary" people, some of whom have produced hundreds and even thousands of works of art. The most well-known Art Brut museum is the Collection de l’Art Brut located in Lausanne, Switzerland, which was started in 1948 by the artists Jean Dubuffet and Andre Breton, and several others. There are also other small organizations in the United States and Europe that are dedicated to the preservation and display of Art Brut.

Jean Dubuffet got the idea for his Art Brut museum from a book of such works published by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn in 1922. He also came up with the name Art Brut, which translates to "raw art" in French. The paintings in Dr. Prizhorn's book were created by patients in his asylum. The book also had a great deal of influence on surrealist artists of the day. Since Jean Dubuffet coined the term, the Collection de l’Art Brut reserves the sole right to declare pieces as Art Brut.

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Outsider art was originally intended to be the English equivalent of this artistic style. It has now become a term to describe any art created by one with no formal training. Many of these pieces are not eligible to be named Art Brut by the Collection de l’Art Brut.

Folk art can be compared to outsider art. These pieces are not typically classified as Art Brut, however, because they are created with some artistic influence. Graffiti is also sometimes included in this category. There are many fine galleries dedicated to folk art.

Today, the Art Brut museum in Switzerland is a large institution that features a biography of the artist next to each work. In addition to the original collection, the Art Brut museum frequently features works from around the world. It can be visited at 11 Avenue des Bergières in Lausanne.

The Collection de l’Art Brut is the most famous and original Art Brut museum, but there are others and galleries that frequently feature it as well as other outsider artwork. The Museum im Lagerhaus is another museum in Switzerland dedicated to Art Brut. In Baltimore, this type of art is featured at the American Visionary art museum in Baltimore. The Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts in Canada features outsider art pieces done by people with developmental disabilities.

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