‘Outsider art’ is a collective term used to describe authentic works of art produced by off-beat artists who listen only to the voices within themselves. They do not consider the art of the past, they have no formal artistic training, and some of them are resident in psychiatric institutions. Their creativity has developed outside the framework of the mainstream art world and is largely ignored by it. The De Stadshof Collection ranks among the top five in Europe and is the only one of its kind in the Netherlands. It is formed and managed by the Collection De Stadshof Foundation. This exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag will feature a wide selection of works from the extensive Stadshof Collection, plus a number of works by Hague artist Napaku.
Work of this kind has traditionally been disregarded and treated as ‘not real art’ but in recent decades this has started to change. Increasingly, works of art produced by ‘outsiders’ are now being shown at major venues like MoMA New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and last year’s Venice Biennale. And it is a whole decade since the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag mounted an exhibition in which works by Arnulf Rainer were confronted with those of outsiders.
Interest in outsider art dates right back to the first half of the twentieth century, when many artists were turning their backs on the conventional art of the past and discovering naïve art. Hans Prinzhorn, a German psychiatrist who had studied art history, formed a collection of around 5000 works by psychiatric patients and published a book on the subject in the 1920s. Jean Dubuffet was inspired to become the first artist to systematically collect and exhibit artworks of this kind. He coined the French term ‘Art Brut’ to describe such raw and irrepressible artistic outpourings. The English term ‘Outsider Art’ was launched in the early ’70s by art critic Roger Cardinal. Leading artists like Paul Klee, Karel Appel and Arnulf Rainer have done much to foster appreciation of this non-academic kind of art. The two historical developments – the discovery of naïve art and the interest in creative expression in the psychiatric field – converge in the De Stadshof Collection.
The Outsider Art exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum will include work by Hague artist Willem van Genk, Pavel Leonov, Michel Nedjar, Bertus Jonkers, Rosemarie Koczÿ, Philippe Azéma, Sylvia Katuszewski, Johann Korec, Marc Lamy, Dwight Mackintosh, Ody Saban, and others. The exhibition is being held in collaboration with the Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent (B), where the De Stadshof Collection has been on long-term loan since 2002.