AN UNEXPECTED FIND LED A GERMAN ART COLLECTOR TO RESCUE AND PRESERVE A REMARKABLE INNOVATOR’S LEGACY
by Edward M. Gómez
Throughout the history of the related fields of art brut, outsider art, and so-called self-taught art (see our article explaining the nuanced distinctions between these terms on the HOME PAGE of this issue), collectors who have also worked as art dealers, educators, or curators have played vital roles as researchers and explorers, sharing their discoveries through books and exhibitions.
For starters, in the 1940s, it was the French modern artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) who coined the term “art brut” (“raw art”) to refer to hard-to-classify artistic creations produced by individuals situated by choice or by the force of circumstances on the margins of mainstream culture and society. His personal collection of nearly 5000 drawings, paintings, and other objects made by unschooled créateurs became the core of the holdings of the Collection de l’Art Brut, a museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, which opened its doors to the public in 1976, becoming the first specialized institution of its kind in the world. (Today, its collection includes some 70,000 items.)
In Germany, with enthusiasm and a sharp sense of focus, the Gregor Stehle has kept alive the tradition of the collector-researcher-discoverer with what may be described as a determined and skillful rescue operation, having saved from obscurity the strange, powerful work of the German ceramics artist Stefan Holzmüller (1949-2010).
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