Since its appearance, the concept of art brut does not cease to question our aesthetic perceptions, definitions of art and more importantly, who we are. Today, it be can further tested, thanks to the eyes of new collectors, researchers, the growing number of spectators but also the interest of other actors in the field of art, including contemporary; the effects of globalisation make the concept evolve. While art brut has survived Jean Dubuffet, its inventor, it has also had its prehistory rooted in what was called at the beginning of the twentieth century, the “art of the insane”, preserved in the first psychiatric collections which had caught the attention of intuitive intellectuals.
In the 1940s, Jean Dubuffet, with other artists and intellectuals, initiates a search and begins a collection of these productions he calls art brut. Forging this concept he breaks with the psychiatric conception of “art of the insane” for good: he cuts the cord which links the creator to the hospital and to the authority of the psychiatrist. He is thus the first to bring the creative works of the patients out of the hospital setting and transform them into a subversive tool outside its walls; their mere existence sufficient to question the conventional notions of art and creation, but also those of the normal and the pathological. Dubuffet was the first to define a specific territory that cannot be confused with cultural art.
Who are the creators whose works represent for us a kind of artistic authenticity, these witnesses of another world, the object of both our dreams and fears? They are strangers to the culture of fine arts, the rituals and sites that constitute it: schools, fairs, market circuits, museums, institutions, communication support. Strangers to the currents and stylistic influences, brands and technical processes in use. Dubuffet conducted his research amidst the mentally ill who were highly creative, but also among spiritualists and those living in rural isolation, in the anonymity of cities or in solitude we might call autistic. While the territory of art brut is that of “the common man at work” (“l’homme du commun à l’ouvrage “), in the words of the painter, one might as well say that their destiny is “uncommon” (“hors du commun “) because some strange necessity propels them in a creative fever which absorbs them entirely. The inventiveness that characterizes these particular artists is only due to their own psychic abilities, including the elements they borrow from the culture surrounding us. Most of them do not address themselves to us but to an “otherness”, convinced that they have been invested with a mission of bringing order into the world, dictated by a “higher instance”.