An exciting exhibition of “outsider” art also warns of the dangers of bringing this genre too far into the mainstreamby Ben Lewis / November 18, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
Hawkins Bolden’s Scarecrows, yellow and red
A marvellous temporary museum has opened in Primrose Hill in London. You enter through a tiny alleyway on a side street, and find yourself in a building that began its life as a dairy and was until recently a recording studio. The eccentric location is in keeping with its eccentric contents. It’s called The Museum of Everything, and is open to the public free of charge each week from Thursday to Sunday. Crammed into a warren of corridors, cubicles, uncomfortably shaped rooms and one cavernous double-height space is a generous exhibition of the marginalised art of the past 200 years, which has at various times been labelled art brut, outsider art (the most popular term), folk art, naive art, visionary art and, occasionally, Sunday painting.
The common denominator is that this is work by untrained artists, operating outside the commercial art world, in remote or impoverished communities and sometimes in mental institutions. But the competing terminology indicates the lack of consensus on what this art really is, or where it should go in the art historical and museological scheme of things.