Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Museum of Everything

I am probably the very last person in the whole of London to do it but I finally made it along to The Museum of Everything this afternoon. The approach to the museum is via a little alleyway which made me think of the good old days of the old Saatchi Gallery in NW8. The Museum, just in case you don't know, is a quirky space made up of small rooms, passageways and one high ceilinged chamber - sort of like a Mike Nelson installation. The 'exhibits' are a collection of outsider art annotated by short texts written by art (Peter Blake, Mark Titchner, Grayson Perry) and art appreciating (David Byrne, Nick Cave) luminaries. If you know a bit about outsider art there are some big names here such as Morton Bartlett, Henry Darger (his work is pictured above) and Louis Wain (not sure I thought of him as an outsider but he did suffer from schizophrenia so that pretty much qualifies him.)

I find myself slightly uneasy about the whole premise of the savant artist and outsider art in general. These are people on the margins of society, often mentally ill - we gawp at their work as if viewing Bedlam inmates. As for the idea of art having more value if it is by untutored people surely that questions the value we place on education altogether. Having said all of that there is loads of 'outsider' art that I like - I just wouldn't want to be seen as a Ben Nicholson type figure ripping off my own version of Alfred Wallis.

All in all this is a very impressive collection of work and the Henry Darger and Morton Bartlett rooms are unmissable.


Corinna Spencer said...

This looks interesting and I want to see it, but like you I am uncomfortable with the label of outsider art. There is a voyeurism attached to the viewing of the work which, I feel, has less to to the work and more to do with the possible otherness of the Artists behind the work, and not always for the positive.

Thank you for the post, it joins my list of 'to see' exhibits.


CAP said...

There’s that Swiss guy Wolffi as well. Like his stuff a lot.

But you’re right – while the art may be interesting, classing it according to the artist’s sanity or social status is not particularly helpful. What ‘naïve’ artists are able to do is skip certain ways of working, others miss or don’t. They’re ability is MORE SELECTIVE than simply derangement. VIZ not all maniacs are artists, not all artists are maniacs. Then again what do we say about a Richard Dadd or Vincent Van Gogh, who spent time in asylums, but clearly were far from unskilled or unschooled?

Anonymous said...

My favorite piece was alfred wallis

Anonymous said...

My favorite piece was alfred wallis