8. Museums and collections

Can a museum exhibit an art environment?

Of course we know about art environments that -mostly after its creator had passed away- have been transformed into a museum, such as the mosaic-decorated house of Picassiette. But what about the reverse, an ordinary (art) museum that shows or is transformed into an art environment?

Well, this blog has just a small number of examples of such a situation.

The city of Dolgorukovo in the Lipetsk region in Russia has a museum that is devoted to local history in a broad Russian context,  the Museum Krai Dolgorukovskaya

Ivan Krishtenko, when he was director of this museum, in the 1980s began decorating the interior with pillars crowned with friezes, wall decorations, inscriptions or colorful paper mache items, while he also filled the outdoor space with self-made sculptures and structures, creations he built up with the aid of cement and all kinds of surplus material found on the dump. Thus, this museum as such is an art environment. 

Another -slightly less pronounced- example is the museum in Draguignan, France, dedicated to Danielle Jacqui, inaugurated in July 2019. This ORGANuGAMMusEum, housed in the ancient Romanesque Chapelle Saint-Sauveur, specially made available for this purpose by the municipality, comprises around 150 works dating from 1970 to the present, that give an impression of the creativity of the artist. All high-rising interior walls are up to the ceiling and seamlessly covered with creations, as is also the case in the Danielle Jacqui's house. One can say that the interior of the chapel has been transformed into an art environment.

It's a less pronounced example because the chapel was unused and wasn't functioning as a museum before it got this new destination. However, it is a unique happening in the field of art environments in Europe: a city that makes a (historical) building available to be transformed into an artwork in the pattern of the transformation into an art environment that the artist previously applied to her own house.

And then the following exceptional situations also occur: some museums/collections were able to move an installation (such as Avezard's Manège) or a large part of an art environment (such as Bindler's Musée de la Doller) to their premises.

However, most art environments are so fully tied to their particular location, that most museums/collections that want to pay attention to art environments, have to restrict themselves to adding just some single pieces to their collection. Or present a series of photographs.

This page lists museums/collections in Europe that in one way or another pay attention to art environments by adding larger or smaller parts of these creations to their collection.

La Fabuloserie, Dicy, France (1983)

This museum, opened in 1983, is a private enterprise realized by Alain de Bourbonnais (1925-1988) and his wife Caroline de Bourbonnais (1924-2014).

Alain studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris He became an architect with commissions in the public domain (theaters, stations). Privately he was quite interested in the works of unknown french self-taught artists and in the 1950s and 60s he collected many of their works, which he presented in his own art gallery in Paris, Atelier Jacob, opened 1972. 

De Bourbonnais only learned about Jean Dubuffet when he read a newspaper about the latter's plan to transfer his collection of art brut works to Lausanne. The two met and became friends, sharing their information about artists.

From 1972 until 1982 the Atelier Jacob was the only place in Paris where the public could see art brut, but since Dubuffet wanted to keep this designation for his own collection, de Bourbonnais' collection was designated as art hors les normes.

De Bourbonnais owned a country house, some hundred kilometers south-east of Paris, where he also had an atelier where he made his own creations.

In 1982 he and his wife decided to close the Atelier Jacob and transfer all artworks to the country house in Dicy, which would be opened to the public in 1983 as La Fabuloserie.

After Alain de Bourbonnais died in 1988, Caroline took on the management of the Fabuloserie, which she continued until her death in 2014. Currently the museum is directed by the two daughters Sophie and Agnes de Bourbonnais.

Creators of art environments in the collection: Pierre Avezard

With regard to art environments the greatest achievement of La Fabuloserie is the transferal of Pierre Avezard's large installation Le Manège from its location in Fay-aux-Loges to the premises of La Fabuloserie.
photo by Jessica Straus
 Avezard (1909-1992) in 1985 could no longer care for his creation and the installation was at the risk of getting lost. With Avezard's agreement a group of volunteers in the late 1980's carefully dismantled the Manège and rebuilt it on the grounds of La Fabuloserie, where it was inaugurated in august 1989 and currently still can be seen in full swing.

Also in the collection

Apart from Avezard the collection includes creations from sites that no longer exist, such as those made by François Portrat (1884-1976), Camille Vidal (1894-1977), Jules Damloup (1898-1985), Jean Bertholle (1910-2002) and Jean-Pierre Schetz (1921-1986).

The collection also includes some sculptures that were especially created for the museum: two sculptures made by Charles Pecqueur (1908-1990) depicting Alain and Caroline as fairy tale characters and another special one, a sculpture by Finnish self-taught sculptor Alpo Koivumäki (b. 1939), made in situ as artist in residence.

More information about La Fabuloserie plus a lot of pictures on Andrzej Kwasiborski's weblog Znalezienie

Horácké Museu, Nova Mesto na Moravé, Czech Republic
(incorporation of Vincent Navratil's installation, 1986)

In the 1940s Vincent Navratil from Vir in the Czech Republic, a handyman in a local textile factory, constructed an installation with movable two-dimensional wooden characters, showing scenes from daily life, like carpenters and blacksmiths at work, dancers, people drinking, trapeze artists and so on.

The machinery could be set in motion by a paddle wheel in the creek flowing nearby.
photo by Horácké Museum
Begun modestly, the installation grew and in the 1970s it counted some 70 characters.

Vincent's grandson in 1986 donated the installation to the Horácké Museum in Nové Mesto na Moravé. This museum, opened in 1892, pays attention to regional history, folk culture, textiles, the glass industry and so on.

After renovation, Navratil's installation was exhibited in the museum's garden. It has become one of the museum's main attractions.

l'Ecomusée de l'Alsace, Ungersheim, France
(incorporation of André Bindler's art environment, 1991/92)

This open-air museum, located in Ungersheim and opened in 1984, aims to present the cultural heritage of the region, in terms of its various authentic buildings, its former industrial activities and the way people lived and worked (costumes, festivities and so on). In 1991 Marc Grodwohl, who then was the director of the museum, by chance came into contact with André Bindler.

Bindler (1922-2011) after working during forty years in the textile industry, around 1980 began transforming his house and garden into an art environment, making sculptures of animals and famous persons, replica's of well-known Parisian buildings and of numerous houses and chapels in Alsace. an activity he continued until 1989.

His Musée de la Doller gradually would have fallen into disrepair, if not the Ecomusée's director had proposed him to transfer Bindler's creations to the museum and expose them there in a setting that would be as similar as possible to the original one.
photo by Marc Grodwohl
So it happened, and within some six months the move took place, after which the volunteers of the museum, advised by Bindler, needed a number of years to restore the various items.

More information about the transferal in an elaborate article on the website of Marc Grodwohl

Musée-jardin de la Luna Rossa, Caen, France (1992)

This open air museum, which opened in 1992 on the initiative of Olivier Thiébaut, like the Fabuloserie, is a private enterprise. It displays creations, mainly sculptures, from art environments in western and northern France, both sites that have been demolished or sites that still exist. 

In 1996 Thiébaut published his book Bonjour aux promeneurs. Sur le chemin de l'art brut. Paris (Ed Alternatives), 1996. It is one of the classics in France, with reviews of art environments in western and northern France (see the page Annotated bibliography for details).

Creators of art environments in the collection: Séraphin Enrico

A specific achievement of Thiébaut and his friends was the excavation in 1995 of a number of sculptures by Séraphin Enrico (1898-1989) that had been dumped in a pond after the sculptor in 1972 had moved to another part of the country and his decorated garden was demolished.
photo by Herbaltablet
 Also in the collection

Apart from Enrico's creations the collection includes items from some sites that no longer exist or are in advanced state of neglect: Bodan Litnianski (1913-2005), Louis Tourquetil (1916-??), Emile Taugourdeau (1917-1989) and André Hardy (1921-2013).

It also has items from sites that still exist such as: Fernand Chatelain (1899-1988), Euclide da Costa Ferreira (1902-1984), Robert Vasseur (1908-2002) and Arthur Vanabelle (1922-2014)

Collection de l'art brut l'Aracine/
Lille art Museum, Art Brut department, Lille, France (1999)

The Lille art Museum, located in northern France in 1999 accepted the donation of the Aracine collection of art brut and from that time on had a special department committed to art brut. In this way this museum that in 1983 was opened as Musée d'Art Moderne became the first public museum in France with a permanent collection of outsider art and regular exhibitions in this field of art.

l'Aracine originated in the 1970s, when Madeleine Lommel (1923-2009) and some other interested people (Michel Nedjar, Claire Teller) began collecting works of art brut, an activity which in 1982 resulted in the official formation of the Collection d’Art Brut l'Aracine.

From 1984 until 1996 the collection was presented in a museum in Neuilly-sur-Marne. When operating a museum proved too difficult a task, in 1995 the Musée d’Art Moderne was asked to accept the collection as a donation, a request which was accepted in 1999.

At that time the collection included some 3500 works, also creations made by famous artists such as Aloïse Corbaz, Henry Darger, Auguste Forestier, Augustin Lesage, Adolf Wolfli and Carlo Zinelli.

After a renovation and an enlargement needed to exhibit the donated collection, the museum reopened in September 2010, renamed into Lille art Museum.

Creators of art environments in the collection

The Aracine collection mainly includes paintings and sculptures.

With regard to art environments it has items from a Belgian site that doesn't exist anymore, the totem-like wooden structures created by Theo Wiesen (1906-1999), which currently are part of the museum's permanent exposition.
photo by Richard Bennaars
l'Aracine also has creations by Josué Virgili (1901-1999), whose art environment in Kremlin-Bicêtre  (suburb of Paris) also doesn't exist anymore. The article about Virgili in this weblog also has information about the choice of the name l'Aracine and the origin of the emblem the association uses.

In 2010 the museum commissioned a group of architects to make a maquette of the decorated farm of Arthur Vanabelle (1922-2014), which currently belongs to the museum's collection. The museum also takes care of (part of) the legacy of Jean Grard (1928-2004).

The museum owns the archives of l'Aracine, of film makers Claude and Clovis Prévost. of researcher André Escard and of book author Francis David (who wrote about sites in northern France) and it  has a collection of photo's of art environments. In March 2018 the LaM published a website named Habitants paysagistes. Cartographie des maisons et jardins singuliers that includes photo's and documentary material derived from these archives.

ITE-museum Kokkola, Finland (2001)

The ITE-museum was opened in 2001 as part of the Folk Arts Centre in Kaustinen, Finland.

In 2009 it settled in Kokkola, as part of the Provincial Museum of Ostrobothnia. The museum is administered by the Provincial Museum and it's activity is planned and realized in collaboration between this museum and the Union for Rural Culture and Education. This Union is a nationwide Finnish organization, that in recent decades in the context of its educational and cultural activities has paid much attention to outsider art.

In 2005 the Dallmeier collection of European naive and outsider art, over 200 works of 57 artists, was donated to the community of Kaustinen. It is being cared for by the ITE-museum. Another part of the collection, formally owned by the Union for Rural Culture and Education includes works of outsider artists/creators of art environments, that were legated to the organization.

Art environments in the collection

The collection includes works of Enni Id (1904-1992) and Erich Bödeker (1904-1971), both in the Dallmeier collection, and of Väinö Oja (b 1930), Martti Hömppi (1935-2013), Ilmari Salminen (1929-2008) and Timo Peltonen (1929-2007).
photo by Minna Haveri
The collection of photo's features art environments by Enni Id (1904-1992), Aune Kinnunen (b 1931), Elis Sinistö (1912-2004), Ensio Tuppurainen (1924-2014), Seppo Suomensyrjä (b 1950) and Jukka Säntti (b 1959)

In 2003 artist Ben Wilson from England, U.K. payed a visit to Finland. At the courtyard of the Kaustinen Folk Arts Centre he created a wooden structure, which currently still is located there.

Musée "Les Amoureux d'Angélique" (2001)

This museum, a private enterprise, was initiated by Martine and Pierre-Louis Boudra (Association Gepetto). They collect art made by non-professional artists in the fields of folk, naive and outsider art. From 2001 on the couple runs a private museum in the community of Carla-Bayle, in the Ariège area in the south of France.

Art environments in the collection: Luigo Buffo

A specific achievement of the couple is that they succeeded in saving the wooden sculptures created by Luigi Buffo (1919-1997) when in 2003 Buffo's art environment after his death. was being destroyed by the family.
photo by Bruno Montpied
 Also in the collection

The collection also includes sculptures by Honorine Burlin (1932-2010) and Joseph Donadello (b 1927), both from southern France.

Musée du Pays Foyen, Sainte-Foy-la-Grance, France
(incorporation of Franck Barret's art environment. 2007- 2010)

Franck Barret (1909-1988) was a farmer who in the late 1940's began making sculptures from clay, depicting holy and famous persons, but also monsters and martians he saw in his dreams. Installed in a barn, the collection was announced as Ferme Musée (Museum at the farm). In the 1960s and 70s it attracted a lot of visitors, especially on Sunday afternoons.

After Barret died in 1988, the collection became forgotten, until around 2005 the family wanted to sell the property and asked a local group op people who took interest in the cultural heritage of the region to look after the collection of sculptures.

photo Musée du Pays Foyen

It was a huge task for the volunteers to remove the heavy clay sculptures and to restore them, but in September 2010 part of the collection for the first time could be seen in its new venue, the local Musée du Pays Foyen.

Musée de Veinazès, la Capelle-del-Fraisse, France

The Musée de Veinazès is a private project, undertaken on the initiative of Raymond Coste, an inhabitant of the village. Opened on June 27, 2003, the museum focused in its early years on the technical development of regional agriculture between 1880 and 1970 (including a display of all kinds of tractors), and it showed  a number of craft workshops, also from the region like a clog-maker's business (around 1930) and a carpenter's workshop (around 1922), all fully in operation after restoration. 

In later years, when Raymond's son Bernard Coste took charge, the museum also began to focus on regional contemporary art by non-professionals. So after the death of Rene Delrieu in 2008, part of his art environment was included in the museum. And in 2013 Robert Goudergues (1937-2017) donated his collection of wooden miniatures to the museum.

More museums/collections

With reduced elucidation here are some more museums/collections which have items from art environments in their collection,

The Atelier Musée d'art brut et singulier, Montpellier, France, has renovated its garden and installed there early 2016 two huge sculptures, one made by Horace Diaz, which depicts a crocodile, and another one made by Raymond Moralés.

The Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland, has creations in it's collection from various artists related to the field of art environments, such as Guy Brunet (b. 1945), François Portrat (1884-1976), Fernando Oreste Nannetti (1927-1994, facsimiles of his graffiti), Armand Schulthess (1901-1972), Filippo Bentivegna (1888-1967), Abdel Kader Rifi (1920-2005) and Willem van Genk (1927-2005)

The Collection ABCD, Montreuil, France, the important private collection of Bruno Decharme, includes 4000 art brut creations, mainly paintings and sculptures. In relation to art environments the collection has items of wooden furniture of Abbé Fouré and a sculpture by Camille Renault.

The Museum of the Mind (until 2020 Dolhuys Museum), Haarlem, Netherlands, which focuses on the human mind and psychiatry, from early 2016 on exhibits Willem van Genk's installation Arnhem Bus Station.

The Museum Gugging, Austria has a replica of August Walla's decorated room in the Gugging House of Artists, where it is kept in its original condition. The room can occasionally be visited with guided tours.

The Kunstmuseum Thurgau, Switzerland, has two sculptures of Finnish creator of a sculpture garden Alpo Koivumäki, made while in residence in 2009 and in 2011.

The Musée de l'Abbaye Sainte-Croix, Les Sables d'Olonne, France, has a bronze entrance door in it's collection, engraved by Hyppolite Massé, part of the decorated facade (not existing anymore) of the house where he lived.

The Museum dr Guislain , Gent, Belgium, focuses on the history of psychiatry, but also has a department of outsider art, where it has creations of Gerard van Lankveld (born 1947)BertusJonkers (1920-2001) and Markus Meurer (born 1959)

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