Musée d’Art Brut, Montpellier’s newest gem for the whole family! by Metrice Harris-Weedman

Musée d Art BrutWhile shopping around for affordable paintings to fit our house, I stumbled upon a style frequently referred to as Art Brut. Without knowing more than the name and with no specific intention, I would encounter this style again and again during my researching. Coincidentally, I was invited to review a new museum opening in Montpellier which focuses on... Art Brut. No need to ask me twice, my husband and I showed up with pen and camera in hand and embarked on an enchanting discovery.

 

The term Art Brut (or Raw Art) was coined by artist Jean Dubuffet in 1945 to refer to art produced outside of the more studied fine art and exempt from tradition. Arguably the influences of culture are removed to reveal creativity in more naive and pure states, often as an emotional outlet.

 

This style is represented by artists who are autodidact, children, patients in psychiatric facilities, prisoners, or those living in isolation or as social "outsiders" (Art Brut has also been referred to as Outsider Art).

 

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The materials used for creative expression range from the conventional pen and paper to seashells, wire, cardboard, clay, zinc, and fabrics; in other words, the materials that were available to the artist or were a focus of their inspiration. Aside from representing Art Brut, the museum’s collection is comprised of styles from Art Singular, Folk, Mail, and Outsider Art.

 

The Musée Art Brut Singulier & Autres of Montpellier is the 2nd largest of its kind in France, opened its doors April 2016. After over 12 years of gathering artworks, renovation, and working on the installations, this privately funded museum took shape under the guidance of the Association for the Development of Art Brut (ADABS). The association is comprised of 20 members and run by Patrick Michel. His father, Fernand Michel, a significant artist in the Art Brut movement, housed his workshop in the annexed building of the museum.

 

Don’t leave the museum without walking across the courtyard, as Michel’s children and ADABS have created a stunning homage to this unique artist who used zinc plaques and the residue left by pollution to create some of his artworks. His workshop is preserved in time behind glass and one can easily imagine him picking up where he left off.

 

We had the pleasure of experiencing an awakening of sorts as we were being introduced to the museum through the eyes of Patrick Michel and gifted with a personal tour. Despite the unassuming exterior, the museum houses 2,500 works of art and represents 230 artists. Three times a year, selected artists will be showcased in an exhibition.

 

Visually, the museum was light and airy, small enough not to be overwhelming but large enough to walk away with a new perspective and sense of appreciation for the style.

 

The artworks frequently spoke for themselves, yet the viewer gets a rare treat in the form of a lengthy biographical description of each artist. Themes of loss, mental illness, and isolation are consistent reminders of what lies beneath the surface of each oeuvre. Intricate oeuvre. Intricate patterns, repetition, and bright, perhaps even kitschy paintings invite the viewer to take their time and enter a different world from what one might be accustomed.

 

The museum is family friendly, though an occasional work of art might require parental vigilance depending on your child and values; my 9 year old daughter was drawn in enough to know what attracted her eye or sparked her curiosity. We left the museum, not overly fatigued as larger museums tend to impact us, but with reluctance, wishing we had more time. Feel free to visit the bookstore or even take home designated pieces at the museum store.

 

Easily accessible by car, Tram, or bus, the museum is located in the Beaux-Arts section of Montpellier and within walking distance of restaurants and the Corum.

Their site www.atelier-musee.com can give you more information. The museum is located at 1 rue Beau Séjour and is accessible on the Line 2 of the Tramway; get off at the Beaux-Arts stop.

The Montpellier Tourism Office: (www.montpellier-tourisme.fr) and TripAdvisor provide more detailed information, pictures, and commentary. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-1pm & 2pm - 6pm. Adults 8€ (reduced rates 6€) and children age 10 and under are free.