A museum in southwest France is exhibiting "raw" but often powerful art by the self-taught which was never intended for a public showing.
The museum is so relaxed that visiting pupils sometimes take a picture back to their school to study it at leisure.
"Here, visitors are totally free -- there's no dictatorship of conformism, no security guard beside each painting -- here you can touch the art," said organiser Pascal Rigeade.
A quick visit to the museum's site convinced me that a) it's worth discovering and b) many represented artists are not quite self-taught (many Fine Arts graduates!). Which brings an interesting question: whyever do we need to know where the artist earned his skills? Unless the education/cv is part of the work (as is often the case with "autobiographical work"), this sort of thinking seems a naive transposition of business thinking: "where does he come from and what can we expect from him in the future if he works for us". Well, in this case, he doesn't work for us. Especially, since at the Musee de la Creation Franche the works were meant not to be shown to others. So we better take it or leave it.
Of course, it's another story if we curious were someone's ideas/style derives from. It might be better to ask the artist directly though (if s/he knows!). Here is a nice example of what you could here at the museum:
Joaquim Baptista Antunes (alias Baptistantunes) was born on in Sertã, a poor Portuguese province. He was the son of peasants and became a shepherd and then, at the age of 15, a waiter.He rebels against religious conformism and popular superstitions, which makes him the black sheep in the fmaily. He starts drawing in the eighties (b.1953). During a travel to New York, he discovers Chagall and Picasso. His talent is discovered by the Portuguese surrealist Mario Cesariny, who convinces him to start painting. He receives a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation, moves to Paris in 1987 and quickly enters the "L'Oeuil de Boeuf" gallery.
Generally speaking, the works at the Museum have clear common characteristics: they are strong, colorful, with often simplified, accentuated forms.
They make me think of tribal art, children's art (no wonder Dubuffet is one of the local heroes), and on the other hand, of "deconstructive games" where the more often than not figurative subject loses its autonomy and appears as partially desintegrated, or literally integrated into the surroundings.