Two major exhibitions on maverick Jean Dubuffet run simultaneously in Switzerland, one in Basel on the artist as a painter and sculptor, the second in Lausanne on the collector and promoter of art brut, also known as outsider art (see Collection de l’Art brut).

Jean Dubuffet Mêle moments, 1976 Private Collection, Courtesy Pace Gallery © 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich, Photo: courtesy Pace Gallery

Jean Dubuffet Mêle moments, 1976 Private Collection, Courtesy Pace Gallery © 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich, Photo: courtesy Pace Gallery

The Beyeler Foundation in Basel presents a stunning panorama of paintings and sculptures by Jean Dubuffet one of the most indefinable artists of the 20th century. Born with the century, Dubuffet was an artist who, until his death in 1987, provided the art world with one experimental language after the other, not all of them understood during his time.

Published by Time Out Switzerland on 2 February 2016: LINK

Under the theme Metamorphoses of Landscapes, the Beyeler show illustrates how the leitmotif of landscapes that runs through Dubuffet’s work was a testing ground for his multiple experimentations and breaks in style.

The curatorial reasoning is in fact somewhat odd, because even women’s bodies in Dubuffet’s characteristic granular, almost muddy style, are considered to be variations on the same theme of the landscape…

On the other hand, the artist’s innovative approach, perhaps because he had no training, and his keen sense of humour, are apparent throughout.

Solitude and freedom

“Dubuffet only became an artist when he freed himself of the idea that we would become one,” said at the opening the president of the Parisian Dubuffet foundation, François Gibault.

A wine merchant by trade, Dubuffet decided only at the age of 40 to become a painter. “He was a complete anarchist who only did what he pleased, without worrying what others might think.”

“Solitude and freedom are the two words that characterized him,” Gibault continued.

Surprisingly, the show’s curator, Raphaël Bouvier, has chosen to ignore Dubuffet’s role as the first collector of art brut. And yet the artist’s own status as an outsider looking in (to the closed world of art) may well have been at the root of his own, very free artistic choices and his affection for the likeminded spirits whose works he started to collect (see next post: Jean Dubuffet, the insider looking out).

Jean Dubuffet, 1959 © Photograph: John Craven / Archives Fondation Dubuffet, Paris

Jean Dubuffet, 1959 © Photograph: John Craven / Archives Fondation Dubuffet, Paris

The spectacular Coucou Bazaar

Apart from an impressive collection of Dubuffet’s paintings, including the early Gardes du Corp never exposed before, Beyeler Foundation presents the spectacular Coucou Bazaar created between 1972 and 73, shown only for the fourth time. Composed of over 100 larger than life-size figures in the artist’s hallmark flat, almost cartoon-like style, the multimedia work came alive when figures, actors clad as sculptures, detached themselves and moved in a slow ballet to music.

At Beyeler, only two figures perform on Wednesdays and Sundays during the exhibition; for conservation reasons, Coucou Bazar can no longer be enacted in its entirety, so this is a rare occasion to come under the spell of this singular work.

Jean Dubuffet Coucou Bazar, 1972-1973 Installation view, Collection Fondation Dubuffet, Paris © Michele Laird

Jean Dubuffet Coucou Bazar, 1972-1973 Installation view, Collection Fondation Dubuffet, Paris © Michele Laird

Fondation Beyeler
JEAN DUBUFFET – METAMORPHOSES OF LANDSCAPE JANUARY
31 – MAY 8, 2016

Michèle Laird, née Haffner, trained as a journalist, became an international arts administrator (visual arts and theatre), successively in Paris, New York and London before moving to Switzerland, where she now covers the art beat and presides several associations.

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