The French expression l’art brut, meaning „raw art“, was coined by the French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901 – 1985). The term refers to the works of artists who stand outside the established art world and its academic structure. People with intellectual disabilities or mental illnesses, convicted criminals, homeless people – people who are driven in every respect – make up this wonderfully empathetic exhibition at Stockholm’s Millesgården Museum. Many of the artists not only operated outside the established and academic art scene, but were outsiders in every respect. Rejected by society, the short biographies of the exhibited artists show impressively and in a depressingly emotional way that „rejected“ often becomes „forgotten“. The dates of death of some of the artists are unknown and their biographies have only been handed down in fragments.

This „being forgotten“ and „feeling lost“ is of course also reflected in the works – dark and gloomy in some, manic-obsessive in others. Worlds open up to the viewer that one wishes one had never looked into, and yet at the same time they are imbued with a magical attraction.

An exhibition of largely unknown artists who mostly owe their fame to the big name behind the „Art Brut“ movement, their „discoverer“ and – if you like – patron Jean Dubuffet. Even if the latter used the raw, untrained art of the outcasts himself – not entirely unselfishly – as a source of inspiration, he still gave those unheard and unseen a little respect and attention.

Even if the treatment of all those on the margins of society is different, it is worth looking at this exhibition and feeling a little of the pain that these people must have experienced.


The exhibition at Millesgården museum Stockholm is a collaboration with the Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland and can be seen there until September 1, 2024.