Museum of Everything
All art is created equal in this exhibition of ‘outsider’ artists, showing in Hobart on tour from London. By Dee Jefferson
YOU’VE NEVER SEEN anything like MONA’s latest exhibition, we’re willing to bet. The Museum of Everything is a roving non-profit project that uncovers, collects and exhibits the work of artists who – for the most part – are ‘non-professional’: not trained, not making art for public consumption, not ‘represented’. Some would call this ‘outsider’ art, but James Brett, who heads the project (he doesn’t like the title ‘curator’) prefers not to use that term: “Everybody is outside, everybody is inside, we are all ‘other’. Ability and disability are the same thing, and it does depend completely on the lens through which you view the world.” Within a rabbit warren of 30 small rooms, almost 2,000 works by around 100 artists, from the 19th century to the 21st, are arranged, so closely together that the effect is overwhelming. The best known name is hospital janitor and prolific writer-illustrator Henry Darger, with his Vivian Girls epic; visitors may also recognise the psychedelic felines of Louis Wain. Serious scholars of French art history will be au fait with coal miner-turned-visionary painter Augustin Lesage (much admired by André Breton and the surrealists) and the psychiatric hospital resident who became an ‘art brut’ pioneer, Auguste Forestier. But much of this exhibition consists of work never previously exhibited, by artists you wouldn’t otherwise discover. Drawings are executed on workbook paper, serviettes and bank notes; sculptures are made from oil drums, appliances, toys and broken plates. It’s as if the makers grabbed the closest thing to hand – and in a way, they did. The prevalence of everyday ‘found materials’ in this exhibition is testament to an urgent and unpretentious artmaking impulse.
Museum of Old and New Art, 655 Main Rd, Berriedale TAS 7011. 03 6277 9900. mona.net.au. Wed-Mon 10am-5pm. $20-$28. Until Apr 2.
“Ability and disability are the same thing”