Exhibition #4 Selfridges & Co (London UK) 2nd September 2011 - 25th October 2011 Exhibition #3 The Museum Of Everything (London, UK) 13th October 2010 - 13th February 2011 Exhibition #2 Tate Modern (London, UK) 14th May - 16th May 2010 Exhibition #1 Agnelli Museum (Turin, Italy) 1st April - 29th August 2010 Exhibition #1 The Museum Of Everything (London, UK) 13th October 2009 - 14th February 2010
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“I wanted everything to be big and the museum to be small, almost squashed,” James Brett says about designing the Museum of Everything’s fabulous logo. In a way, that observation summarizes the man himself, and his extraordinary ventures into the world of marginalized art. It all began a few years ago at a former dairy in Primrose Hill during the Frieze Art Fair, when Brett packed a vast space with a display from his collection of so-called “outsider’s art,” which he defines as works made by “people who are making art, but are not thinking about making art.” When visiting the pop-up museum he opened in London in 2009, you encountered a cornucopia of eccentricity situated next to very serious works, and a big injection of Brett’s personality and taste. The exhibition was a huge success. Last week the Museum of Everything arrived in New York with a stand at the NYC Metro Show, a fair for folk art and fine and decorative arts. Its walls covered in doodles meant to look like the inside of a library, Brett’s little stand holds exhibition catalogues, stickers, badges, and other paraphernalia, but the main attraction is James Brett himself. Like a child in a toy store he excitedly dragged me around the fair showing me some of his favorite works, including Sam Doyle’s large painting of a woman—very Basquiat, I thought to myself—but the similarity was apparently not a coincidence. Basquiat, according to James, copied Doyle’s aesthetic and made it famous. Another canvas Brett pointed out to me was by a deceased dress manufacturer named Aaron Birnbaum. Only in his 60s did he begin his career as a painter, making some of his best work in his 90s, and becoming a celebrated folk artist at the age of 100. As I trailed behind Brett, listening to more and more such stories, trying to retain some of them, I realized what a passionately obsessive collector of obscure knowledge he is, constantly
searching for artistic gems lurking in unexpected places. This summer he hopes to be traveling through Russia in search of more art, hopefully exhibiting his finds at Dasha Zhukova’s gallery, the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, in Moscow. Brett has a string of support from famous contemporary artists (Damian Hirst and Cindy Sherman, to name a few) as well as social figures and larger institutions. Other artists, like Maurizio Cattelan, have written essays for the museum’s publications. Sir Peter Blake was a collaborator on “Exhibition #3,” a treasure trove of oddities including sculptures, hand-made puppets, colorful tapestries, paintings, and photographs of giants and dwarfs: the weird, the beautiful, the ugly. It drew 50,000 visitors. One room was filled entirely with installations of miniature fairgrounds spinning around endlessly, created by Arthur Windley, a farmer from Norfolk, England. The show became the backdrop of Missoni’s spring 2011 campaign, shot by Juergen Teller; Margherita Missoni asked both Brett and I (along with several other friends) to serve as models. Starting on Thursday, January 26, throughout the weekend, you can visit the Museum of Everything’s “Shop of Everything” at the Outsider Art Fair in New York. There will be talks and screenings and merchandise on sale from its fourth exhibition at Selfridges in London, books, and limited-edition women’s wear pieces, courtesy of a collaboration between the museum and Clements Ribeiro. Starting on Thursday, January 26, throughout the weekend, you can visit an exhibit by the Museum of Everything and its “Shop of Everything” at the Outsider Art Fair in New York; musevery.com
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Le Museum of Everything est un lieu marginal et exceptionnel, auparavant logé dans une ancienne laiterie, à Londres, devenu un repère incontournable des amoureux de l’objet et de la trouvaille. Cet endroit singulier a suscité l’intérêt d’artistes de renom tels que Cindy Sherman, Jarvis Cocker, Nick Cave, Peter Blake qui ont aussi collaboré à son expansion. Le Musée de Tout est le seul musée britannique dédié à des artistes autodidactes infirmes des 19ème, 20ème et 21ème siècles. Ce cabinet de curieuses peintures et sculptures, gratuit, se rétribue uniquement par les dons des visiteurs. Wad a pu admirer les portraits peints des super héros : Superman, Princes Charles et Williams de l’artiste Ruby Bradford et les dessins masturbatoires de Josef Hofer en Octobre dernier, à Selfridges.
The Museum of Everything is an unconventional and exceptional space, once housed in an old dairy in London, that has become an essential location for those who adore the discovery of unusual objects. This unique location has captured the interest of reknowned artists such as Cindy Sherman, Jarvis Cocker, Nick Cave, and Peter Blake, who also collaborated on its expansion. The Museum of Everything is the only British museum dedicated to the autodidactic artists of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Entry to this cabinet of painted and sculpted curiosities is free, funded solely by visitor donations.
Wad a rencontré James Brett :
Wad met James Brett :
Comment vous est venue l’idée du musée How did you get the idea of the museum ? ? Et son nom ? and the name ? On s’est inspiré de William Brett, un homme de 86 ans qui habite sur l’Île de Wight. Lui ne se voit pas comme un artiste : il a simple-
William Brett is our inspiration: an 86 year old man who lives on the Isle of Wight. William does not think of himself as an artist. He
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ment pris des éléments de sa vie et a créé son propre musée avec. C’est un environnement personnel extraordinaire : chaque coin est rempli de centaines d’objets issus de sa propre vie. Quand les enfants de l’Île de Wight ont vu le musée pour la première fois, ils l’ont appelé « The Museum of Everything » (« Le Musée de Tout ») et le nom est resté. J’ai découvert le musée et j’ai demandé à William si je pouvais créer un second Museum of Everything pour d’autres artistes comme lui, qui créent juste pour eux-mêmes, simplement pour s’exprimer. Comme on s’appelle tous les deux Brett, William a dit oui… et c’est comme ça que notre musée est né. Si vous voulez savoir si William est venu nous voir, la réponse est non : il n’a quitté l’île qu’une seule fois dans sa vie, n’a pas aimé et ne s’est plus jamais aventuré à l’étranger... même pour nous !
simply took everything of his life and created his own museum from it. It is an incredible personal environment, where every corner is filled with hundreds of objects from his own life. When the local children on the island first saw it, they called it The Museum of Everything and the name stuck. I discovered it and asked William ifI could create a second The Museum of Everything for other artists just like him, people whocreated for themselves, simply to express themselves. Because we are both called Brett, William said yes ... and this is how we were born. As for whether William has ever visited, the answer is no: he left the island only once in his life, didn’t like it and never ventured to the mainland again... even for us!
Quelle est la pièce la plus originale/surprenante que vous avez exposé ?
What’s the most unusual/surprising piece of art you have shown?
On a juste choisi les pièces qui nous inspirent et on espère qu’elles inspireront d’autres gens. Bien sûr, il existe de nombreux créatifs dans le monde, et tout n’est pas fait pour être partagé. Le secret, c’est de savoir faire un choix et de suivre son instinct.
We just choose the ones who inspire us and hope that they inspire others too. Of course, there are many creative people in the world and not all creativity is meant to be shared. The secret is simply to make a choice and trust your instincts.
26 Jan 12
James Brett is a busy, tightly wound man who can say—for anyone else it would be a gross exaggeration—that he is occupied with Everything. The Observer met Mr. Brett, founder of London’s The Museum of Everything, in the lobby lounge of the Bowery Hotel two Sundays ago. He’d just flown in that afternoon, but by the time we arrived, at 6, he’d already installed himself on one of the lounge’s couches, where he was perched before a nearly empty cup of coffee and a mostly untouched bowl of mixed nuts. Beside him on the sofa were his weapons of choice: notebooks, papers, a BlackBerry, a white iPhone. A thickly bearded man, he wore a pin on the lapel of his jacket that said, in a loping blue and red script forming a circle, “Everything.” Hitting the ground running is par for the course for Mr. Brett. The three-year-old The Museum of Everything is nomadic: When not in the midst of one of its exhibitions—there have been four to date—it is embodied by Mr. Brett. He almost invariably introduces himself as The Museum of Everything. “I’m James Brett. I’m The Museum of Everything.” This is accurate; he has a tiny staff. He’s pretty much a one-man band. The museum is dedicated to what most of us call outsider art. Mr. Brett, whose speech comes rapid-fire, has long been vocal in his disdain for that term, a catchall for a hodgepodge of self-taught, folk and vernacular creations, as well as art by the mentally ill and handicapped. Nevertheless, this week he is launching his first foray into New York at the Outsider Art Fair (which runs through January 29 at 7 West 34th Street) with an installation of his Shop of Everything, the store that accompanied his museum’s latest iteration in a gallery inside London’s Selfridges department store this past fall, an exhibition of work by 200 people with disabilities (ceramic cameras by Alan Constable, is deaf and blind; fantastical scenes painted by Marianne Schipaanboord, who is deaf and has cerebral palsy). Mr. Brett was in New York last week showing some of Everything’s catalogues at the Metro Art Show, but his Outsider Art Fair outing is more ambitious, with lithographs, travel bags, stationary, home ware and clothing. We were surprised he was showing at the Outsider Art Fair. “Me too,” he replied, and launched into the “long philosophical rant” that is his objection to the term. The gist is that, far from being “outside” the tradition of art-making, so-called outsider art is actually central to it, in the sense that it represents a pure form of creativity that harks back to original forms of human expression, such as cave painting. He thinks the term carries shades of a kind of cultural segregationism, and bigotry. Creativity, he maintains, comes before language. He zipped through the history of the material. The artist Dubuffet’s becoming interested in Art Brut. Collectors acquiring work by mental-hospital patients. MoMA founder Alfred Barr’s taking an interest in vernacular art. Then he stopped. “People liked the
coolness of the name ‘outsider.’ The more it infiltrated, the more everybody was an outsider artist. When I made the museum, I would get no end of people coming up to me and going, ‘Hi, I’m an outsider artist.’ Every good artist thinks they’re a bit of an outsider. Let’s be honest: every good artist is probably a bit of an outsider. So what the hell does it even mean?” The message “Death to outsider art! Long live the outsiders!” currently appears on Everything’s website. What would Mr. Brett have the Outsider Art Fair change its name to, we asked? He thought for a moment. “How about just Outside? How about Not the Outsider Art Fair?” During his Selfridges show, he put together a panel discussion that included artist Antony Gormley and Hayward Gallery curator Ralph Rugoff, among others. He plans to screen it at the Outsider Art Fair this Friday. The title and subject—Mr. Brett’s idea—was “Is It Art?” “A really fatuous title,” he said. “Because I wanted them to discuss, Can somebody who cannot conceive of what they do as art be an artist?” The timing and location of the first Everything was significant: Mr. Brett launched it in October 2009, during London’s Frieze Art Fair, the city’s most important commercial contemporary art event, in a building directly across Regent’s Park from Frieze’s massive tent. (Two subsequent Everythings have also coincided with Frieze.) He counts the contemporary art world’s denizens among his friends and colleagues, and made daily forays into Frieze, to promote Everything, which was doing a show in which contemporary artists like Ed Ruscha and Annette Messager were asked to pick out work by, well, outsider artists; he was rewarded with attendance of 35,000 for a four-month run. In its two-month run, the Selfridges show attracted some 100,000 souls. The closest thing New York currently has to The Museum of Everything is the American Folk Art Museum, these days arguably better known for its financial troubles than for its exhibitions. Recently, the museum had to abandon its gleaming, 10-year-old building on West 53rd Street for smaller quarters across from Lincoln Center. Is it possible that Mr. Brett’s model of aggressively reaching out to the contemporary art community might be instructive for the Folk? “I usually start thinking about doing something about 10 minutes before I do it,” Mr. Brett said. “Well, it’s not quite true. We were going to do a very big show this year in New York.” Before the Folk Art Museum’s troubles, he said, he’d been in discussions with it about planning something there, which potentially would have involved The Museum of Everything’s occupying the museum. He’s already presented Everything in two museums, Tate Modern and the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli in Turin, Italy. He has long wanted to expand into the U.S. and said he’s had “invitations from Los Angeles, Philadelphia,” but wants to start in New York, where he attended film school. Mr. Brett keeps Everything afloat through indefatigable selfpromotion. At the Bowery, he was approached by a waitress, who mistook his pin for the work of a contemporary artist. “Is that David Shrigley?” she asked. “No, it’s me,” he replied, and launched into a pitch for Everything. He apologized to The Observer by muttering, “Endless promoting activity.” His museum has even been the
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beneficiary of attention from the fashion world: when he mounted an exhibition of the collection of Peter Blake, the artist best known for the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album, in London early last year, a member of the Missoni family took notice, brought in photographer Juergen Teller, and staged that company’s fashion campaign there. He’s recently made his own foray into fashion, teaming up with the designer Clements Ribeiro to create a line of dresses based on work by artists in the Selfridges exhibition. The dresses were for sale at Selfridges, as well as on the website net-a-porter, for around $200$500. They will also be on offer at the Outsider Art Fair. The story of how Everything got its name is nothing if not a testament to Mr. Brett’s tenacity. In 2004, Mr. Brett, who was then working in film and television (he also acted), came across a newspaper article featuring a photograph of an old man surrounded by stuff, accompanied by the caption: “William Brett in The Museum of Everything.” The reclusive man, who was in his 80s, lived with his 94-year-old wife on the Isle of Wight. He’d bought an old schoolhouse with a triple-height ceiling and filled it with stuff—record albums, bits of plastic, nets used to trap rabbits, a collection of toilet seats. It was unclear from the article whether the name of the place was his, or had come from children on the island who observed that—Wow! The place had everything. Mr. Brett visited the elder Mr. Brett and said, “Look, I’m a Brett” (they are not related); “could I open a London branch?” “What I loved about the name,” he said, “is that it was inclusive.” He has so far not taken a pound of government funding, though friends have advised him to pursue it. But arts funding has been substantially
cut in England. “I felt it was wrong for a space like ours, a thing that’s growing, to take money away from different, larger spaces who are fighting over the same pot.” Instead he seeks out sponsors, and tends to get them. For the Selfridges show, he nearly had an unusual one. He was approached by an acquaintance who wanted to know if he would take money from the Libyan Popular Front. “I said, I guess so. It’s a bit political, but why not?” He offered the group the small plaque he provides to sponsors, indicating that it had made possible a particular artist’s display, but apparently that wasn’t sufficient space in which to present the Front’s mandate, and that was that. It’s hard not to see Mr. Brett’s global ambitions as a bit quixotic, for a roving museum with little infrastructure. He plans to collaborate with Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Center in Moscow, and wants to do “a tour of the Middle East, and set up a workshop in every single African country.” “When I’m on a roll,” he said (and, at the Bowery Hotel, he most certainly was), “I don’t think of anything smaller than world domination. I can assure you that The Museum of Everything will be in every country in the world.” He paused. “I’m not the best manager. I need to find a much better management system if I’m really going to do that.” Then he was off again. “I do know that I can go to any country in the world and I will find people who make these things.” Another pause. “I was just in Burma. That was hard. There wasn’t that much.” Then he brightened again. “But in Sri Lanka I found some. Wherever you go you can find it. It’s best in the places that have two societies: the haves and the have-nots. That’s why, in America, it’s so plentiful.”
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The Museum of Everything at the #OutsiderArtFair By Sanford L. Smith & Associates Is New York Ready for Everything?
THE SHOP OF EVERYTHING AT THE OUTSIDER ART FAIR 26TH – 29TH JANUARY ************************************ Touching down at the Outsider Art Fair is The Shop of Everything, a glamorous boutique selling limited edition books, prints & merchandise created by The Museum of Everything & its artists. The Shop of Everything will be open for business from the 26th to 29thJanuary, with lithograph prints by George Widener, William Scott & Sir Peter Blake, designer dresses by Clements Ribeiro in collaboration withAtelier der Villa & Creative Growth, four handcrafted volumes from the museum’s European shows, not to mention travel-bags, homeware, casual attire, creative stationary, all discounted
for this first foray into the Americas. Please do not miss this spectacular opportunity to buy a few bits & bobs, shake a few hands & see a few wonderful things. Remember, what we got at The Shop of Everything ain’t available anywhere else … & here’s another good reason why you should come: The Outsider Art Fair is where many first discovered the great nontraditional artists of the 20th Century. Yet can this essential creativity still be dismissed as outsider art? These artists are part of our legacy, the form the aesthetic fabric of our universe, they must be celebrated & included, not denigrated & denied. Death to outsider art! Long live the outsiders! The Museum of Everything January 2012
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At his booth at The Metro Show, a new arts and design fair focused mainly on American folk art, James Brett, who runs the London-based Museum of Everything, looked around cautiously before removing his shirt. Across the aisle a dealer looked at him with a judgmental gaze before Mr. Brett told her, “You’re funny.” He was fully clothed by the time a female visitor arrived at his booth. “Hello, do you know who we are?” he said. “I’m the Museum of Everything. How are you doing?” “What is this?” “What is what?” He flashed a look around the booth. “Oh. We’re the world’s most successful museum—according to me—for showing work by non-traditional artists, which encompasses a whole number of things from self-taught to vernacular to your mother’s stuff that she kept in the attic to something you’d find in a junk shop to the guy on the street to the guy on the moon. Our first show we had 60,000 people come. Our second show was at Tate Modern.” “And what are you selling?” “We’re selling our books,” he said motioning to a number of catalogues of the shows Museum of Everything has done since starting in 2009. “There are only a thousand of each one and they’re not available anywhere else in the world because I don’t trust anybody. And they’re the most beautiful thing you’ll see, printed in Italy, hand bound by virgins. If you talk to the guys who run the Whitney, they present to you the history of American art, but if you ask them if they’ve got Bill Traylor, they won’t. Because they’re not presenting that history of American art. We’re sort of an activist operation.” The woman smiled, backed away and whispered to herself in frustration, “I still don’t get it.” Mr. Brett raced to the front of the Metropolitan Pavilion, where the fair will be running until Jan. 22, and arranged a stack of books. “This is called stealth marketing,” he said. He paused to examine the display. With a sigh he said, “I fear it’s not fluffy enough.” But he had to move on. There was a group of works by Henry Darger over at the dealer Carl Hammer’s booth that he wanted
to see. “I realize all his work is intended as a single entity,” he said, then, in nearly the same breath, motioned to a different booth and added, “That’s the best tramp art frame you’ll ever see. This is Cliff. Compulsive, obsessive, in love with tramp art.” “Cliff” was Clifford Wallach, who hastened to agree with Mr Brecht. “Absolutely,” he said. “It’s my whole life. All these pieces are made from cigar boxes with simple tools like a pocket knife.” He stood in front of a large wooden mirror, with a scratchy texture from small carvings etched into the wood. “Most of the pieces here are from the 1870s all go hand and hand with the revenue laws in this country which mandated cigars must be sold in wooden boxes, you can’t use the packaging for resale. It just arose all around the world at the same time. We don’t know how it started, where it started. There’s no patterns.” He removed a small frame from the wall and inspected the back, looking intently at the cigar brand names still visible in the wood. As for the label “tramp art,” he finds it “catchy, but inappropriate.” The fair was a grab bag of Americana, outsider art and bizarre cultural artifacts. The six Joseph Yoakum landscape paintings on display at Carl Hammer were eclipsed by an understated profile portrait by the artist with the title “Kathy Poillian, 1st Strip Dancer in 1893.” A Millerite teaching banner from 1854 stood out at Michigan’s Hill Gallery. It depicted the second coming according to William Miller and his followers (he thought it was going to happen in 1840. Whoops.) and featured all kinds of unpleasantness: a seven-headed beast with horns emerging from the ocean, the four horseman of the Apocalypse (looking surprisingly conservative in contrast to a lot else going on) racing long, snakes with crowns whose heads were jutting out of a larger snake with a crown. That kind of thing. In a tight corner sandwiched between the American Folk Art Museum’s booth and conspicuously close the press room, a bearded man was serving 10-year rye whiskey out of a small wooden still. The walls around him were covered with American flags from throughout the country’s history. Barry Friedman Gallery was a pleasant anomaly; they were displaying the photographs of interiors in Havana by Michael Eastman. “I think we stick out a lot,” said Carole Hochman, the gallery’s director. “It’s…interesting being across from South American textiles from 2,000 years ago.” At the booth of Allan Katz was a wood-carved sculpture of Thomas Dartmouth Rice’s Jim Crow character, the face all done up in exaggerated black face, the body carved into an eerily whimsical and joyous pose. Mr. Katz was talking with great pride about his Jim Crow statue, calling it “a true New York piece.”
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***************** THE BOOK LAUNCH OF EVERYTHING 4PM ON SATURDAY 21ST JANUARY ***************** Founder of The Museum of Everything, James Brett, will host the US launch of The Books of Everything with a riveting talk about the museum's history, followed by a Q+A & a book signing. The book launch will occur on Saturday 21st January at 4:00pm on the dot at the Metro Art Fair. Come early to beat the rush, although it may just be the rush of wind. The Book Launch of Everything Talk & Book Signing 4:00pm on Saturday 21st January 2012 Metro Art Show
The Museum of Everything is coming to New York City! From the 19th to the 29th January 2012, this institution & its entourage shall be visiting its chilly East Coast Cousins, bringing with it all manner of memorabilia for your delight - plus talks, screenings, debates, tea-dances, there’s no end to it all. ***************** THE BOOKS OF EVERYTHING LAUNCH AT METRO ART SHOW 19TH - 22ND JANUARY 2012 ***************** Available for the first time in the colonies, The Books of Everything are a limited edition four volume series featuring full colour plates of our earth-shattering exhibits - with erudite, emotional & esoteric essays from the likes of Maurizio Cattelan, Cindy Sherman, Ed Ruscha, Nick Cave, Grayson Perry, Sir Ken Robinson, Damien Hirst, Thelma Golden, David Byrne, John Baldessari, Christian Boltanski & many many many more. The Books of Everything are available for all Americans to acquire at the Metro Art Show NYC from 19th to 22nd January 2012 - right there in the heart of New York City! Fair attendees get a we-must-be-crazy 10% discount & if you buy more than two of our lovely bibles, you get absolutely free - a catalogue of Exhibition #1 & a Pulitzer Prize Winning tote bag.
***************** THE SHOP OF EVERYTHING AT THE OUTSIDER ART FAIR 26TH – 29TH JANUARY 2012 ***************** Touching down at the Outsider Art Fair is The Shop of Everything, a glamorous boutique selling limited edition books, prints & merchandise created by The Museum of Everything & its artists. The Shop of Everything will be open for business from the 26th to 29th January, with lithograph prints by George Widener, William Scott & Sir Peter Blake, designer dresses by Clements Ribeiro in collaboration with Atelier der Villa & Creative Growth, four hand-crafted volumes from the museum's European shows, not to mention travel-bags, homeware, casual attire, creative stationary, all discounted for this first foray into the Americas. Please do not miss this spectacular opportunity to buy a few bits & bobs, shake a few hands & see a few wonderful things. Remember, what we got at The Shop of Everything ain’t available anywhere else ... & here’s another good reason why you should come: The Outsider Art Fair is where many first discovered the great non-traditional artists of the 20th Century. Yet can this essential creativity still be dismissed as outsider art? These artists are part of our legacy, the form the aesthetic fabric of our universe, they must be celebrated & included, not denigrated & denied. Death to outsider art! Long live the outsiders! The Museum of Everything January 2012
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***************** SCREENING: IS IT ART? 2PM ON FRIDAY 27TH JAN ***************** In September & October 2011, The Museum of Everything opened Exhibition #4 at Selfridges of London - the first major survey of work from studios for self-taught artists with learning & other disabilities, & a retrospective of American artist, Judith Scott. Over 100,000 visitors attended the show & its artists were featured throughout the media. During the Frieze Art Fair 2011, Intelligence Squared hosted a debate at The Museum of Everything with some of the leading artists, thinkers & curators in Britain: Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern; Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery; artists Antony Gormley & Alice Anderson; Tom di Maria, director of Creative Growth; Roger Cardinal, art historian & creator of the term "outsider art" & Jon Snow, Britain's leading television interviewer & host of Channel 4 News. The question presented to the panel was: if someone creates work which we call a work of art, yet that same person cannot conceive of it as a work of art, then what is it - art or something else? Find out what they said in the premiere of the film Is It Art?, screening exclusively at the Outsider Art Fair. Intelligence Squared presents Is It Art? (60 mins) 2011 2:00pm on Friday 27th January 2012 Outsider Art Fair ***************** THE FILMS OF EVERYTHING 5:30PM ON FRIDAY 27TH JAN ***************** Narrated live by James Brett, founder of The Museum of Everything, The Films of Everything present an illustrated history of the museum, from its critically heralded opening at the Frieze Art Fair 2009, right up to its most recent installation at Selfridges of London. Included in the talk will be films recording the museumâ€™s projects at Tate Modern and with Sir Peter Blake, as well as those featured in Exhibition #4, revealing self-taught artists in studios across Europe, plus the BBC2 segment on celebrated American artist Judith Scott. The films & talk will be followed by a Q+A discussion on the museum's growing visibility on the international stage, as well as projects in African, Russian and Middle East-
ern pipelines. The Films of Everything (90 mins) 2009-11 Premiere Screening & Talk 5:30pm on Friday 27th January 2012 Outsider Art Fair ***************** COLLECTING OBSESSION 6PM ON SATURDAY 28TH JAN ***************** Find out what it takes to be an accumulator of accumulations, as leading European collectors Bruno Decharme of abcd Paris & James Brett of The Museum of Everything share war stories with American collector Lawrence Benenson & describe the ins & outs of amassing work by some of the overlooked creators in the history of modern art. Moderated by art historian & curator ValĂŠrie Rousseau, the talk will take the form of a discussion panel & might degenerate into a wrestling match. Collecting Obsession Discussion Panel 6:00pm on Saturday 28th January 2012 Outsider Art Fair www.musevery.com
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Everything In Its Right Place With a name like ‘The Museum of Everything,’ one’s right to expect a little bit of this, a little bit of that and a little bit of well… EVERYTHING! In actuality, curator James Brett chooses to emphasise the work of artists that are “untrained, unintentional and undiscovered,” making for a uniquely profound experience of an un-museum like museum. The ‘Exhibit 4D fun begins with the unconventional use of space since there is no order with which to view the works. Sprawling the manyroomed Selfridges basement, every entrance is adorned with dangling streamers and each room contains an eclectic mix of furniture. The works range from paintings to clay sculptures to letters in cryptic, fictional languages – all coming from studios around the world that house individuals with mental or developmental disabilities. The focus though is on this previously obscure artwork rather than the circumstances of its creators. Through this innovative exhibit, James Brett manages to critique the way viewers and museums define an artwork while displaying works that would ordinarily go unseen. As the exhibition comes to a close, we catch-up with James Brett about what’s then, what’s now and what’s next. How did this all begin? I was looking at this kind of work and noticed that very few people were showing this material in the UK, so I thought, “that sounds like fun, let’s show a bit of this to the outside world.” What is your mission? We were surprised by how many people were interested in the work and as a result of that, we carried on the show. We thought we must be doing something right, so we toured it. Seeing how many people turned up seemed to indicate it was the right thing to do. The mission is to carry on while people are coming, to show art by people who aren’t necessarily privileged by the world. Was there something you found more captivating about art made by artists with disabilities? Disability is not really interesting in terms of segregating people, but it did strike me that it was one type of work that wasn’t being seen by anybody. We weren’t looking at disabilities, we were looking at the studios where the artists work. The studios are set up to help them make the art. That process seemed fascinating. Then to come to Selfridges to show it, you’ve got one of the most visible places in London showing some of the least visible artists in the world. That conflict seemed very good. On top of that Selfridges looks like a museum, so the show is there to challenge the museums and their curatorial practice, which was also part of the entire enterprise. Do the artists contact you, or do you seek them out? Both. How do you think making and viewing art affects people? Well, at worst it doesn’t hurt. At best it’s a life-changing experience. If you see a great piece of work that somehow reflects why we exist, then you will have a transcendent moment and that will change your life completely. That’s to do with the creativity in all people since birth, but creative instincts are not really celebrated in the art world. It usually rests upon a sort of formal qualification of art. So, if you
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bring it back to the idea of fundamental creativity, which exists in childhood, then there’s a stronger chance in my view that you can have that kind of enlightenment. The exhibits usually take place in unconventional locations, so how does it feel to be beneath Selfridges? I rather like it! The idea was to reach as many people as possible and to reach hundreds of thousands seems like an interesting idea to me. How does this show compare to the previous ones? Do you think this location had a particular effect on the exhibit? Well, some people decided Selfridges was negative, some people decided it was positive. The truth is it’s about communication so it can only be positive. Selfridges has been amazing in terms of enabling that idea. To be able to have this much surface area, 40,000 square feet across the store, I mean that’s astonishing and very few people would take a risk with that. So, what it means is that Selfridges embraced that cultural idea and embraced the idea that they were a museum for the time we were here. I think it’s only positive because you can always go smaller in life I think it’s quite harder to go bigger. I love that it’s an unlikely setting… Absolutely. A shopper can still be a museum visitor. To deny them that experience is snobbery. Sometimes the most amazing ideas and comments came from people who really turned up to the shop and accidentally stumbled across the museum. It makes it very democratic. Where will you take the exhibit next? Not sure. I’m thinking about Russia, The Middle East, America, and maybe a squat on Kingsland Road. The Museum of Everything, Exhibit 4, is on until the 25th of October at Selfridges. musevery.com Text: Lily Avnet
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MEANING WHAT YOU MAKE James Brett, the founder and curator of "The Museum of Everything", believes his two new shows are "the most important in Britain". This might seem like a bold claim, particularly as one exhibition is tucked in the basement of Selfridges department store in central London, while another takes place in the artfully dilapidated Old Selfridge’s Hotel next door. Yet both the big show and the smaller retrospective of work by Judith Scott, a selftaught American artist who died in 2005 at 61, are indeed interesting, not least for Mr Brett's enthusiasm for them. Brett began The Museum of Everything in 2010, “by accident more than anything else,” he says. After travelling round the American south and becoming taken by the Folk Art there (“unpretentious, immediate, and kind of cool”), he felt inspired to create his own curatorial enterprise showcasing "outsider art” without using the term. The result is “a museum that’s not a museum,” he says, which he markets with a distinctive brand of British eccentricity (sea-side red-and-white striped entrances, English-rose girls on the door). This mix of novelty and savvy has been an effective way to introduce the work of mostly unknown artists to a wider public. By placing his latest show in a department store, Brett says he is staging a “friendly attack on mainstream art criticism and curators”. It was a deliberate move to place Scott's work in “such a visible place as Selfridges", given her own relative invisibility. Self-taught artists such as Scott, who was also born deaf, mute and with Down syndrome, don't get the recognition they deserve from the art establishment, says Brett. The recent closure of the Folk Art Museum in New York seems to confirm his point. However, the works featured in The Museum of Everything can be a tough sell. The issue is not necessarily with aesthetics. Many of these pieces are more appealing than, say, Tracey Emin’s controversial “My Bed” from 1998. But unlike Emin, these artists can rarely articulate the intent behind their art. These works are “very intentional, but not necessarily intended as art," Brett concedes. Scott’s work is indeed both sculpture and something else. Her fiber pieces are wonderfully colourful and vibrant, intricate and massive, painstakingly made and yet seemingly spontaneous. Still, these objects only become meaningful when viewers know a little something about how they came to be. Scott made them from objects found at the Creative Growth Art Centre in California, which serves adult artists with disabilities. It took her time to find a medium she felt comfortable with, but once she began working with fiber she began making epic works with found objects. For her, these pieces were works of “communication, after 30-40 years of isolation,” says Brett. Many will argue that context should not be necessary to appreciate a work of art. I would normally agree, and yet I found it almost compulsory to understand Scott's story in order to fully appreciate her work. Brett is quick to nip in the bud any resulting existential questions about the nature of art: “You don’t have to like it," he says, "but it’s art”. The Museum of Everything's retrospective of Judith Scott's work can be seen at Selfridges in London until November 6th. See also "London's new Museum of Everything". ~ E.H.
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Exhibition #4: Wrap your arms around me I have always had a soft spot for the Museum of Everything – it was their self-prophetic name and bizarre doodles that first won me over, and the witty banter of their newsletter that has sustained the affair since. With last year’s always numbered, never titled, Exhibition #3 featuring a funhouse of circus-cum-taxidermy as curated by Sir Peter Blake, it was with great anticipation that I waited to see what Exhibition #4 would bring. No cross-dressing acrobatics and water-heaving neighbours to be found this year however – not a bell or whistle or horn or cowbell in sight. Dare I say the Museum of Everything may have grown up and settled down? This year, the self-proclaimed space for ‘the untrained, unknown and unintentional creators of our modern world’ (the term ‘Outsider Art’ is the one thing that has not found a welcome home here) presented a quiet, emotive show featuring the extraordinary work of Judith Scott, impeccably installed and stunningly lit in the empty warehouse space above the luxurious Selfridges, graduating from an exploding cabinet of curiosities to a museum quality show worthy of the name. Scott’s obsessively constructed fibre and cloth works hang in the space like abandoned bodies. Exposed, their insides are turned out, with hundreds of metres of yarn and fabric wrapped, tied and consumed. Hours of labour and pain emanate from them. While there is always a certain danger in relying too heavily on biography – a constraint many women artists have felt over the years – Scott’s work is enriched by contextualisation, or at least better understood. Scott was uneducated, misunderstood and segregated for most of her life, confined by institutionalisation until the age of thirty-five when her twin sister fought to release her. She was deaf, mute and born with Down’s syndrome. She began making sculpture in her 40s. One one hand, her works are highly vulnerable without a shell to keep them warm, but it feels as though that is the risk that must be taken so that the inside can be kept safe. Swaddled in layers of fabric, something has been protected here – what it is that is inside, we can only guess by the vague outline of its shape. Mummified and preserved, they have been removed from the world and encased for their own protection from a harsh and unforgiving reality. Perhaps the sculptures are an attempt at protection – offering inanimate objects something she never had. They may also be read as a reflection of the layers of separation imposed between herself and the world around – or the walls that were erected over the years. It is an extraordinary body of sensitive, poetic and emotive work, that leaves no question as to why the name Louise Bourgeois is often uttered in the same breath as Judith Scott… And to the reasons why the Museum of Everything may have considered growing up.
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EL MUSEO DE CUALQUIER COSA En la mitad de Selfridges, una inmensa y legendaria tienda de departamento en Londres, está el Museum of Everything, un museo que lo exhibe todo, no exhibe nada y le deja una enseñanza: el arte es de todos, para todos y por todos. Acuérdese del elitismo. Acuérdase que el campo del arte, más que cualquier otro, es una rosquera caja de cristal a la que pocos pueden entrar. Acuérdese que, en el arte, el talento no necesariamente paga. En ese campo, paga más conocer gente, hacer lobby, tener plata. La competencia en el arte es agotadora, y feroz. Y por eso el talento de muchos artistas se queda guardado en los sótanos donde nacieron. Ahora acuérdese de una tienda de departamento. Sí, esas de la Quinta Avenida de Nueva York. Acuérdase que los muros son altos, la luz clara y fuerte. Acuérdese que el primer piso, siempre, es para perfumes y maquillaje y accesorios para mujeres. Normalmente el suelo es blanco. Hay espejos hasta en el techo. En la mitad del espacio están la escalera eléctrica. Mujeres de piernas largas, perfectamente maquilladas y en tacones lo esperan en cada uno de los cubículos; le venden pestañinas de cien dólares. ¿Qué relación puede haber entre el antipático mundo del arte y el superficial primer piso de un almacén de
departamento? Pregúntele a James Brett, el aficionado al arte que se inventó el Museum of Everything, un museo de colores que está incrustado, como un mosco en leche, en la mitad de una de las tiendas de departamento más importantes de Oxford Street, Selfridges. Acuérdese del sur de Estados Unidos. Piense en la Jambalaya, en Correy Harris, en Nueva Orleans. ¿Ya? Bueno. “El Museum of Everything empezó cuando estaba viajando por los estados sureños de América; el arte folclórico que descubrí era chévere, sin ser muy complejo. Di con arte más psicodélico, hecho por artistas en el margen de la sociedad. Es raro: yo sabía que en Inglaterra nadie estaba dispuesto a mostrar este tipo de arte, pero sabía que sí había gente dispuesta a verlo”. Eso dice Brett. Y continúa: “En ese tiempo yo no miraba mucho arte: me gustaban los graffitis, las caricaturas y las películas. Me gustaba el arte de los de abajo, no el de los de arriba. Y las subculturas,
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sobre todo la de la música negra en Estados Unidos. Vi que estos artistas sureños tenían una visión. Era arte mucho menos caro y mucho más interesante. No era gente con ideas de una escuela de arte, sino con ideas inspiradas en la vida, y su pretensión era explicar esa vida.” El arte tradicional tiene estética, y busca proyectar ideas. El arte que se ve en este museo –sobre todo ilustraciones y esculturas, pero también artefactos, juguetes, cualquier cosa– no busca proyectar ideas ni tener una estética. Y sin embargo lo logra con una eficiencia encantadora. “Cuando me dijeron que lo que yo estaba haciendo en el sur de América era coleccionar arte, me sentí ofendido: me sentí como si estuviera comprando maquillaje en una tienda de departamento,” dice Brett. Primero, porque no estaba seguro si era preciso etiquetar como arte los objetos que estaba recogiendo. Y segundo, porque las etiquetas del arte tradicional son como un enemigo del arte, porque las definiciones lo convierten en una prisión. Acuérdese de las colecciones que tenía cuando niño en su cuarto. Los carritos, los pins, los discos, los afiches, los encendedores, las camisetas de fútbol, las botellitas de licor, de llaveros. Ahora imagínese que usted, después de haber dejado la niñez, siguió coleccionando lo que viera, hasta que, cuando viejo, pudo llenar una casa entera de colecciones, de objetos, de maricadas. Eso es un museo de todo: un lugar donde el arte por el
arte, la colección por la colección, están todos expuesto con coherencia en los cinco espacios que la tienda Selfridges le dio a Brett. Este es un museo de autor. Y no es el primero que vemos así en Londres. Charles Saatchi es el coleccionista que revolucionó la idea de la galería en Londres, al haber construido un imperio, la Saatchi Gallery, a punta de exhibir las pinturas que, simple y llano, le gustaban. Hoy exponer en su galería puede ser el sueño de cualquier artista. Y lo de Brett tiene algo de parecido: es una exhibición de lo que a un hombre cultural, de mundo, de gusto, le gusta. Pero con una diferencia: ninguno de los artistas que están expuestos en el Museum of Everything buscaba o busca estar en una galería en Londres. Es más, a duras penas hoy saben de qué se trata todo esto. Acá hablamos de artistas que, de manera genuina, pintan y hacen lo que les place, no lo que el mercado o la coyuntura les pide. Y por eso, porque son genuinos, hoy están ahí para que cualquier cristiano que camina por Oxford Street, la calle más turística y comercial de Londres, entre, gratis, a ver la ilustración que un hombre que oye Otis Spann en el porche de su casa en Alabama está creando. Hace dos años Brett asaltó por primera vez la tienda de departamento más grande de Oxford Street. Ya va en la cuarta exhibición, dedicada a artistas discapacitados, que abrió hace un mes. No hay rincón de la tienda que no está impregnado del ambiente del Museo, sobre todo porque hay flechas, vitrinas, artefactos, pedazos de arte por todas partes que le recuerdan a uno que ahí, en la mitad del primero piso, hay un museo de arte que no buscaba ser exhibido en las grandes galerías de Londres. Y pensar que lo está, a su forma. Escrito por Daniel Pardo Imágenes cortesía de Museum of Everything
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The Museum of Everything I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Museum of Everything. Having visited their website and rootled around for a bit, I was no closer to knowing exactly what ‘everything’ consisted of and how anyone might hope to fit it into a museum. But I was drawn in by the site's witty, friendly humour and still eager to pay a visit to Selfridges in London for a peek at the unknown. Tucked away in Selfridge’s Ultralounge, my first impressions of the exhibition were that of entering someone’s slightly crumbly and decrepit old house, packed from floor to ceiling with weird and wonderful creations. Excited by this, I whipped out my camera and gaily started snapping left, right and centre, until eventually noticing the cheeky signs that stated I would be fined £1000 for any photography. (photos: kindly provided by the Museum of Everything, fines: currently unpaid). This set the tone of the one of the quirkiest exhibitions I’ve been to in some time. So what was going on here? We were greeted by a miniature construction site. A row of perfect, tiny cranes dangling their hooks over the banisters of a fake upstairs. Its creator, German artist Roland Kappel, was described by his plaque as a construction site obsessive whose passion for cranes and diggers harks back to his childhood of urban renewal and his own architectural practice. Continuing through the labyrinth of 400 drawings, paintings and sculptures, I arrived at the spectacular work of Paulus De Groot. These were big, bold acrylic paintings; the type where the paint has been piled up so thick, you could stick your finger in and then lick it. Paulus is inspired by sex and horror movies, I instantly got the horror vibe. Each of his works housed a brightly coloured monster, the FANTASTICALLY named ‘Vampier met bloed aan de tanden’ (go on, say it out loud – it’s fun) aka, vampire with blood on the teeth (above), was easily my favourite piece of the exhibition, with his massive fangs defined by pitch black outlines. I didn’t get the sex bit until the museum’s founder, James Brett, pointed out a craftily disguised (but pretty big) penis attached to one of the monsters After spending some time reading the artists' information and watching the short movies displayed on iPads in some of the rooms, it became apparent that the artists were working in creative studios dotted around the globe. James told me that, in fact, all of the art in the exhibition had been created by ‘outsider’ artists who have psychological, physical or learning disabilities. He explained that these talented, previously undiscovered creatives were able to produce their work thanks to the support of these studios such as Herenplaats (Netherlands) and Atelier Yamanami (Japan). He had also firmly chosen not to explain this on the website. As, really, should it make any difference to people’s opinions of the art on display? People might bring to the exhibition their preconceptions of how the art would look and what they expected to see there. You wouldn’t think this way before visiting the Tate, so why not turn up and think as you find? What I found was a range of art, some of which I wasn’t so keen on and some of which I loved. Like the clay figures of Masami Yamagiwa (above), peering out at me from nooks and crevices in a plain brick wall, boring their little eyes into me. A readymade pocket-size tribe ready to pounce. And the work of Japanese artist Shunji Yamagiwa, whose huge inky black, splattery drawings of trucks I would happily bankrupt myself to own. The good news is, you can take a piece of art home with you if you pay a visit to the Shop of Everything on the next floor up. I couldn’t resist grabbing a Paulus de Groot postcard and some exhibition stickers. I haven’t decided where I’ll put them yet, maybe on my desk somewhere so I have something pleasing to look at when I procrastinate. As I left Selfridges, I took in the window display by Stefan Häfner entitled ‘City of the Future’, three sculptures of stacked-up, floating, urban flats of the future (below). Beautifully detailed, carefully made and very inspiring, ladies and gentleman, I give you The Museum of Everything.
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Museum of Everything: Exhibition #4
Sep 2-Oct 25 Selfridges, 400 Oxford St, London, W1U 1AT Full details Art:Galleries: West
Time Out says
For it's fourth incarnation The Museum of Everything - the evolving enterprise dedicated to showcasing work by unintentional, untrained and undiscovered artists -sets up shop, in all senses of the word, in Selfridges exhibition space and storefront windows. For this exhibition work has been selected from studios around the world which are sympathetic to artists outside the mainstream including Creative Growth in California and Galerie de Villa in Hamburg. The exhibition is accompanied by talks, screenings and workshops, plus The Shop of Everything selling unique merchandise.
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"It's Snobbery at Best, and Bigotry at Worst": Museum of Everything Founder James Brett on the Trouble With "Outsider Art" Certainly back when I first started looking at this work, I loved the sound of "outsider art." People like me, who tend to be quite countercultural, always consider themselves outsiders to some extent. So the name seemed to fit. But it became much too broad. Everyone was an "outsider," including manycontemporary artists, by their own or other's definition. Soon "outsider art" as it is commonly understood was only being curated within itself, i.e. "outsiders" with other "outsiders." Mainstream institutions didn't know — and still don't know — how to show it otherwise, because these artists have no art historical or fine art context. As a result, in the '80s and '90s "outsider" started to mean "outside the art institutions." It functioned a sort of garden shed, faraway from the grand mansion of art.
by Coline Milliard, ARTINFO UK Published: September 8, 2011 Since 2009, the Museum of Everything, a temporary showcase dedicated to "unintentional, untrained, and undiscovered artists," has become a much-anticipated autumnal rendezvous, with its quirky exhibits and exuberant hangs bringing a breath of fresh air to London's Frieze-dominated landscape this time of the year. The museum has just opened its fourth exhibition in the basement and windows of the temple of retail, Selfridges — meaning that, for a few weeks, luxury goods will share the building with 50 busy workshops for artists with developmental disabilities. Share This StoryTweet This Post to Stumble UponEmail to a Friend To mark the return of the whimsical institution, its founder, James Brett, spoke to ARTINFO UK about the problematics of "outsider art," and the ideas behind a museum "of everything." I believe that you are uncomfortable with the term "outsider art." Couldyou explain why? Words are the enemy! By that I mean that often words are an attempt to encapsulate very complicated human behavior. When creative work by people with mental health problems was first discovered and studied at the turn of the last century, it tended to come out of medical institutions and hospitals. It was Jean Dubuffet whoreally artified it, giving it a different name, celebrating it as "Art Brut. That was fine for a while, but eventually created a state of exclusion by inclusion. The term "Outsider Art" then emerged as an English-languagealternative, coined by the brilliant Roger Cardinal as the title of a book. It worked fantastically in the beginning, because it helped defineand classify something that was quite difficult to put your finger on.
As if that segregation wasn't complicated enough, the term started to take on a pejorative meaning. With these words, you — meaning we — were here on the "inside," calling the artist on the street who couldn't findhis way to a shelter an "outsider." We were describing the person with adisability, who could not speak and therefore created, an "outsider." It's the position of the king on the mountain looking down at the great unwashed — and it's snobbery at best, and bigotry at worst. This seems like a misguided approach, because the work itself, right across the spectrum, is intimate, personal and all about the nature of existence. It reflects what being alive means for the individuals makingit — and thereby for all of us. How can that be "outside" anything? What was the starting point for the latest show, Exhibition #4? For this show, we decided to focus on workshops for artists with developmental and other issues. These rare studios are generally artist-run spaces where one artist helps another artist make art. They offer material, time, space and a support structure. The idea is not to teach, because they are not schools, and not to guide, because they are not therapy. They just say: an individual like this can make amazing things with a little help. We're coming back to words here, because if you have an artist who has adisability, or who maybe can't talk, he or she might be able to make art — and that art becomes his or her language. When there is talent andinvention, it can achieve greatness and profundity. Yet so many of these artworks are still not accepted as "art" by most mainstream curators and institutions. They will say, very nicely and with the best intentions, that this is all fine and dandy, but this is something else —something different to art; that these are not intentional artists, because they are not out there in the bazaar of art saying they do whatthey do and showing us how they do it. So they equate it with ritual objects, which they are not, with tribal art, which they is not, with artifacts, which they are not — to anything,in fact, as long as it does not threaten that thing we, they, everyone calls "art"! The irony is that many of the artists we show do not even know what "art" is. But they are making things and they most certainly know they are making things. And that is certainly one of the reasons it is so
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meaningful and profound. Do you remember the first piece you collected? The piece that triggered everything? I'm a natural accumulator, but I really stepped into this arena from American folk art. I'd stumbled across it because it was affordable, there was a lot of it and it was unpretentious. I come from a film background — an applied art form. Like a lot of film people, I'd often found the art world tricky in terms of the language that artists and galleries used to make simple things seem very complicated. To me, the opposite was more interesting. And perhaps it is this that which led me to that work and then to a number of different genres, all of which had very immediate emotional forms, from the graphic folk world to the more psychological works of self-taught artists like HenryDarger. It was quite simply fundamentally appealing to me. Do you find that contemporary art tends to be formulaic? There are good and bad examples of everything. The good unintentional and self-taught work tends to be very alive, personal, and unique. It tells an individual story and often has an unusual format. The medium might be strange, but that will mean it has all kinds of unexpected things going on, which never get repeated because the language is unique to the individual who made it. With contemporary art, it can be the opposite: lots of young people going to the same art schools and lectures, trying to find what they want to say, or, more cynically, looking for a market in terms of what they are going to do. Sure there are some brilliant creative souls who come out of the colleges, but it's a much more considered activity. If they buck that system and are talented, then they may become the finest artists of that generation. But many others tend to repeat within a certain vernacular, or at least that how it often seems to me. There are of course vernaculars within the area that I look at. There are people who are obsessed with text, there's a lot of graphic primary work, there's many naive drawings and so on. What we look for is something that transcends these elements, that is meaningful, intellectually, aesthetically, and also emotionally. We are looking for something that resonates. How has the project that the project has evolved over the years? The evolution is simply the one of opportunity — I never believed it should last more than two weeks — so there isn't a master plan, it's a more organic process. Having done two shows in Primrose Hill, a big one in Italy and a small one in Tate Modern, it felt correct to do something different. We never believed that the museum should be in one place — and when we were looking at these workshops, Selfridges turned up, offering us the cornerwindow for an installation. We started talking and I said, "The corner would be good, but it would be wonderful to have a little more room. We have a lot of work." They then said, "Would you like all the windows then?"You can reach hundreds of thousands, even millions of people with those windows. It was a tremendous opportunity to communicate, but a very compli-
cated one. So we tried to work out how we would do it. It occurredto me that it would be wrong to put physical art in these windows, so we took a separate space — the Ultralounge — for the show itself, and thewindows became installations, our interpretations of the work of ten ofthe artists in the show, running down Oxford Street. We created worlds,conceived like miniature film sets, all based on the artists' own imagery, simply expanded and three-dimensionalized so that anyone looking from can understand who these artists are and what they do. To me, that's a revolutionary idea. Over a million people will see and engage with artists who are invisible to most of society. It's an exhibition all its own — even if people don't come into the building to see the show itself, it will have connected. If you look at the history of Selfridges, Gordon Selfridge always intended to compete with the museums in terms of engaging the public like this. He would do exhibition-type displays there, for example, showing the first plane that crossed the Channel. He was a showman, a ringmaster, and an entrepreneur. That's a little bit how we look at the Museum of Everything: it's an old-school museum, as much about entertainment as engagement. That is not quite what today's version of amuseum does, because these tend to be a little higher-brow and a touch more formal — and I am not really a highbrow or more-formal person. Considering how popular the Museum of Everything, could you see it becoming permanent? As well as being informal, I'm also noncommittal in that I like things to evolve naturally. I would thrilled for the Museum of Everything to goonto exhibition #4,000, but I would only do it if A: people turn up — if no one comes, then I don't see why we should continue — and B: we stayloose and free. During the lifetime of the Museum of Everything, one of the greatest museums of the genre — and one of our main inspirations — closed down its main site: the American Folk Art Museum in New York. The maintenanceof a large public space is a serious concern and when I last spoke to the chairman, the lovely Barry Briskin, he told it to me straight: "James," he said, "never buy a building!" So, permanent? One day perhaps. Today, we're on the street.
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THE MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING: EXHIBITION #4 ...................................................................................................... The Museum of Everything is back and better than ever after a little dry spell. Now housed in a gigantic space in the basement of Selfridges, it is exhibiting the work of 40 or so artists suffering from a range of problems; be they physical or psychological, who have worked in group studios around the world (many attached to hospitals), creating some of the most emotive work we have seen in a long time. It is odd walking around a modern art exhibition and feeling no desire to read the blurb beside each piece of work. The innocence and impulsiveness, with which most of the artworks seem to have been created, exude such honest and strong emotions that they almost render the explanations unnecessary: the impact lies solely in the viewerâ€™s relation and response to the piece, not in complex theoretical references. The strange is given its own language and the repetition of certain words reveals at times a painful and tormented background behind an image. Despite a seemingly childlike naivety, there are often violent and demonic undertones. Cartoonish faces are etched in pain and deformed genitalia and aggressive sexual connotations run like a vein through much of the work. We canâ€™t recommend this show enough, so please go see it too. More than once. Then go to the shop. The shop is filled with weird and wonderful goodies including clothes and scarves printed with images from the exhibition. We love the Museum of Everything. www.museumofeverything.com
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T HE MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING
September 1, 2011 The Museum of Everythingâ€Ś Collaborating with everyone.
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25 Aug 11
Museum of Everything Startles Oxford Street Shoppers A wondrous mishmash of curios and Outsider Art takes over Selfridges - Review
The Museum of Everything is an annual event eagerly awaited by critics and the public alike. Each autumn this Museum comes to life displaying works by artists with physical and developmental disabilities, as well as a selection of interesting general ‘Outsider Art’. This is not to say that much of the work would in any way be out of place, in many mainstream galleries. For the last 3 years curator James Brett’s series of exhibitions of off and on the wall work, has been held in Primrose Hill, in a disused former dairy. Last year the exhibition co-curated by Sir Peter Blake took on the theme of a circus with 19th century halls of curios and posters. This year the exhibition has moved to the Art Deco halls of fashionistas’ favorite, Selfridges. This is a fantastic way for the MOE to reach more people and an innovative showcase for these cult artists to spread the word into the mainstream. Selfridges has a history of artist collaboration and this is the largest arts venture in its 102-year history. This years exhibition focuses on art produced in hospital workshops. These studios are often the only inspiring outlet for troubled individuals and a valuable catalyst for creativity. Many of the artists suffer from mental health issues, neurological and physical mobility problems. the art is often inspired acquiring a naive, folk art charm. The work falls outside of our accepted cultural mainstream but it is often breathtakingly fresh in the same way as a child’s drawing inspires. Critical distance takes a back seat when approaching these works and the visual complexities shine through in abundance. Some of the work can also be viewed in window displays along Oxford Street this work is tied in with the Museums distinctive logo and graphics. Window Display manager Sarah McCullough
said, “Some retailers might consider it commercial suicide to give up the shopfront”. But she added: “Incredible window displays have been part of our DNA since we opened. We strive to give our customers an experience they wouldn’t get elsewhere.” Highlights Harald Stoffers oversized letters written to his mother in spirographic handwriting. The large central showcase of ceramic cameras created by Alan Constable and The sprawling installation on the half level. The Museum also has an obligatory gift-shop aptly named, ‘The Shop of Everything’ occupies the Concept Store in the Wonder Room ground floor, selling a wide range of bespoke and collectable products to benefit the museum and its artists. These include its own label, Everything Ltd, a fashion collection with celebrated design team Clements Ribeiro and shoes by Tracey Neuels, all featuring artworks in the show. The shop was previously the home to Tracey Emin who set up shop in the premises over the summer. The Workshops of Everything are a series of weekly art-making workshops for self-taught artists with developmental and other disabilities. The workshops will be led by Action Space, London’s leading disability arts group, and hosted at The Museum of Everything in Selfridges, London. Applicants should be enthusiastic, creative, over 18 and have some art-making experience - either at home or as part of a group. There will be one workshop every week - between the 2nd September and the 25th October 2011 - and you will be able to choose your preferred date. We will provide all the art materials and some food for lunch. At the end of the day, you or your artist will be able to take the work home or donate it to The Museum of Everything collection.
25 Aug 11
23 Aug 11
The Museum of Everything #4 The fourth incarnation of marvellous curiosity shop The Museum of Everything begins this week and it’s a humdinger of a challenge founder James Brett and his team are taking on – moving into one of London’s most famous shops. He sat down with us to outline the superexciting new venture and lay down a gauntlet to the art establishment. James Brett is a force of nature, a whirlwind of enthusiasm. From a small exhibition of his own weird and wonderful collectibles, The Museum of Everything has grown unbelievably rapidly – so much so that come Friday it takes over every single window in Selfridges in Oxford Street. Oh and then just a week later it opens a museum, shop and cafe there for nine whole weeks – the largest art collaboration the department store has ever done. “We do feel the pressure,” he grins, “but there’s no time to think about that because the project is so big. It is so easy to say yes and so difficult to do yes. Any nervousness went long ago because of the facts of doing it, of getting it ready. It is high risk to take something quite complicated and try to make it simple.” The concept behind The Museum of Everything’s Exhibition #4 is to showcase the works of art made at studio-workshops for people with a range of learning difficulties,
“This stuff is art but it’s often not called art. We had some examples in the first show and I thought it was fascinating, so we decided to look at it in detail and visit some of these places. There’s Creative Growth in California which has some superstar patrons, but in many other countries these places are simply invisible. “There was one in Japan that was just one room run by a woman whose son has Down’ Syndrome. He was very creative and one day one of his mates came round to draw and paint. Then a few more came and now there’s a whole studio. “It’s art, not therapy, even if it’s also therapeutic.” He talks about the production designer Christiane Cuticchio who founded the progressive studio Atelier Goldstein in Frankfurt. Hans Jorg Georgi, one of the artists that attends Goldstein was institutionalised and making huge cardboard planes, which would accumulate for a few weeks and then be thrown out by the cleaner. “She walked in and said: ‘Oh my God, these are essential contemporary art works.’ ” Cuticchio rescued him and gave him a place in the studio. Yet winning over the art establishment can prove frustrating. “I would not say they are bigoted, but they
do reflect the segregation in society. I want this show to challenge the larger art institutions, not in an aggressive way, but ask them as the arbiters of taste, why they won’t show these works which really reflect why anyone does anything creative.” James is eloquent and passionate but is not an activist. “We are just putting on a show, but there are all sorts of interesting and complicated ideas bubbling under the surface.”
sure the artists and those who represent them are comfortable with being featured. It has to be done with integrity and honesty.”
He does feel though that these types of art studios seem to be more prevalent in the USA, Japan, and parts of Europe. “It’s a question why these places exist in many parts of the world but not predominantly really in a country as progressive as the UK? As a collector, I am certainly not seeing them.” In the second part of our interview with inspirational Museum of Everything founder James Brett, he tells us about the careful balancing act involved in showing artists with a range of learning difficulties, and why heading to the West End does not mean selling out. Every decision about whether to feature an artist in the Selfridges show has been carefully considered, and James insists the interests of the artist always come before the interests of the show.
The new show features the work of William Scott a young African American artist who makes fantastical architectural drawings of a dream city; a reimagining of his own childhood neighbourhood that inevitably touch on race, class and aspiration. “But William has not been to art school, nor has he been taught about identity and self.”
“If something should remain private, then we will not exhibit it,” he says. “There is a clear dividing line between what is correct and what is not.” He references an Art Brut show in Paris which featured astonishing paintings by an autistic teenager using his clothes, pyjamas and underwear – but at the preview the artist could be seen desperately trying to get his clothes off the wall. “This is completely unacceptable as far as I’m concerned. We make
But it’s the fact these artists may not think of themselves as such which he is drawn to. “These days so much is about market and career. What these artists do often reflects a much purer creative gesture.”
So, does James have any concerns about moving to the commercial free-for-all of Oxford Street? “I am aware that certain people will think going to Selfridges is selling out, but that is absolutely incorrect. They are a fantastic landscape, they love what we do and they want to support it. Where else could we get a space like this? I don’t see any other space offering themselves up like this, whether it be a department store or the Tate Modern. “I also believe it’s wrong for institutions to position themselves as non-commercial when that’s exactly what they are. Certain museums present themselves as above money – but we all need money.” There are future plans, ranging from a small show in a Hackney Road basement to a tour across the whole of Russia and the Middle East “once things calm down there.” But for now his energies are focussed on bringing The Museum of Everything to life in Selfridges. He casts an approving eye on his small staff working away in the office. “Democracy works really well in art but not art management. I run the museum a bit like Cuba.” Does that make him Castro? “Well I do have a beard…”
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