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SOLD OUT - Post-Dubuffet: Self-Taught Art in the Twenty-First Century

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American Folk Art Museum

2 Lincoln Square

New York, NY 10023

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*This event has sold-out, no tickets will be avilable at the door, however the program will be live-streamed on Facebook.*

In a world exponentially altered by technology and its far-reaching effects on community structures, social relationships, and educational systems, is self-taught art being radically revised in the twenty-first century? Who are the art brut artists of tomorrow?

Curators, scholars, and artist come together in this symposium to examine the current state of the field. Speakers will include Maxwell L. Anderson, Edward M. Gómez, Massimiliano Gioni, Jane Kallir, Randall Morris, Barbara Safarova, George Widener, and Valérie Rousseau, symposium chair and curator at the American Folk Art Museum.

The program, supported by the Council for the Study of Self-Taught Art and Art Brut, will be followed by a reception and book launch of The Hidden Art: 20th- & 21st- Century Self-Taught Artists from the Audrey B. Heckler Collection (New York: Skira Rizzoli/American Folk Art Museum, 2017).


1:30 PM: Doors Open / Registration & Refreshments

2:00 PM: Welcome Address by Anne-Imelda Radice, Director, American Folk Art Museum

2:05-2:15 PM: Valérie Rousseau, Curator, Self-Taught Art and Art Brut, American Folk Art Museum

Opening Remarks: International and Contemporary Perspectives on Self-Taught Art

Swiss creators like Aloïse Cobaz, Heinrich Anton Müller, and Adolf Wölfli, and American artists like Henry Darger, Martín Ramírez, and Judith Scott, are frequently cited as archetypal figures of the art brut concept defined by Jean Dubuffet in 1945 and continuously redefined through subsequent intellectual developments. Throughout the twentieth century, self-taught artists working outside the art mainstream have been the subject of extensive interest from professional artists, critics, art dealers, collectors, and museum curators—including figures such as Morris Hirshfield, John Kane, and Bill Traylor, as well as more recent names like Thornton Dial, Richard Greaves, and Melvin Way. Essential in shaping the art historical canon, they are recognized for their impact on visual culture and for their transformative role in the art discourse—a reality championed by Dubuffet, who did not see art brut as a category, but as an evolving concept invented to explore critically the notion of art itself.

In a world exponentially altered by digital technology and its far-reaching effects on community structures, social relationships, and educational systems, is self-taught art being radically revised in the twenty-first century, and if so, who will be the self-taught artists of tomorrow? Can we consider whether art brut—or the oft-used term “outsider art” in the United States—might be an obsolete historical concept, irrelevant in the context of the globalization of art? Or rather, is it a still-relevant expression of timeless features and idiosyncratic values, regardless of changing mediums like performance, photography, and video? Indeed, art discoveries recently made outside of the expected realm of the West have challenged the initial dichotomies (high/low, insider/outsider) prevalent in the field. Moreover, our fluctuating conceptions of otherness and the significant remodeling of psychiatric treatments have also contributed to changing perspectives. Finally, in the context of the growing presence of self-taught art/art brut in encyclopedic and generalist art museums, it is also worth reflecting on the role of museums that specialize in this artistic material, and their vision for the future.

2:20-2:45 PM: Edward M. Gómez, Art Critic and Art Historian

Art Brut: Some Current International Trends

In recent years, as the territorial and thematic scope of research in the related, overlapping fields of art brut, outsider art, and self-taught art has broadened, both the Collection de l’Art Brut and Raw Vision magazine have played leading roles in presenting the work and ideas of hitherto unknown artists from different parts of the world and in examining their achievements in ever more diverse and illuminating contexts. This presentation will highlight current trends and issues concerning the work of self-taught artists in and from Japan, as well as broader research and exhibition activities at the Collection de l’Art Brut that reflect the museum’s latest interests and discoveries.

2:50-3:15 PM: Barbara Safarova, President, abcd foundation

Hans Prinzhorn and Early Psychiatric Collections to the Concept of Art Brut in the Beginning of the 21st Century

In the early 1920s, a new generation of doctors and collectors—Hans Prinzhorn being the most singular—took an interest in the images made by patients, both because their creations offered a means of access to the unconscious, and because—unlike their predecessors—they considered them works of art, even if the actual word “art” was only sparingly used. Obviously, our aesthetic consciousness evolves over time and we constantly discover artistic territories, previously invisible, depending on changes in cultural paradigms, or even scientific discoveries. How has our perception of works of art brut changed almost one hundred years after the publication of Prinzhorn’s Bildnerei der Geisteskranken? What kind of unifying connections are there between the works in the abcd / Bruno Decharme collection?

3:20-3:45 PM: Randall Morris, Independent Scholar and Co-Owner, Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York

The Future is Diversity: Art Brut in the 21st Century

This lecture will attempt to draw attention to the art historical need to recognize a stretching of prevailing parameters of taste in the field by highlighting authentic and important self-taught artists from different cultures who are pushing the borders of the field as we know it. The collection of Audrey B. Heckler has been prominent in the appreciation of these contemporary inclusions.

3:50-4:10 PM

Coffee Break

4:15-4:40 PM: Maxwell L. Anderson, President, Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Rethinking “Taughtologies” in Artistic Practice

This talk will explore the “sorting hat” that defines some artists as part of the so-called art mainstream, and relegates others into exile. The language used in such sorting is revelatory and problematic. The phrase “self-taught” is, for nearly half of the most successful artists working today, just as applicable as it is to artists who lack a laminated pass to the leading art fairs. But a lack of formal education seems to stick for the most part to artists of color or of limited means, leading to their being defined not as mainstream but as “idiosyncratic.” This talk will explore how a reflexive invocation of such qualifying labels perpetuates both harmful stereotypes and a self-fulfilling ostracism from the “mainstream.”

4:45-5:10 PM: George Widener, Artist

George Widener in His Own Words

George Widener will discuss the life experiences that led him to a career as an artist. He will discuss his early artworks, as well as share projects he is currently working on.

5:15-5:40 PM: Massimiliano Gioni, Artistic Director, New Museum of Contemporary Art

Massimiliano Gioni in Conversation with Valérie Rousseau

Massimiliano Gioni will reflect on the positioning of self-taught artists in art institutions and in art history. With the growing inclusion of artists situated outside the art mainstream in museum exhibitions, such as the New Museum’s The Keeper (2016), what may be the prototypical art museum of tomorrow and what challenges might it pose to its artistic specificity?

5:45-6:10 PM


6:15-6:30 PM: Jane Kallir, Independent Scholar and Codirector, Galerie St. Etienne, New York

Closing Remarks: Where Do We Go From Here?

6:30-7:30 PM

Reception & Book Launch for The Hidden Art: 20th & 21st Century Self-Taught Artists from the Audrey B. Heckler Collection (New York: Skira Rizzoli/American Folk Art Museum, 2017).

For detailed bios, please visit our webpage here.

Image: Detail of George Widener (b. 1962), 2112–1221, Ohio, 2006, ink on paper, 19 1/4 x 20 in., collection Audrey B. Heckler. Photo by Visko Hatfield © 2017 George Widener.

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American Folk Art Museum

2 Lincoln Square

New York, NY 10023

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