Hidden down a side-street in Primrose Hill, a former shop-cum-recording studio sat quietly unnoticed; that is until the Museum of Everything moved in.
Transforming this amazing space into the UK’s first exhibition of outsider art or art brut, this fascinating collection promises these artists definitely won’t be unnoticed for much longer.
It’s not that the artists were necessarily shunned by the art world, more like they just never seemed to find it. Whether that was because of geographical obscurity like Indian sculptor, Nek Chand, whose life-size mosaic sculptures from the mountain rock garden of Chandigarh peer through rainbow drapes as you enter the labyrinth-like gallery, or disability like Judith Scott, whose rejuvenation of ordinary objects with intricate, textured fibre art literally unravels any preconceptions about Down Syndrome.
No excuses allowed here, anyone and everyone can create and the Museum of Everything is finally going to show it.
The bizarre stories behind each piece are almost as interesting as the art itself. Nebraskan farmer Emery Blagdon feeds the energy of the earth into visitors to his barn with his recycled wire mobiles he believed possessed healing powers while medium Madge Gill used her spirit guide, ‘Myinnerest’, to create her eerie line drawings where disembodied faces emerge from spidery inked patterns. Meanwhile, under the stairs, the Deep South vibrancy of Sister Gertrude Morgan’s impassioned art fills a makeshift chapel, complete with organ, with its rich colours and evangelical energy.
But for me, the highlight had to be the selection from Henry Darger’s storybook, The Story of the Vivian Girls. A reclusive janitor, Darger translated the suffering of his own childhood onto the taped-together canvas that makes up the pages of his immense, panoramic picture-book. He watercolours his dark fairytale through delicately brutal images of hermaphroditic children and violence, set alongside beautiful collages of serene black and white faces on pop-art figurines…stood next to inflatable ducks.
With insightful comments from popular artists and critics accompanying each piece, you can see the love the art world has for those it seemed to have neglected and understand how these strange outsiders unknowingly influenced so many other artists. Their works ask for nothing; no celebrity status or grand unveiling, they’re happy just existing as creations of their artist but thankfully, Museum of Everything chose to celebrate their humility in this incredible collection.
Easy as it might be for me to wax lyrical about each and every work, if this exhibition taught me one thing, it’s that art should be explored and defined by the individual, not the gallerist or the art critic. But, just this once for old times sake, I’ll say don’t miss this rare opportunity to see these fascinating artists together in a true celebration of the unnoticed and everything that resists the glaring and judging lights of the traditional gallery space.
Museum of Everything opened October 14 and runs until Christmas at:
Corner of Regents Park Road and Sharpleshall Street
Open daily 10am – 6pm. Entry is free.
All visitors to the Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park will get a free shuttle and entrance to the exhibition.