detail uit: Willem van Genk, Brooklyn Bridge, ca. 1975, mixed media op papier, Collectie De Stadshof, Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent

The Art Collection

The second section of the Museum Dr. Guislain’s collection is outsider art. This term denotes the spontaneous and unconventional work created by artists who operate outside of the professional art scene or on the fringes of society. They can be psychiatric patients, people with intellectual disability, people who lead isolated lives and struggle to find their place in society as well as playful creative souls whose work allows them to uninhibitedly go their own way.

Our attention for these artists has two sources: it comes from the discovery of ‘naïve art’ on the one hand, and from psychiatry on the other. In 1928, art historian Wilhelm Uhde organised a self-taught artists exhibition called ‘Painters of the Sacred Heart’, which featured art he had been collecting since 1912. In 1922, German psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn had already published Bildnerei der Geisteskranken, for which he collected about 5,000 pieces done by psychiatric patients. The book inspired many artists, including Jean Dubuffet, who coined the term ‘art brut’, pure art, which he sets against cultural art. Ever since the seventies, it is referred to as ‘outsider art’, which is a much broader term.

Outsider artists create visual art that reveals talent, imagination, and authentic creative power. Their work is completely different from professional art, training, tradition, and style. With their remarkable paintings, sculptures, and installations, they reach a wide audience and are emerging in the official art scene.

Outsider art cannot be pigeonholed. There are storytellers and artists who feverishly and compulsively create their very own world. No matter the intention, the result is always presented without hesitation, accurately and convincingly.

The Museum Dr. Guislain’s collection started off with a small collection of visual art created by artistically-gifted psychiatric patients and mentally challenged persons. In 2002, the collection in Ghent expanded tremendously with the internationally acclaimed collection of De Stadshof Collection Foundation, which is on long term loan. This top-of-the-bill collection – from naïve art to art brut – has more than 6,000 pieces by nearly 400 outsider artists such as A.C.M., Herman Bossert, Nek Chand, Paul Duhem, Luiz Figueiredo, Madge Gill, Siebe Wiemer Glastra, Bertus Jonkers, Pavel Leonov, Bonaria Manca, Markus Meurer, Michel Nedjar, Oswald Tschirtner, Willem van Genk, and August Walla.
In addition to outsider art, the Museum Dr. Guislain’s art collection also welcomes contemporary art that is linked with the field of mental health care, such as work by Peter Granser, Gérard Alary, Jean Rustin, Koen Broucke, Philippe Vandenberg, Ronny Delrue, and Marc Maet.

It is important to preserve, show, and examine outsider art, both historical and recent works. As a centre of expertise for outsider art, the Museum Dr. Guislain contributes to its accessibility and spread.