In 1982, Jean Dubuffet regrouped the "Annex Collection" works under the heading "Neuve Invention." The resulting collection assembled subversive and inventive pieces (paintings, drawings, sculptures, fabric creations) by artists out of sync with the cultural circles governed by galleries and museums. Their stylistic approach, their materials and their bold iconographic choices set those first Neuve Invention creators apart from officially recognized art. Today, their creations, providing a new take on art as such, are housed in the Collection de l'Art Brut museum in Lausanne.
This novel heading cropped up at a time when, during the late seventies and early eighties, artistic production as a whole was evolving. The commercial distribution and promotion channels (museums, galleries, art shows) were considered stifling by classic art school graduates, who hence sought to bypass them. Neuve Invention represented a new way to make a name for themselves, a channel attuned to their state of mind, their values, their audacity and their casual outlook. In short, Neuve Invention came to be seen as a source of freedom and inventiveness with which they could identify. Moreover, staking their claim to a position straddling Art Brut and cultural art, these artists sought to take advantage of the Collection de l'Art Brut's more open-minded stance. They took to soliciting its curator, Michel Thévoz who, with the assistance of Geneviève Roulin, directed the institution from 1976 to 2001 in a spirit that, at last, seemed to correspond with these artists' outlook.
To Michel Thévoz, the attitude of such creators seemed like a cultural and institutional challenge and, too, a possible alternative to artistic commercialization and stardom consecration. The collection expanded rapidly thanks to numerous acquisitions and donations of works encompassing, notably, drawings by Albert Louden, Jean-Pierre Nadau, Carol Bailly, Marta Grunenwaldt, Victorien Sardou, J.B. Murry, fabric pieces by Danielle Jacqui and Jacques Trovic, wood sculptures by Rodolpho Abella, and watercolors by Ody Saban. Further acquisitions include major bodies of drawings by Claudia Sattler, François Burland, and Rosemarie Koczÿ, and Alain Arnedo's mail art. Michel Thévoz also enlarged groups of works previously acquired by Dubuffet, adding pieces by Joseph Sanfourche, Ignacio Carles-Tolrà and Marie-Rose Lortet. One of the museum gallery rooms featured shows devoted to Neuve Invention creators—for instance, Gérard Lattier, Rosemarie Koczÿ, Benno Kaiser and Lena Vandrey. Other shows were mounted in, among other countries, France and Spain.
Early on, Neuve Invention served as a category into which dubious cases could be relegated, and as a means of eluding the radical divide between Art Brut and cultural art. Gradually, however, the term widened to include creators whose work seemed difficult to label "Art Brut"—the likes of Louis Soutter, Joseph Sanfourche, Philippe Dereux and Friederich Schröder-Sonnenstern. Some of those whom the heading came to encompass had not broken away from the "fine arts" as radically as had the Art Brut creators. Slavko Kopac and Giordano Falzoni come to mind. Children's drawings, as well as works in a naïve or folk art vein, of the sort Dubuffet had acquired when he began canvassing, also fell under the heading. Then, too, the term came to serve for works by persons actually belonging to the fringes of society, but whose production seemed overly akin to work stemming from the Western visual culture, e.g. Friederich Schröder-Sonnenstern and Alcide.
First with the consent of Jean Dubuffet until the latter's death in 1985, and then on his own initiative, Michel Thévoz integrated, or reintegrated, into the Art Brut Collection works by creators formerly affiliated with Neuve Invention, such as Louis Soutter, Giovanni Battista Podestà, Michel Nedjar, Gaston Chaissac, and Paul Goesch. Since then, several works by these creators have remained on display in the museum's Permanent Collection.
In the meantime, a great number of institutional venues and galleries began assembling Neuve Invention pieces. Lucienne Peiry, director of the Collection de l'Art Brut from 2001 to 2011, thus felt entitled to put Art Brut itself more in the Lausanne museum's limelight. Nonetheless, and happily so, donations have continued to enrich the institution's Neuve Invention Collection on a regular basis.
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