26 May Feature: Art Brut, Dries van Noten and Christopher Kane / AnOther
Over nearly three decades, Dries Van Noten has earned a reputation as fashion’s master of bold, playful print. So while the scrawled, abstract patterns of his A/W18 collection might appear to be business as usual – think swirling palm fronds and Catherine wheels streaked with colourful feather trims – their sources within the overlooked movement of Art Brut are perhaps surprising.
Even if it loosely translates as “rough” or “raw art”, a precise definition of Art Brut is elusive. Now almost synonymous with the artist who coined it, Jean Dubuffet, the term in fact refers less to Dubuffet’s own work and more to the extraordinary collection he amassed during the post-war period of artworks produced by children and the mentally ill, housed in a purpose-built museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. At the opposite, eastern end of the Alps sits the offshoot of the movement best known today. It’s here, at the Art Brut Center Gugging on the outskirts of Vienna, that Christopher Kane came last year for inspiration, collaborating with the resident artists on prints, and even using the gallery space as the backdrop for his Pre-Fall 2017 lookbook.
It goes without saying that Art Brut raises important questions about the accepted path of art history: what deserves to be absorbed into the canon, and what is left out? Who dictates what is elevated as high art, and what gets thrown on the scrapheap? And perhaps more significantly, what are the ethical problems it raises when absorbed into the art market, or the world of fashion? Across five key moments in the movement’s history, we unpick the problems of this singular artistic tradition – and why designers are referencing it today.