The Affordable Art Fair is always on the hunt for galleries that can offer the best choice of art for you to invest in, both created by established and emerging artists. We always try to keep a keen eye out for fresh creators and the latest trends in contemporary art. We share this approach with Milan gallery, Maroncelli 12, who are one of the first galleries to specialise in the world of Art Brut, or Outsider Art. These artists are called "instinct painters" because of their inner drive to create instinctually. They have primarily trained and work outside the official art world, far from the rigid rules of the art market, making them accessible; perfectly in line with the ethos of our fair.
Intrigued by such a fascinating specialism, we couldn’t resist asking Antonia Jacchia, Gallery Director, about the world of Outsider Art. We hope that like us, once your read the interview below, you’ll be excited to find out more and to discover the works exhibited by Maroncelli 12 at the next edition of Affordable Art Fair Milan, 7 – 9 February, 2020, Superstudio Più.
MEET THE GALLERY: MARONCELLI12
Thanks for talking to us Antonia, can you tell us about Maroncelli 12? How was the gallery first established? Where does your passion for Outsider Art stem from?
Maroncelli 12 was established in 2014, launching as the first Milanese gallery to explore the world of Art Brut (Outsider Art) that few people knew about in Italy. The gallery opened thanks to the “stars aligning” with some lucky circumstances. Having almost thirty years’ experience as a journalist, I have dreamed of leading a cultural project linked to art for quite some time. About ten years ago I was talking with an artist friend in Paris who introduced me to the existence of Art Brut for the first time. She assured me that the movement had attracted great interest not only in France but across and beyond Europe, also from within the art market. After this, I became very interested in the history of Art Brut. I began to visit galleries in Paris. Then I moved on to museums, the most important of them being the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne (established with Jean Dubuffet's donation of his collection): which was a true revelation. Just like the Gugging in Vienna, and others.
The final push towards opening the gallery was my meeting with the art historian Bianca Tosatti, at the end of 2013, who is a great expert in Art Brut/Outsider Art. She had been working on a project for years: opening of the first and only Italian museum dedicated to self-taught artists. It was called MAI: Museo di Arte Irregolare Italiana [Museum of Italian Outsider Art]. A fantastic project with a deep connection to the land, based in a seventeenth-century villa in Sospiro, the province of Cremona. I interviewed her and published a very large article in the Corriere della Sera. After a few months, thinking that the timeing was perfect, noticing that a buzz around Art Brut was building in Italy, I made the decision. I resigned from Corriere della Sera and opened Maroncelli 12. Unfortunately, the MAI Museum had a very short life of just over six months, due to the well-publicised difficulties with culture and museums in Italy. Passion for this area has never been a problem.
As Outsider Art is your specialism and it’s not particularly well-known, could you help give us a brief history to the movement?
"Stealthy and wild like a doe" is one of the expressions Jean Dubuffet used to explain his Art Brut, comparing it favourably to the academic cages of the time (it’s also the title of an exhibition we held in 2015). A "raw" art, "crude", but also "bubbly" like champagne, fresh when compared to academically processed contemporary art. To learn about Art Brut, even Italian Art Brut, the journey starts in Switzerland where Dubuffet searched for art which was created strictly free from the influence of academic culture, which he naively thought was guaranteed to not have been influenced by the confines of psychiatric clinics. In Switzerland he discovered Woelfli (1864-1930), Aloise (1886-1964), Muller and an entire group of artists who worked in the grounds where they had been hospitalised. Dubuffet was the very first to critically address this innovative way of making art, involving the most sensitive and attentive intellectuals of his time, such as the Surrealists. In 1947, this led to the creation of the Compagnie de l'Art Burt in Paris, with André Breton and Jean Paulhan. Here he collected hundreds of works created by unknown personalities who had not been artistically trained and who were often hospitalised in psychiatric institutions or were isolated people/peasants/shepherds.
According to Dubuffet, the lives of brut artists produced works in total autonomy of the world and its rules; meaning that they produced art purely due to their creative urgency. Having escaped cultural conditioning and social conformity, those who create Art Brut are the only recipients of their work, which makes them instinctual and indifferent to criticism, as they create these works out of necessity.
In the early 1970s the English art historian Roger Cardinal was the first to research Art Brut: he went to Paris and met Dubuffet and the artists he had identified. In 1972 he published "Outsider", retracing the paths taken by Dubuffet and widening his reach, inspired by the work previously done on Surrealism (... let the imagination be the primary element in every creative work). Individual and lacking any ancestry or lineage, Outsider Art is a crazy movement that undermines the usual tools and classifiers used in art criticism. But as it stems directly from the very core of the author, it has the power to touch the deepest part of our souls, often allowing ancient and universal forms and symbols to re-emerge.
Wow, what an exciting movement! It begs the questions; how do you find and select your artists?
I started with the idea of promoting first and foremost the "historic" authors of Italian Outsider Art, deceased artists who have nothing to envy in the already famous Outsider Artists. I did this not only in Italy but also abroad, where the market is fast growing. For instance, I studied and presented the artists who worked in the former MAI Museum. The Italian (and quoted) star of Italian Outsider Art abroad is Carlo Zinelli but only because he is present in the Dubuffet collection. He has been part of the Lausanne museum collection since 1971 (there is a exhibition dedicated to him, open until 2 February 2020) as well in many other private and public collections. But it's a unique phenomenon. The lack of museums and galleries that recognise and focus on this movement (today there are three in all of Italy) has reduced the possibility to appreciate what might be our most gifted artists becoming known outside their domestic, or national arenas.
Today the psychiatric museums are closed. There are numerous artists that put canvasses and brushes in the hands of potential Outsider Artists of the future. Then there's word of mouth... Outsider Artists rarely enter galleries to share their work. I would just like to finish by reiterating a fundamental concept: no matter how the movement began, Outsider Art should not be solely directly associated with mental illness.
Who collects Outsider Art in Italy?
The market is still small in Italy: there were two great collectors who have since become one, in the sense that the Fabio and Leo Cei collection acquired the collection of Bianca Tosatti and Michele Munno in order to create the Casa dell'Art Brut in Casteggio (Pavia), which is open to the public. But there are other individual collectors who collect one, at most two artists. In recent years, some contemporary art collectors have begun to express interest in the Outsider Art world. Also true for young people; those who are just taking their first steps into collecting contemporary art and have no disdain Art Brut works, they are interested.
Do you collector art as well? Which work couldn’t you live without?
I’ve begun to acquire some works in my own small way. The work I couldn’t live without? My first purchase, passing in front of the windows of a gallery in Avignon. I fell in love with a work by Daisy Boman (who I discovered was a Belgian sculptor), I went into the gallery, asked for the price, it was affordable, and I bought it straight away.
Can you give us any promising artists names, that we should keep an eye on?
The American Dan Miller, the Czech Lubos Plny, the Cuban Misleidys Francisca Castillo Pedroso, the Brazilian Marilena Pelosi. The Italians Guido Boni, Mauro Gottardo, Antonio Dalla Valle. But also, some established names like Carlo Zinelli are quite popular and the prices for his works are increasing, as well as Tarcisio Merati and Marco Raugei.
Do you have any advice on how we can learn more about Art Brut?
The most important collection in Europe (and perhaps in the world) is the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, where an exhibition on Carlo Zinelli is currently featured. Near Vienna there's the Gugging Museum, in Paris the Halle Saint Pierre and the gallery of Christian Berst. Then in Lille there's LaM, Lille Mètropole Musée d'art moderne, d'art contemporain et d'art brut, as well as Art en Marge in Brussels and the JP Ritsch-Fisch Gallery in Strasbourg. The American Folk-Art Museum in New York, along with the Cavin-Morris and Frank-Maresca Galleries. And of course, our next exhibition on Egidio Cuniberti (6 November – 31 January), another master of Italian Outsider Art.
As for magazines, there are two "Bibles": in Italy the quarterly Osservatorio Outsider Art and in Europe the bi-monthly Raw Vision. There are a few key books too: "Figure dell'anima. Arte irregolare in Europa", [Figures of the soul. Irregular art in Europe] curated by Bianca Tosatti, Mazzotta, and "L'Art Brut" by Lucienne Peiry, Flammarion.
Thanks to Antonia and Maroncelli 12 for this fantastic interview, it's fair to say that we're now hooked on Outsider Art and can't wait to explore it in person at the Milan fair (7 – 9 February, Superstudio Più). To stay up to date with announcements and get the best ticket offers, why not sign up to the Milan newsletter - just follow the link below.
Cristina Martella, Flying objects with poppy, 2018, 70x100 cm, acrilico su tela, Maroncelli12.
Featured art from first to last:
Michele Berton, Honi soit qui mal y pense, 2018, 100x71, acrilico e pigmenti su carta, Maroncelli12.
Image of the Maroncelli12 Gallery, photo credit Lorella Usai.
Shaul Knaz, Togetherness #82, 2014, tecnica mista su compensato, 100x80 cm, Maroncelli12.
Carlo Zinelli, Senza titolo, 35x50 cm, tempera su carta, Maroncelli12.
Dan Miller, Senza titolo, 2016, acrilico e inchiostro su carta, 56x76 cm, Maroncelli12.
Paolo Baroggi, Porsche Carrera, 2000, acrilico e pastelli su tela, 107x99 cm, Maroncelli12.
Franca Settembrini, Senza titolo, 1994, 54 x 42 cm, acrilico su tela, Maroncelli12.