Hannah Rieger: Art Brut Activist

Hannah Rieger: Art Brut Activist

First published: Autumn 2019
Collector and curator Hannah Rieger talks about "Flying High" and art brut

Earlier in 2019, “Flying High: Women Artists of Art Brut” broke ground as the first exhibition of works by female art brut artists on a grand scale, showing more than 300 diverse, high-quality artworks spanning 140 years by 93 international artists. It was curated by Ingried Brugger, director of the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien, where the exhibition was held, and Hannah Rieger, an art brut collector and former manager of a banking group, who was featured in Raw Vision 89 (2016).

Rieger and Brugger were already acquaintances, and Rieger felt that “this female topic was in the air”, so she pursued it with Brugger at every opportunity. Proposing such an exhibition also felt at times like an uphill struggle, with some people saying it would be discriminatory against male artists to show only works by female artists. But, as Rieger insists, “Art brut is not equal to contemporary art, and, within that discrimination, female art brut artists are outsiders.”

Rieger now collects works by mainly female artists, and she notes how few such works were collected by Prinzhorn and Dubuffet, compared with those of male artists, at least partly because they were selected by mainly male psychiatrists. Rieger also explains that “Flying High” was inspired by the Prinzhorn Collection’s exhibition catalogue Irre ist Weiblich: Künstlerische Interventionen von Frauen in der Psychiatrie um 1900 (Madness is Female: Artistic Interventions of Women in Psychiatry Around 1900, B Brand-Claussen and V Michely, 2004). She says, “This book was the role model for the whole exhibition. I was amazed that there had never been a large exhibition of only female art brut artists. Like in all other areas of society, women are not seen but are neglected and forgotten. I think now is the time to show the potential of women, not only in the field of art brut.” Rieger believes that it is time for more research to be carried out about female art brut artists, and that answers should be sought for such questions as: Who supports women artists? Who selects women? Who finds women? Who thinks women have the same artistic power as men?

For Rieger, holding the exhibition in a contemporary-art venue in central Vienna was significant. She says, “As an art brut activist, it is important to me to see an end to the stigmatising of art brut and to fight for its equal status in contemporary art. So, it is important to have an exhibition like this in a contemporary context. I have an obsession with art brut, which is why I call myself an art brut activist. I mean that I want to make a contribution, so that more people can see it.” Rieger walks the walk – quite literally, for she regularly leads guided tours of the Gugging art centre’s museum and gallery near Vienna, and she gave daily tours of “Flying High”, too.
 

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #103