First published: Summer 2017

“Visionaries of the world, unite!” is the implicit message of the exhibition “L’Internationale des Visionnaires”, now showing in Montolieu, Southern France. Works by over 130 international artists have been gathered, in a dizzying array of techniques. The majority of these works are part of the collection of the Paris-based Brazilian collector Cérès Franco, who has amassed nearly 1,500 works of naive, art singulier and contemporary art since the 1950s. The aim of La Cooperative – Collection Cérès Franco is to make her collection accessible to a wider audience, and eventually to constitute a permanent museum.

Untitled, Mario Chichorro, 1989, acrylic paint on polyester, 22.4 x 18.5 ins. / 57 x 47 cm

The works selected by curator Jean-Hubert Martin for “L’Internationale des Visionnaires” illustrate the eclecticism and global nature of the collection. They also reflect Cérès Franco’s personal and aesthetic priorities: a bold chromatic palette and a tendency towards expressive figuration. In the paintings, drawings and sculptures, the multiple distortions of the human body express the most violent upheavals of the psyche. At a time when the art world pendulum was shifting towards abstraction, Cérès Franco resolutely went in the opposite direction. Born in Brazil in 1927, she discovered German Expressionism in classes taught by art historian Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University. When she arrived in Paris, in 1951, she promptly associated with artists from the European avant-garde CoBrA movement – most notably, Dutch painter Corneille (1922–2010). Her taste for works of raw emotional intensity led her to unconventional artists and modes of representation, at the crossroads of art informel, art singulier, folk art and outsider art.

Her gallery, L’OEil de Boeuf (The Ox’s Eye), which she founded in Paris in 1972, became a haven for marginalised and vulnerable artists. They included political refugees fleeing the dictatorships of South America (Mario Murua, b. 1952, Chile) and Eastern Europe (Jacques Grinberg, 1941–2011, Bulgaria), those who worked outside of the contemporary art system (such as figurative painter Michel Macréau, 1935–1995) and painters who experienced mental health problems, such as Stani Nitkowski (1949–2001) whose graphic, often disturbing ink drawings were highlighted in a previous exhibition of the Cérès Franco collection in Montolieu.
 

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #94.

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