First published: Summer 2020

The Bourbonnais family and their adventure into the world of art hor-les-normes from L'Atelier Jacob to their house-museum

Collecting art is not necessarily a solitary pleasure. On the contrary, it can be a true family obsession, as revealed by the story of the French outsider art collection of the Bourbonnaises – father, mother and two daughters, all with a passion for outsider creations. They have been celebrating such work since the early 1980s with their museum, La Fabuloserie – in the French départment of Yonne – which they opened after running a small gallery in Paris between 1972 and 1982.

The artistic adventure of this family was led by Alain Bourbonnais (1925–1988). He was the driving force and self-described "tribe leader”. He drew the women in his life into his passion and did not consider setting off on the adventure without them. Beyond his role as tribe leader, Bourbonnais brought together some unique creators for the first time. An architect by trade, he was a passionate collector, a committed patron of the arts, and an eccentric creator in his own right.

Driven by a consuming passion for instinctive, inventive art that fell outside of the mainstream, Bourbonnais gradually gave up his prestigious role as an architect of civil buildings and national palaces. However, architecture would remain a keystone of his astonishing journey through the world of outsider art which began in Paris in 1971.
 

The white attic at La Fabuloserie, photo: Jean-François Hamon

That year, Bourbonnais read in the newspapers about the existence of the Collection de l’Art Brut of the French artist and collector Jean Dubuffet. The good news for Bourbonnais was that this collection was on display on rue de Sèvres, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, just a few kilometres from his family home. The bad news was that Dubuffet had already decided to donate the collection to the Swiss city of Lausanne. Bourbonnais hurriedly sent a letter to Dubuffet asking if he could visit. The great art brut theorist consented to his request, writing back:

"I dream of what you are, for it seems you are making civilian buildings and national palaces; if you attempt to blow the same wind on their architectures, that is what I, for one, would dearly like. Eagerly looking forward to an outbreak of incivil buildings and paranational palaces on which this salubrious storm would blow".

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #106.

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