Visionary collections on exhibit in Europe Museums: Institutions in England, France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland are venues for outsider art.

The world's best-known museum of visionary or outsider art is the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. Housed on an estate known as the Chateau de Beaulieu, it contains the collection of artist Jean Dubuffet.

"It's completely decorated in black, quite the opposite of most museums," says John Maizels, editor of the London-based magazine Raw Vision, "and the works loom out of the darkness. Each artist has an area of their own work, and these are accompanied by biographies and photographs of the person."


The Lausanne museum's collection of about 800 works is shown in a dense display, with many works in cases where you can sit and peruse them, says Roger Manley, curator of "The Tree of Life," the first exhibit of Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum.

"It's as much a study collection as an art installation," Manley says of the display. "There's also a small gallery for changing exhibitions and a section called 'neuve invention' of trained artists who worked in the outsider mode. It's a terrific museum very intimate."


Other museums in Europe include l'Aracine, housed in a chateau near Paris. It includes work by some of the artists at Lausanne, but also works by Americans.

Le Fabuloserie, at Dicy near Auxerre, France, contains a large collection amassed by Alain Bourbonnais in response to Dubuffet's moving his works to Lausanne. Now run by Bourbonnais' widow, Caroline, "It's a pretty extensive collection of mostly French art in a farm setting," says Manley. It also has an environment by an artist known as Le Petit Pierre, which Manley describes as "a circus menagerie, all mechanical."

At Ville Dieu in the south of France is Le Petit Musee de Bizarre. "It was put together by Serge Tekielski, a former Polish member of the French Foreign Legion, and contains work by peasant artists in the area," says Manley. "The work crosses the line from folk art to pure fantasy, like a pair of sabots carved to look like human feet, and a bed in the shape of a mermaid. The museum is in an ancient house."

Another European museum is De Stadshof, Museum for Naive and Outsider Art, which opened last year in the former Palace of Justice in Zwolle, Holland.

The Adolf Wolfli collection is housed in the Kunstmuseum (art museum) in Bern, Switzerland, where Wolfli was institutionalized for the last 35 years of his life.

Two other collections are open by appointment only: the Prinzhorn Collection at the University Psychiatric Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Outsider Archive in London, administered by Monika Kinley. According to Maizels, both are expected in the near future to move to permanent homes where they will be open to the public.