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Josef Hofer

Austrian, contemporary.
Born 1945, Wegscheid, Bavaria.


Having been born with numerous disabilities that affected his mobility, his hearing and his speech, Josef Hofer has undoubtedly lived a life of hindrances. However, it could be said that it is due to these impairments, rather than in spite of them, that Hofer occupies a place of praise in the art world today. Indeed, his art expresses a way of seeing unique to those removed from a ‘conventional’ lifestyle. In his works, figures are bordered, separated, and, perhaps even, isolated by uneven lines – it is a world of intricate delineations. However, what lies within is just as important as what lies without: Hofer’s ‘frames’ allow the margins of each work to pull the spectator’s focus outward from the center. The effect of these frames is that they render what should be a visual intrusion into an image of inviolable space – we are as much an outsider in Hofer’s world as he is in ours.

Raised in a cloistered environment on a farm in Upper Austria, Josef Hofer did not have much social contact until the age of 37, when his father died and his mother took him and his brother to live in Kirschlag, where he attended a day clinic. The move proved to be beneficial to Hofer as he even began to say a few words. Eventually, Hofer became an inpatient at an institution in Ried, where the art historian Elisabeth Telsnig noticed his love of drawing and encouraged his creativity.

Often signed “Pepi,” Hofer’s works are essentially observations and narrations of his own life. His drawings can be seen as a kind of mirror, reflecting both Hofer and the spectator while also revealing the hypnotic infancy of art. As Michel Thévoz writes, “Josef Hofer is in a state of grace” – an erotic, untrammelled form of grace where the body strives to break free from the prison of the frame.


Selected Exhibitions

2011, Josef Hofer, alter ego, Galerie Christian Berst, Paris

2010, The Museum of Everything, Pinacoteca Agnelli, Milan

2008, Josef Hofer, Galerie am Stein, Monika Perzl, Schärding (Austria)

2006, Art Brut genio y delirio, Collecíon de Art Brut de Lausana, Circulo de bellas artes, Comunidad de Madrid, Madrid

2005, Arnulf Rainer et sa collection de l'Art Brut à la Maison Rouge, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Maison Rouge, Paris

2003, Josef Hofer, Collection de l'Art Brut, Paris

Selected Collections

Collection abcd, Paris
Collection Art et marge, Brussels
Collection Arnulf Rainer, Vienna
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Museum of Everything, London

Selected Bibliography

Telsnig, Elisabeth, Josef Hofer, Monographie, Bibliothek der Provinz, Linz, Austria, 2013.

Telsnig, Elisabeth, and Philippe Dagen, Josef Hofer, alter ego, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Christian Berst, Paris, 2011.

The Museum of Everything
, exhibition catalogue, Electa, Milan, 2010.

Josef Hofer, exhibition catalogue, Galerie am Stein, Monika Perzl, Schärding, 2008.

Arnulf Rainer meets Josef Hofer, 
Hauser Consulting, Ausburg, 2007.

Thévoz, Michel, "Josef Hofer," Fascicule de l'Art Brut, No. 22, Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne, 2007.

Telsnig, Elisabeth, "Unlocking the human form," Raw Vision, #55, 2006.

Dagen, Philippe, "L'Art brut et libre sur les ailes de la folie, Le Cas sidérant de Josef Hofer, génie révélé de l'autoportrait," Le Monde, July 25, 2003.

Ollier, Brigitte, "La ferveur d'Hofer," Libération, June 29, 2003.
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