The last exhibition at Daniel Cordier’s Paris gallery, 8 ans d’agitation, opened on June 10, 1964. In the show, Cordier looked back on the history of his gallery with a selection of the artworks in his hands due to his encounters and relationships with artists such as Jean Dubuffet, Henri Michaux, and Bernard Réquichot. It was a retrospective devoted to one of the most passionate and unusual art promoters of the second half of the twentieth century. Thanks to the high profile of his Paris gallery and his branches in Frankfurt and New York, as well as the donation of his collection to the Centre Pompidou in 1989, his artists enjoy great visibility.
Among the authors in Cordier’s gallery and his collection are figures that we would associate today with Outsider Art. However, it wasn’t his intention to build a collection of art brut – or what would later be called art singulier – as such. Rather, he cut across categories as his passion dictated. His donation to the Centre Pompidou is composed of works by seventy artists, ten of whom are connected to Outsider Art. The exhibition Daniel Cordier and Outsider Art features works from his personal collection and works similar to those in his donation.
In late 1959, Galerie Daniel Cordier, on rue de Miromesnil, hosted a show called Exposition inteRnatiOnale du Surréalisme. Organized by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp, the exhibition brought together works by seventy-five participants, including Aloïse Corbaz and Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern. The latter was one of the few artists, along with Zoltan Kemeny and Georges Mathieu, whose work Cordier had collected but never displayed.
Like the works by the “old Berliner Sonnenstern,” the drawings by “a lady from Frankfurt, Ursula Bluhm,” were discovered by Dubuffet in 1954. Cordier found Ursula’s pieces in the studio of her husband, artist Bernard Schultze, and devoted a solo exhibition to them in 1963. The show was accompanied by a brochure featuring an essay by Alain Jouffroy.
In 1959, Cordier discovered the work of Eugène Gabritchevsky, whom he considered “the man closest in spirit to Ursula,” during a visit to the Collection de l’Art Brut. In 1960, he acquired a large group of drawings from gallery owner Alphonse Chave and collector Jacques Uhlmann, who had purchased, through Dubuffet, several thousand works from Gabritchevsky’s brother. Cordier devoted solo exhibitions to Gabritchevsky in each of his locations, starting in 1961.
The Centre Pompidou collection includes two paintings by mediums. One is by plumber and zinc worker Fleury Joseph Crépin and was donated by Jacqueline Victor Brauner in 1973, and the other is by miner Augustin Lesage and was in the Cordier donation. Lesage heard voices deep within the mine that told him, “Don’t fear, we are close to you, one day you will be a painter.” In 1912 he began his first painting, which measured nine square meters (ninety-seven square feet) and took over a year to complete. He continued to paint until he died, in 1948.
CAILLAUD AND CHAISSAC
In the Cordier donation, Gabritchevsky’s and Lesage’s works sat alongside production that was more remote from the history of art brut, such as pieces by Aristide Caillaud and Gaston Chaissac. Caillaud’s paintings entrusted to Dubuffet were returned to their creator before the exhibition l’art brut préféré aux arts culturels organized at Galerie Drouin in 1949, and therefore did not become part of the Collection de l’Art Brut. In this exhibition were the works by Chaissac that would later be conserved in Dubuffet’s annex collection called Neuve Invention in 1982.
Also conserved in the Neuve Invention collection are works by artist Pierre Bettencourt, whose first exhibition of haut-reliefs, in 1956 at Galerie Drouin, was presented by Henri Michaux. It was through Claude Viseux, the first artist to be shown at Galerie Daniel Cordier, that Cordier discovered the work of Bettencourt, which he exhibited in 1963.
Attracted to reproductions of drawings by Fred Deux in a magazine, Cordier immediately decided to share his discovery with the public in an exhibition of Deux’s work in 1962. As Cordier said, he preferred “prospecting for unknown joys” over “confirmation of proven pleasures.”
The corpus of artworks by Michel Nedjar was acquired in 1984, directly from the artist, for the 1989 donation. The group of works is composed of dolls – the Chairdâmes – that Cordier discovered in the Collection de l’Art Brut. Dubuffet and Michel Thévoz became interested in this body of work in 1981. These pieces were in the annex collection until 1983 and were then integrated into the Art Brut collection.
Cordier’s collection expressed his loyalty to his artists and his interest in composing emblematic groupings. It also includes a representative grouping of works by Georgik, from those executed in his youth, when he used a typewriter and an iron, to those made in 2016. Georgik is remarkable for of his invention of tools that allow him to bypass traditional drawing techniques.
Although the works in Daniel Cordier and Outsider Art represent only one aspect of this immense collection, the exhibition nevertheless reveals a panorama of Outsider Art and pays tribute to the man who organized Art Brut in his New York gallery in 1962 (first exhibition in the Americas).
Exhibition curator: Antoine Gentil