As the curator of the Maisons Victor Hugo, I was not predisposed to work on Outsider Art, but passion overtook me! The exhibition Entrance of Mediums in 2012 also helped me to establish a first contact.
Taking up the invitation to participate in the Outsider Art Fair, I would like to offer a personal journey, as a kind of domino game connecting the neurotic self-portraits of two artists associated with Victor Hugo: his nephew Leopold (1828–1895), a dilettante artist and delusional scientist, and François Chifflart (1825–1901), a recipient of the Prix de Rome in France but a temperamental loser—Leopold, posing as a Pharaoh on a pedestal like a chess piece, presents the theme of a portrait-object, while Chifflart offers the theme of a collective self-portrait, surrounded by his neuroses as many nightmarish forms.
They are two “borderline” self-portrait artists who allow us precociously to cross the border between official art and Outsider Art.
Going from one self‑portrait to the next, a series of hallucinated group portraits, others of object forms, “patented” works of Outsider artists such as Fernand Desmoulin, F. Sedlàk, Helen Buttler Wells, Josepha Tolra, Edmund Monsiel, Hugo d’Alesi, Emile Hodinos, Camille Renault, Hans Hoffer. A way of crossing the border, in an ambiguous way, with multiple intersections: from academic to self-taught artists, from bourgeois to modest means artists, from apprentice to mediums. Under the common denominator of disorder or neurosis, perhaps will emerge the contours of what I have previously called “the democracy of the marvelous.” But such an alignment of double-sixes is better played with someone, by borrowing pieces from an accomplice. Beyond any discourse and justification, this journey is an amicable tribute to Bruno Decharme whose generosity for sharing his collection la collection Abcd Art Brut is undeniable. It is also a way to convey my best wishes of success to him after he announced the deposit of his collection in Hauterives, at Postman Cheval’s museum.