Shiga Museum of Art


Search by free word


About Art Brut

In 2016, the museum began collecting works that are known as Art Brut.

Art Brut (sometimes referred to as “raw art”) is a concept that was championed by the French painter Jean Debuffet (1901-1985) in the 1940s. While the Paris-based Debuffet forged deep personal relationships with artists and cultural figures of the day, he was attracted by works made by people with mental disorders and self-taught creators that were free from the influence of existing culture. Dubbing this style “Art Brut,” he devoted himself to researching and collecting these works.

Recently, there has been a growing interest in Art Brut in Japan. One catalyst for this was Art Brut Japonais, an exhibition of Japanese Art Brut that was held at the Halle Saint Pierre in Paris in 2010.

Many of the creators in the exhibition were people with disabilities, in particular those with intellectual disabilities. This was based on the fact that social welfare organizations such as the Shiga Prefecture Social Welfare Organization (now known as Social Welfare Corporation Glow) played a key role in arranging the exhibition in Japan. After the exhibition’s overwhelming success in Paris, Art Brut Japonais was reimported, generating widespread interest in Art Brut in Japan and acclaim for artworks made by people with disabilities. Many of these works were made by people with links to Shiga Prefecture.

The prefecture is a pioneer in the implementation of creative programs for people with disabilities after World War II. In 1946, a residential, educational, and medical facility for children with disabilities called the Omi Gakuen was established in the Nango district of Otsu by Itoga Kazuo, Ikeda Taro, and Tamura Ichiji. Gradually, high-quality clay from the local area came to be used as an artistic material at the facility.

This later led many other welfare facilities, such as the Ochiho, Shigaraki, and Ichibaku dormitories, to actively develop creative programs for people with disabilities, (primarily intellectual disabilities) in Shiga. In recent years, the Shiga-resident Sawada Shinichi, who attends the Ritto Nakayoshi Atelier, showed his work in the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, and many other unique artists from the Yamanami Atelier, located in Koka, have garnered attention.

In light of the links between Shiga, the artistic activities of people with disabilities, and Art Burt, the museum has held the following exhibitions: Art Brut: Collection abcd Paris in 2008, and Signs of Life: The Works Originated in Shiga in 2015. Moreover, in 2016, the museum adopted a policy of collecting Art Brut and has continued to actively acquire these works.

While the museum was closed for renovation, an exhibition of new acquisitions called Special Exhibition of Ceramic Art From the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Shiga was held at the Kawara Museum in Omi Hachiman in 2020, and Genius: The Human Gift for Creating and Living was held at the Shiga Museum of Art after it reopened in 2022.

In addition, following the Art Brut Japonais exhibition, the Nippon Foundation gifted (or in some cases deposited) the works they had acquired, preserved, and utilized to the museum – the only public museum in Japan devoted to collecting Art Brut. As a result, the museum now contains a total of 731 works, making the collection one of the leading Art Brut collections in the world.

In some instances, the term “Art Brut” has been interpreted to mean art made by people with disabilities. In Japan, there is definitely a strong link between the two. But it is important to understand that they are not synonymous. Dubuffet’s Art Brut collection also included works by people with mental disorders. However, he did not believe that it was necessary for the artists to be people with disabilities. It is important to remember the importance he placed on the “raw” quality of the art. Dubuffet’s focus was on boundary-defying creativity that surmounted existing art and culture, which he viewed as overly rigid.