Artist

Jean Dubuffet

1901–1985

Jean Dubuffet (b. 1901, Le Havre, France; d. 1985, Paris, France) is widely recognized as the most innovative artist in post-war France. A pioneer of outsider art, or ‘art brut’, Dubuffet sought to redefine aesthetic norms by drawing on the art of children, iconoclasts and the insane. In his view, because mainstream culture would systematically appropriate and sterilise artistic developments, authentic art could only be created spontaneously, without concern for any audience. On the premise that art takes its language from the materials used, Dubuffet scratched, kneaded and painted on resin, before applying plaster, sand, tar and other elements with a palette knife. In later years, he created monumental sculptures, installations and collages.

 

Dubuffet moved to Paris in 1918 where he briefly studied art at the Académie Julian. In 1925, he began working in the wine trade but painted periodically until 1942, after which he devoted himself exclusively to painting. In 1948 he created the Compagnie de l’Art Brut, along with the André Breton and the critic Michel Tapié. His first solo exhibition was in 1944 at the Gallery René Drouin in Paris. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Pierre Matisse Gallery (1947). During his lifetime, major exhibitions of his work included: Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (1960–61), Museum of Modern Art, New York (1962), Tate Gallery, London (1966), Guggenheim Museum, New York (1973) and Akademie der Künst, Berlin (1980). 

 

Since his death in 1985, Dubuffet’s work has continued to be exhibited worldwide. Major retrospectives have been held at Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (1991), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC (1993), Saarland Museum, Saarbrücken, Germany (1999) and a centenary exhibition at the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris (2001).

 

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Walk through of 'Jean Dubuffet: A Festival of the Mind', 2018

Waddington Custot
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Monumental work by Jean Dubuffet to be installed at Smithson Plaza

From 23 September 2020

This September, Tishman Speyer continues to bring significant works of modern and contemporary art into the public realm, presenting Jean Dubuffet’s iconic 13ft sculpture Tour aux récits at Smithson Plaza. The ongoing arts programme builds on the cultural heritage of Smithson Plaza, which was originally commissioned as the headquarters for The Economist and stands today as an iconic example of 1960s modernist architecture.

 

The installation comes at a time of renewed focus on the radical French artist, who is often cited as one of the most powerful and provocative voices in the post-war avant-garde.

 

Dubuffet’s monumental artwork finds a fitting home in Alison and Peter Smithson’s sixties complex as the sculpture was initially designed for the forecourt of the Banque Lambert in Brussels, which was completed in 1960, the same decade as Smithson Plaza. The architecture of both locations has a distinctly stripped-down modernist approach, and the placement of Tour aux récits in this new location achieves Dubuffet’s desire for the work to be realised in a cityscape. A series of photo montages by the artist reveals that he imagined the work to be ideally situated between two blocks of flats, a location comparable to Smithson Plaza.

 

Roxana Afshar, Director of Waddington Custot, commented: “We are delighted to help realise the installation of Dubuffet’s Tour aux récits at Smithson Plaza. Placement of the monumental sculpture in this iconic public location not only allows the work to be viewed by a broader audience, but also connects to the artist’s fascination with life in the metropolis.”

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