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Art exhibition blending mental illness and art to open near Hongdae
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.02.26 14:40
  • Updated 2018.02.26 14:56
  • comments 0

An art exhibition that showcases “art of the mentally ill” and the history of Korean psychiatry will open at the KT&G Sangsang Madang building near Hongik University in Mapo-gu, Seoul, for two months starting March 3.

The Origin, History of Psychiatry and Artbrut will open at KT&G Sangsang Madang in Mapo-gu, Seoul, from March 3 to May 8.

The exhibition titled “History of PSYCHIATRY & ARTBRUT, the Origin,” hosted by the art museum VERSI and Museum Dr. Guislain will be open to art viewers starting Saturday through May 8. The Museum Dr. Guislain's collection will allow for museum-goers to see the history of psychiatry in Europe and Korea while introducing the art movements of Art Brut and Outsider Art.

Mental illnesses have existed long as “madness” before the advent of modern psychiatry, and the earliest records go back to superstitions, witchcraft, and shamanisms in both the East and West. The Origin exhibition to be held in Korea marks the first such art display that focuses on the history of psychiatry in Asia, showcasing around 200 central collections from the Museum Dr. Guislain and the art museum VERSI.

Art Brut, which translates into “raw art” or “rough art,” refers to art made by “outsider artists” who have had little contact with the mainstream art world. Outsider artists are sometimes psychotic individuals who did not belong to the mainstream culture with little contact with mainstream art movements. Their paintings illustrate extreme mental states and unconventional ideas that differ substantially from “normal” ones. Outsider artists are often discovered only posthumously.

Painting by Alfred Richter

The exhibition will highlight the works of leading figures such as Aloïse Corbaz, Madge Gill, August Walla, and Henry Darger. Henry Darger, for one, was an American writer and artist who spent his life isolated from most of society while working as a hospital custodian in Chicago, Ill. His works, which included 15,000-some page fantasy manuscripts and several hundred illustrations of the story, was discovered only posthumously.

Because Art Brut and Outsider Art were born purely out of the isolated sense of self, the relevant works are not influenced by “standards” of human culture. Although the art movements remain little known in Korea, Art Brut and Outsider Art have become a center of art in foreign countries, having gained a fanatic base in Japan that spread out to other Asian countries, according to the art museum Versi.

“Their works overcome time and space and show the depth and breadth of the work beyond the differences of gender, race, religion, and culture,” Versi said in a statement.

The Origin will allow museum-goers to view works of those considered “different” while questioning the culture that continuously segregates and separates what are considered different thoughts, viewpoints, and objects, according to the art museum.


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