Brut Photo BXL: the magic of Art Brut

The remarkable exhibition Brut Photo BXL starts with a beautiful private collection. Indeed, a breathtaking collection of Bruno Decharme, the founder of abcd-art brut in Paris. From there things have grown into what we see now with Brut Photo BXL. It is actually  a project of multidisciplinary exhibitions and events coordinated by the Center d’Art Brut et Contemporain La “S” Grand Atelier (Vielsalm) in collaboration with collector Bruno Decharme and four partner organizations in Brussels: Botanique, CENTRALE for contemporary art, Art et Marges museum and Tiny Gallery.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

It all started in 2019. The Rencontres de la photographie in Arles presented the exhibition PHOTO | BRUT collection Bruno Decharme & compagnie. The collection gained world status, and it was not surprising that is was taken over in 2021 by the American Folk Art Museum in New York.

In 2022, time was come to present the collection also in Belgium. Bruno Decharme and Anne-Françoise Rouche (La “S” Grand Atelier) wanted to show other facets of “raw photography” through the recent discoveries of works by around a hundred artists.

This resulted in the exhibition presented at Botanique until March 19, “PICTURE | BRUT #2 Bruno Decharme Collection”.

Games for two.

It is to be considered as the follow-up to the Arles exhibition, offering the Belgian public an unprecedented discovery of this extraordinary photography. Divided into four chapters, the exhibition brings together more than 360 works. Since its appearance, the concept of art brut has constantly questioned our aesthetic perceptions, our definitions of art and the certainties concerning our identity. Today, through the eyes of new collectors, researchers, a growing public, but also through the emerging interest of other actors in the field of art, particularly contemporary, questions about the concept evolve. Through four major themes, which are “Intimate diaries / diaries of the world”, “The body, this stranger”, “Games for two” and “Hanthologies: spirits and ghosts”, the exhibition will attempt to identify and present to the public this little-studied field of art when there is a rich and fascinating corpus.

Games for two.

We show you here some exhibits of the four categories. The works presented in the section “Intimate diaries” deploy a multitude of surprising links – infinite treasure hunts – which take us through labyrinthine networks of political events, scientific data, titles taken from newspapers, quotations, tracts, photographs, where we end up stumbling – very often – against an impassable wall, before taking another direction which presents itself to our eyes.

Intimate diaries

In the section “The body, a stranger”, the artists present in this section are confronted with parts of their body, which, for some of them, refuses to give itself in its totality. The demarcations between the body and the outside are blurred: the microcosm and the macrocosm merge, in a non-delimitation of oneself which induces a participation with the world.

Body unknown.
Body unknown.
Body unknown.

On the theme “Games or plays for two”, the images allude to fantasized relationships, dreamt up by the artist in relation to the object of his desire. The works shown at the exhibition involve the cross-identifications between often anonymous artists and the women which are the focus of their obsessive experiences. The artist can manipulate the image, shape the object of his desire by addition, juxtaposition. The images produced are often transformed during the printing process, by the aging caused, the abuse of the negative (scratches) or even the cropping pointing to the part of the body subject to the fantasies.

When we approach “Hauntologies: spirits and ghosts”, the artworks demonstrate the extent to which the past, the absence of a loved one can haunt us. The blank areas for example in reworked photos suggest the presence of spirits which accompany us throughout or lives. But there are also puppets, objects which represent the missing loved ones, continuing to fill our hearts and souls.


But there is more, as we mentioned in the first paragraph: In the context of the project PHOTO | BRUT BXL, the Brussels CENTRALE of Contemporary art also presents nearly 200 photographs of the PHOTO | BRUT collection of Bruno Decharme & compagnie which was exhibited in Arles. Then the Musée ART ET MARGES exhibits of art Brut Creator Jean-Marie Massou, and last but not least there is the TINY GALLERY who runs now an exhibition of Spontaneous Amateur Photography 1860-1930. Stay tuned for more about all this soon!

The exhibition runs until March 19 at the Museum of the Botanique – Centre Culturel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, at Rue Royale 236 Koningsstraat 1210 Bruxelles, opening hours are from 12 to 20 h, from Wednesday to Sunday. The museum is closed on 24 and 25 December as well as December 31st and January 1. Further info: Tel: +32 (0)2 218 37 32,

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