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Jean Dubuffet "Anticultural Positions"

April 15 – June 10, 2016

Jean Dubuffet, Danseuse de corde [Jump Roper], February 1943

Danseuse de corde [Jump Roper], February 1943

Oil on canvas

39 3/8 x 28 3/4 inches (100 x 73 cm)

Janklow Collection, New York

© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Jean Dubuffet, Dhôtel, July-August 1947

Dhôtel, July-August 1947

Oil and sand on canvas

46 1/2 x 35 1/8 inches (118.1 x 89.2 cm)

Private Collection, courtesy Richard Gray Gallery

© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Jean Dubuffet, Vache aux cornes noires [Cow with Black Horns], August 1954

Vache aux cornes noires [Cow with Black Horns], August 1954

Oil on canvas

31 7/8 x 39 3/8 inches (81 x 100 cm)

Private Collection

Photo by Jeff McLane / Art © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Jean Dubuffet, Jardin mouvementé [Lively Garden], August 1955

Jardin mouvementé [Lively Garden], August 1955

Collage with butterfly wings, black ink, and watercolor on board

8 7/8 x 12 3/8 inches (22.5 x 31.4 cm)

Private Collection, courtesy Pace Gallery

Photo courtesy Pace Gallery / Art © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Jean Dubuffet, L'adieu à la fenêtre [Farewell from the Window], June 3, 1949

L'adieu à la fenêtre [Farewell from the Window], June 3, 1949

Oil on burlap

35 x 45 5/8 inches (89 x 116 cm)

Private Collection

© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Jean Dubuffet, L'étonné [The Astonished Man], October 1959

L'étonné [The Astonished Man], October 1959

Silver foil and driftwood

14 1/8 inches high (36 cm)

Private Collection

© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Press Release

Jean Dubuffet: Anticultural Positions

April 15 – June 10, 2016

Open Monday - Saturday, Closed Memorial Day Weekend

(New York, NY) Acquavella Galleries is pleased to present Jean Dubuffet: Anticultural Positions, the first exhibition surveying Dubuffet’s early work in painting and sculpture in over two decades. Organized by curator Mark Rosenthal, the exhibition focuses on Dubuffet’s work from 1943 to 1959, and emphasizes the artist’s “anti-cultural” approach in his depiction of subjects and his use of unorthodox materials. Several works by the French painter are on loan from private collections and museums.   

During the 1940s and ‘50s, Dubuffet advocated a transgressive anti-cultural position—a nihilistic spirit in the context of a war-ravaged Europe. His fascination with Hans Prinzhorn's Artistry of the Mentally Ill deeply influenced his artistic practice, and led to his coining of the term “Art Brut.” For Dubuffet, the raw and uninhibited expression of Art Brut provided a fresh and alternative direction to what he saw as the stifling decorum and conformity of French culture and the Western tradition. In 1947 he arranged an exhibition of objects produced by children and the mentally ill. He admired the intuitive spirit of children's drawings, graffiti, and the art of the ill, which he believed relied on the inner world of the creative mind and rejected traditional notions of taste, beauty, and skill. Emulating these 'outsider' artworks, Dubuffet created assemblages with detritus like glue, plaster, putty, gravel and broken bottles. He would scribble and scratch their surfaces to give the impression of tactile, chaotic, graffiti-covered walls. His formless renderings of the human figure echo his fixation with the art practices of those he considered “unscathed by artistic culture.”

“Dubuffet was one of the great disruptors of art history,” said Mark Rosenthal. “He invented an unlikely cast of characters who took center stage as his subjects, and he utilized the most humble of materials, all of which projected new visions of beauty.”

A fully illustrated hardcover catalogue will accompany the exhibition, and will include texts by Mark Rosenthal, Kent Minturn, an art historian and expert on the work of Dubuffet, and longstanding MoMA conservator Anny Aviram.

Jean Dubuffet (1901 – 1985) was born in Le Havre, France. In 1918 he moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, which he left after six months to study independently. After abandoning painting for several years, Dubuffet fully committed himself to being an artist in 1942. Painting in a deliberately crude manner, inspired by art of the mentally ill or “Art Brut,” Dubuffet developed a technique of thick impasto, called haute pâte, and frequently incorporated unorthodox materials ranging from cement and gravel to leaves, dust, and even butterfly wings into his works. His controversial materials and mark-making solidified his legacy as an iconoclastic figure in the canon of postwar European painting, and his work has been exhibited in and collected by the foremost public and private institutions in the world.

Mark Rosenthal is a curator, author and art historian currently based in Detroit where he currently serves as the adjunct curator for contemporary art for the Detroit Institute of the Arts.  He has previously held curatorial positions at Berkeley, Philadelphia Museum, National Gallery of Art, as well as adjunct positions at the Guggenheim Museum, Menil Collection and Detroit Institute of Arts. Rosenthal has curated such exhibits as Joseph Beuys: Actions, Vitrines, Environments, Picasso: The Early Years, Damien Hirst: The Bilotti Paintings, The Surreal Calder and retrospectives of Philip Guston, Juan Gris, William Kentridge, and Jonathan Borofsky. Rosenthal also curated monograph exhibitions of Anselm Kiefer and Jasper Johns. He holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Iowa.

For more information please contact Prentice Cultural Communications

(212) 228-4048 or

Photograph of Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet "Anticultural Positions" cover
Jean Dubuffet "Anticultural Positions"
April - May 2016
New York Times, Gallery Guide 2016
The New York Times
Surprise: The Upper East Side Turns Experimental (for Art) April 21, 2016
Jean Dubuffet, Vache aux cornes noires (Cow with Black Horns), August 1954
The Observer
Weekend Edition: 10 Things to Do in New York’s Art World Before April 18 April 14, 2016
Jean Dubuffet, La galante poursuite (The Gallant Pursuit), 1953
Art Critical
"Bull's Eye: Jean Dubuffet's Anticultural Vision" by Wendy Gittler June 9, 2016
IN New York, "Purposefully Grotesque"
IN New York
Jean Dubuffet: Purposefully Grotesque June 2016
The Brooklyn Rail, Jean Dubuffet: Anticultural Positions
The Brooklyn Rail
Jean Dubuffet "Anticultural Positions" by Phong Bui June 3, 2016
The Telegraph, "Art Sales: there's more to Dubuffet than art brut"
The Telegraph
There's More to Dubuffet Than Art Brut May 17, 2016


 In my early days as an art market reporter, London’s most powerful dealer in modern art, Leslie Waddington, told me that, in his view, the most important 20th century European artist, after Picasso, Leger and Miro was Jean Dubuffet.

The Wall Street Journal, "Acquavella Galleries Debuts a New Show Featuring Jean Dubuffet"
The Wall Street Journal
Acquavella Debuts a New Show Featuring Jean Dubuffet April 15, 2016

The French artist’s early work in painting and sculpture is showcased at the New York-based gallery this month

Earth Angel
Art & Antiques
Earth Angel: Jean Dubuffet at Acquavella Galleries April 2016

It seems that when Jean Dubuffet is mentioned, it's almost always in the context of Outsider art, a field that he helped define and promote and that is currently enjoying a surge of interest. But Dubuffet was a major artist in his own right, and an ehxibition opening this month at Acquavella Galleries in New York aims to put the focus back on the man himself and his subversive creativity.

New York Observer Cover
The New York Observer
Galleries Galore: Jean Dubuffet at Acquavella March 7, 2016

Jean Dubuffet at Acquavella

If you're feeling down on you art career, read a little about Jean Dubuffet and take comfort. A French wine seller until he was 40, the artist didn't even show his work until he was 45, yet he became one of the more unique stars of the Modernist era. He began by championing the work of children and teh clinically insane in exhibitions he curated, but later began emulating these works as a sort of anti-social aesthetic study, if you will. This survey, which was organized by Detroit Institute of Arts' curator Mark Rosenthal, focuses on Dubuffet's first forays into art making and will draw works from the Met and the Guggenheim, as well as a slew of private collections. It's the first survey of his early work in over 20 years, so you might want to stop by.

The New York Times, "For Jean Dubuffet, the Art Brut Founder, a Gallery Show Inside Art"
The New York Times
For Jean Dubuffet, the Art Brut Founder, a Gallery Show: By Robin Pogrebin January 28, 2016

Jean Dubuffet is not necessarily the hottest artist around; in fact, his colorful oil painting “Cote Chipote” failed to sell at Christie’s in November, despite a relatively low estimate of $9 million to $12 million

But the artist and sculptor, who died in 1985, remains one of the most important postwar artists of the 20th century — often grouped with Giacometti and Bacon — and is perhaps best known for founding Art Brut, an early outsider art movement. 

Now the Acquavella Gallery has decided to devote both floors of its Upper East Side townhouse — as well as a hardcover catalog — to a monographic show on Dubuffet that will open April 15.

“A lot of people don’t realize how good he is,” said Mark Rosenthal, an independent curator who is organizing the show. “We’re hoping this will change that.”

“Every curator’s interested in who’s not being looked at, who ought to be looked at,” added Mr. Rosenthal, who has served as head of 20th-century art at the National Gallery in Washington and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Featuring Dubuffet’s work between 1943 and 1959, the show includes loans from private collections as well as museums like the Met, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim.

The gallery has mounted shows on other 20th-century artists — Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Léger — but never Dubuffet, though it has sold close to 100 of his pieces.

“The moment is so right for Dubuffet,” said Nicholas Acquavella, an owner of the gallery. “We will see so many young artists with their jaws dropped to see stuff they’ve only seen in textbooks. He’s so relevant to what’s happening today.”

Dubuffet was famous for his materiality — where Rauschenberg worked with trash, Dubuffet used earth.

“He’s the opposite of an artist who settled on a technique,” Mr. Acquavella said. “He was constantly recreating the process.”

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