Article: The Musée de la folie

The most recent issue of the Journal of the History of Collections features an article by Allison Morehead – “The Musée de la folie: Collecting and exhibiting chez les fous” – reconsidering accepted wisdom about the Musée de la folie, which opened on the outskirts of Paris in 1905.

Abstract: The 1905 opening of Dr Auguste Marie’s Musée de la folie, at the Villejuif Asylum on the outskirts of Paris, has long been viewed as a key moment in the early history of the art of the insane. But surprisingly little is known about the museum and its collection. This article argues that the Musée de la folie was in fact a largely imaginary entity that intersected both with the asylum itself and with a planned Musée rétrospectif psychiatrique. Exploring the various discourses constructed through Marie’s collection and through similar collections and museum projects across Europe permits not only a critique of the teleological narrative usually told about the discovery of the art of the insane, but also provides a richer understanding of the psychiatric and popular contexts in which Marie’s heterogeneous collection, including the art works of his patients, was originally gathered, represented and consumed.

  1. There was a museum show in Los Angeles called “Outsider Art” that I analyzed as a multicultural and exploitative move by the museum (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). I wrote about it here: http://clarespark.com/2009/06/04/modernity-and-mass-death/. The first part of the article is related, and considers Patrick Susskind’s Perfume, The Story of a Murderer.

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