Set in the midst of a lush green sculpture park, the LaM conserves over 7,000 works from the 20th and 21st centuries. From one gallery to the next, it invites you to look afresh at art history as you follow an innovative itinerary that combines modern and contemporary art with France’s largest public collection of art brut.
At the turn of the 20th century, Dutilleul embarked on an altogether bold collection. He was the first Frenchman to pay an interest in cubism, even if his pioneering venture arose out of necessity: without the means to satisfy his penchant for Paul Cézanne – who had already become too expensive – he would “turn his attention to upcoming young talent” and toured the Parisian galleries, including Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s, who acquainted him with the likes of Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger. He then came across Amedeo Modigliani and built one of the largest private collections of the Italian artist. In the interwar period, new subjects caught his eye: naïve art and André Lanskoy’s paintings. Dutilleul passed his passion on to his nephew early, the latter acquiring his first gouache by Léger in the 1920s and inheriting his uncle’s collection in 1956.
Owner of a building in Mouvaux, Jean Masurel also supported local artists such as Eugène Dodeigne, Eugène Leroy, Jean Roulland and Arthur Van Hecke. In 1979, Jean and his wife Geneviève donated part of their collection to Lille Urban Community, paving the way to the creation of the museum of modern art. Since then, the collections have expanded with works by artists in connection with the original collection – Henri Laurens, Jacques Lipchitz and Eugène Leroy among them.
The museum’s collection of contemporary art is therefore organised around several key thematic ideas: that of an encyclopaedia, the classification or representation of the artefacts of our civilisation (Christian Boltanski, Allan McCollum, Annette Messager, etc.), the commitment or involvement of the artist in the current state of the world in a bid to transform it or introduce other behaviours (Chris Burden or Mohamed El Baz for example), abstraction in all its forms, over the 1960-1990 period, whether in painting (Richard Serra or Pierre Soulages for instance) or sculpture (Daniel Dezeuze, Toni Grand, Etienne-Martin, etc.), as well as figuration (Bernard Buffet, Erró, Hervé Télémaque among others).
The recent acquisitions of a piece by Zarina Hashmi and a selection of paintings and drawings by Etel Adnan demonstrate an ambition to further open up the collection to international creation by giving show space to historical figures who have seldom featured in French displays to date. Whether as a counterpoint to an exhibition, or the subject of an exhibition itself, contemporary art is a way of striking up a living dialogue between eras, places and artists.
In 1999, the L’Aracine association donated scores of works to the museum - drawings, paintings, assemblages, objects and sculptures – by more than 170 French and foreign artists. The building’s extension, designed by architect Manuelle Gautrand, was added in 2007 to house this exceptional collection of Art Brut. Today, through donations and acquisitions, the museum routinely builds on this collection, and endeavours to have it showcased at regular intervals in monographic or thematic exhibitions, worldwide. The biggest names in the Art Brut movement can thus be found in the LaM’s collection: Aloïse Corbaz, Fleury Joseph Crépin, Henry Darger, Auguste Forestier, l’Abbé Fouré, Madge Gill, Jules Leclercq, Augustin Lesage, Michel Nedjar, André Robillard, Willem Van Genk, Josué Virgili, Adolf Wölfli and Carlo Zinelli among others.
In dialogue with modern and contemporary art, Art Brut paints us an altogether unique picture of the art of the 20th and 21st centuries, and encourages us to give fresh thought to our perception of creation.