The inventor of the Fabuloserie was an architect. He designed civic buildings. For 30 years, he collected the works of artists who were completely unknown and who had absolutely no artistic education. They were builders, miners, workers, postmen, farmers, but all of them were handymen, making things out of nothing, using recycled materials, objects which had been thrown away or found.
He was always a talented man with a keen eye. As a child, he used to paint and was keen on sculpting as he was living at his uncle's who was a blacksmith. He dreamt of becoming a painter, but his parents would not allow him to. He had to give up his plans and started on an architecture course in which he was very successful. He had found his own way of creating.
He was crazy about collecting. He was born in Allier and loved the countryside which he needed to recuperate. The young architect bought a country house in Dicy (Yonne ) with his very first wages.
The desire, one might even say the need, to collect strange objects came naturally to him. All of them were beautiful in their own way. Some of them were truly uncommon. For instance, he had ex-votos which had been made by poor people working-class districts in Brazil. The destitute would sculpt out the pains they felt on wooden busts and\ would offer them to the Virgin.
MR, one of his oldest friends said of him: "he takes after the M of C as well as Puss in Boots" This is how he discovered some of those eccentric artists.
One day, as we were coming back
from a visit to a construction building site, he took a rest in a country cafe
in the center of France. We noticed some fabulous animals on a shelf. We
immediately asked who had made those weird animals. The inn-keeper said an old
had, and he showed us the way to the old man's home.
This man would collect
all sorts of old roots which could be found in dried reservoirs next to dams
and in his creative mind, those roots would become extraordinary animals and
We came to the conclusion that
this case could not be isolated. So it became a little game. After every visit
to the building sites, during the holidays, we would go to rural cafes or
restaurants and then we'd repeat the same irresistible sentence: "We've been told about a
man or a woman making unusual things in the area, things which can't been seen anywhere
else. And that would do. We were always given directions.
Of course, we didn't always find
what we were looking for, but this is how we went about it. We often arrived
without any notice at the houses of artists who were shut up in their
dreamlike world, all by themselves. And all of a sudden, Alain would open the door and
He would speak easily, with a sweet voice and a passion equal to theirs; they were amazed, and enthusiastic to meet people in perfect harmony with themselves, an experience they had never had. A pure "moment de grâce ". At last, someone was entering into their dreams and it was good.
Alain with his greedy appetite for collecting wasn't contented with one or two items, he needed as many as possible (that's the reason why the Fabuloserie was born). Dubuffet once declared: "you're a man of opulence, of quantity, you're so fond of great numbers".
It's true that, AB was living to create. I remember the journeys abroad from which he would bring back Indian ink drawings.
It is also true that his country house enabled him to feel a lot freer, which counter balanced his professional life. That's where the "Turbulents" tribe was born. "La mere Celestine" is one of them and is at least 3 meters tall (9 feet). These "T" can be wound up manually. They're made out of wire netting, pieces of paper which are glued together, ox jaws, tins, lace underwear. . . and their sexuality is quite extravagant!
Did we collect all those works in order to open a museum?
Not at all. It all started on a bright day in 1970. At lunchtime, we were watching the news on TV and J.D suddenly appeared on the screen. "As France did not want to have it, JD has resolved to give his collection to Lausanne rough art museum". A castle would be fitted out to welcome the exhibition. Then followed the images of the collection. Alain was very excited. "But then, he exclaimed, what we collect is nothing but rough art. I'm going to write to Dubuffet. I must meet him, we must see that museum". So he wrote to him, enclosed a photo of his "Turbulents" and asked whether he could visit the exhibition, and was immediately invited to do so, and off we went to rue de Sèvre in Paris. We of course were filled with wonder, dumbfounded, Alain enthusiastically declared: " If l had my way, I could do something". Dubuffet was captivated, he answered "You look like a removal man, I like you, if you do set about doing something, then I'll help you and will give you a list of artists who are still active. We came back to rue Jacob, we had our heads in the clouds, we were possessed. That wretched Dubuffet had got into our lives and was going to playa determining part.
On the ground floor of our black of flats, there was a bookshop which specialized in foreign literature. A large advert could be read across the window "Closing down, sale". We knew the book-sellers but we didn't know they were about to retire.
Alain rushed to buy the shop and managed to get it after all sorts of trouble. On that very day, he let Dubuffet know about it. Dubuffet was amazed and quite pleased. This is how I' Atelier Jacob was born.
We had to make up a name for our type of creations. We could use "Art Brut" (Rough art) which had already been officially chosen by Dubuffet.
He wrote a letter to make a few suggestions such as "art-hors-les-normes / production extra-culturelles / 1' invention spontanée. "To conclude Art hors-les-normes doesn't sound bad. . .
We went with I' Art-hors-les-normes.
The "AJ" opened its doors in 1972 with a lot of works by
Aloyse which D had lent .
Old bags of jute which had been painted black covered the walls, which produced a terrific
The " AJ" lasted for 10 years. There were many visitors, the press spoke highly of the Atelier.There were fascinating exhibitions but very few collectors would buy from them.
Alain Bourbonnais had unknowingly
become a patron. In 1978 due to the initiative of MR and Alain Bourbonnais , a
spectacular exhibition opened its doors at Paris Modem Art
Museum. It was called "les singuliers de l'Art" The exhibition was so successful that it lasted
3 months instead of 3 weeks and its impact was so great that people are sometimes happy to
remember it at the Fabuloserie. That was 45 years ago.
Time to draw a conclusion. We had never been
"shopkeepers" so, why exhibit artists as in a
gallery? one after another? We had enjoyed a few group exhibitions a lot more.
It was becoming quite clear. We had to move to the country, to Dicy of course. We would have to fit out the outbuildings, not to open a museum but to shelter all our findings.
The "making" of the Fabuloserie was another difficult adventure. We spent week-ends buried in plaster, rubble. . .in short, it was a real building site. We'd come back to Paris, we would be exhausted but Alain would forge ahead and we would follow him.
And that's how a decentralized "anti-Beaubour" was created. It was a powerful citadel of dissidence, containing works of art liberated from the Atelier Jacob. And Dubuffet gave his approval.
Then some friends came round and all of them were dumbfounded. They all wanted us to show our collection: "You can't just keep all that to yourselves".
When it opened in 1983, the atmosphere was friendly.
The Fabuloserie is not exactly a museum, it's a place, an
exhibition room filled with curiosity,
Aladin's cave as M.Ragon would put it.
You're truly amazed every minute. It's like a ghost train with its secret doors, some arched passages which smacks of Mikonos.
"Thanks to the perfection with which it welcome those objects, this house is a mere work in its own right. It was made for popular art, a visitor described it as an "objet d'art".
The Fabuloserie is a place which makes you feel like creating. Teachers are aware of it: 3000 students every year with a high proportion of children from nursery schools. They come here to feel free to imagine, to make things.
In that place which reflects life, there is a great atmosphere. The works and the warmth of the place make a magical, dreamlike, invigorating, energizing universe.
" You won't be the same once you've been in there" "We too could do the same..."That's what we hear quite often.
People start talking, this new found harmony makes you feel all right and eventually makes you come back.
How can you account for that?
I think you have to look in the mirror in which those works of art are reflected. They're under-stand able and emotional.
Simple people who naively, primitively go straight to the point, who dare to live in a dreamlike world which is so different from the life they have to put up with.
We live a materialistic existence which is so ordinary. We're all stressed by our mundane life, we've lost our ability to dream.
What's the meaning of the Fabuloserie in this context? It brings a message of hope and trust in humanity and lets you see those who have not been deprived of their imagination.