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New Exhibition of Outsider Art at IMMA

A new exhibition of some 60 works from the Musgrave Kinley Collection of Outsider Art opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Thursday 3 July 2003. The Tail that Wags the Dog: Outsider Art in the Expressionist Tradition is being shown to coincide with IMMA’s Cobra exhibition, whose artists were inspired and liberated by non-mainstream art, including that produced by Outsider artists. The exhibition is curated by Monika Kinley, co-founder of the Musgrave Kinley Collection of Outsider Art, which has been on loan to the Museum since 1998. Many of the works are being exhibited for the first time.

Kinley has, for many years, harboured a desire to create an Outsiders’ show alongside the Cobra group artists, a radical group of artists and poets active in Europe in the immediate post-war period. She sees Roger Malbert’s (Senior Curator at the Hayward Gallery and co-curator of the Cobra exhibition) description of the Cobra works as “outrageous, irresponsible, funny and beautiful” as equally applicable to Outsider art. This is especially true of their forceful use of imagery and their refusal to set bounds to the nature and scope of their art. “Outsiders know no bounds either. There is no intellectual deliberation, they take up pen, brush and pencil, use anything at hand and start creating their powerful images. What emerges is surprising to them and to us.”

Outsiders images are rarely called forth by the political discussion and theorising beloved of Cobra artists, finding their inspirations rather from the artists’ own dreams, emotions and memories, yet in Kinley’s words “when you look at their work the visual connections, the creative impulse and the freedom from artistic convention that characterise the work of both Cobra and the Outsiders make this an interesting exercise in looking.”

The main affinity that Outsiders share with Cobra is this uninhibited mode of expression. An untypically colourful drawing by Madge Gill, shown in public for the first time in this exhibition, is just one of the many examples of work in the Outsider Collection arising from automatism. Madge Gill, like J B Murry, refuses to take either credit or praise for her remarkable creativity, attributing all her achievements to the work of a spirit that drove her to this form of expression without conscious mediation on her part.

Cobra’s critical espousal of the pictorial value of handwriting finds many echoes, too, in the work of Outsiders. From Carlo Zinelli, working in a psychiatric hospital in Verona in the 1950s, to the decorative scribblings of J B Murry, a retired share crop farmer from the American dustbowl or his compatriot Dwight Mackintosh, the same intuitive connection between picture making and writing as powerful pictorial forms of expression is repeated.

The Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection was established in 1981 by the British writer, film-maker and gallery director, Victor Musgrave, and his companion, Monika Kinley. The Collection was to have formed the nucleus of a proposed public museum of Outsider art. When that was not possible the Collection was offered to the Irish Museum of Modern Art- its first public home. Since Victor Musgrave’s death in 1984, Monika Kinley has continued the work of forming a representative collection to be made available to the public. The first Irish exhibition of work from the Outsider Art Collection, Art Unsolved, was held at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1998. Since then, works by Outsiders have been represented in most displays of the Museum’s own Collection, throughout Ireland via the National Programme. It was announced in 2000 that the collection of 750-works by some 70 artists will remain on indefinite loan to the Museum.

The exhibition continues until 4 January 2004.

Admission is free.

Opening hours: Tue – Sat 10.00am – 5.30pm
Sun, Bank Holidays 12 noon – 5.30pm
Mondays Closed

For further information and colour and black and white images please contact Monica Cullinane at Tel : +353 1 612 9900, Fax : +353 1 612 9999 Email : [email protected]

23 June 2003

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June. A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. There are three exhibitions to visit  Hilary Heron: A Retrospective; Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s shop, café and gardens are all open.