Haifa Museum Brings Outsider Artists Inside the World of Israeli Art

Exhibit Showcases Work by Henry Darger and Shalom of Safed

The Outsiders: Shalom of Safed’s painting of ‘King Solomon’ is on display as part of an exhibition at the Haifa Museum of Art.
Courtesy of Haifa Museum of Art
The Outsiders: Shalom of Safed’s painting of ‘King Solomon’ is on display as part of an exhibition at the Haifa Museum of Art.

By Graham Lawson

Published April 18, 2013, issue of April 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When she was seeking out works for what would be the first exhibition of outsider and naive art in Israel, Ruti Direktor, chief curator at the Haifa Museum of Art, received a negative reply from the Collection de l’Art Brut (Collection of Raw Art), in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The administrators of the collection (which was initiated by French artist Jean Dubuffet, who also coined the term “Art Brut”) refused to lend artworks to the Haifa Museum, stating that works from the collection would be lent only on the condition that they are exhibited alone and never with naive or folk art.

Direktor, however, was intent on showing local naive and folk artists, as well as established international outsiders, so she proceeded with her initial intention, but the scenario was typical of what could be seen as a purist approach occasionally adopted by those involved in the field of outsider art. For Direktor, who has long been an admirer of that type of art, the distinctions between it and naive and folk art are not quite so distinct.

The resulting exhibition, made up of works on loan from the American Folk Art Museum as well as from private collections, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv’s Engel Gallery, presents an exotic mix of 27 international and Israeli outsider, naive and folk artists. The haunted and unsettling works of classic outsiders such as Henry Darger and Morton Bartlett are placed in stark contrast to the more decorative and simpler folkloric forms of Shalom Moskovitz, better known as Shalom of Safed, and Moshe Elnatan, to name but two.

Outsider art first began to attract attention in the early part of the 20th century. Studies carried out by European doctors on patients, who felt compelled to create art, were published in lavishly illustrated books. These studies influenced such artists as Paul Klee, Max Ernst and even Picasso. But Dubuffet, more than any other artist, actively sought out such art and was primarily responsible for bringing it into the public spotlight, eventually amassing a collection that numbers in the thousands and is now permanently housed in the aforementioned museum in Lausanne.

For the most part, these artists were self-taught and worked outside what would be considered art-world norms, having no contact with museums or galleries, and paying little heed to the traditions or techniques of the Western art-historical canon. Many of them were known to have suffered from mental disorders and inhabited society’s peripheral regions, living off-the-grid lives, often creating their work in secret, with a quiet, and at times obsessive, determination.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.