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!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.