Public interest in art created by people suffering from mental illnesses has been growing in recent years, while the topic is still relatively exotic in the academic world. In a unique research project at Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK, art works produced around 1900 by patients in mental asylums and hospitals in Switzerland have been recorded, documented, and examined. Their authors worked on many of them for long periods, always with dedication, and often revealing remarkable technical and artistic prowess. They saw their art as a contribution to public life, as their own invention and expression of their ideas, but also as an act to compensate for the dull life at, and criticism of, the institutions they were being treated. This field of art, and of art history, is subject to the dynamics of academic standards and, consequently, of inclusions and exclusions. This new book, featuring a manifold selection of previously unpublished art works, questions our contemporary understanding of art, making the reader revisit his or her own concept of what constitutes art and to engage with these artists and their work.
Text in English and German.
Published to accompany exhibitions at Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg, Germany from October 2018 to January 2019. at the Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland from February to May 2019, and at LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz, Austria from June to August 2019.