Jean Dubuffet, Bal des Figures

04 November - 03 January 2022

The Jean Dubuffet, Bal des Figures exhibition, opening on November 4th and running until December 18th, 2021 at the Parisian venue of Opera Gallery, highlights the work of the leading defender of Art Brut. Paradoxically, although he rejected the then-prevailing culture, schools, and techniques taught, Dubuffet’s body of work played a major role in the artistic landscape of the second half of the 20th century. 

This exhibition attests to the tremendous creativity of this prolific artist (1901–1985), who throughout his career constantly instilled change in his style. Elevating non-knowledge to the role of guiding principle in his singular body of work, which followed the rhythm of successive series, he ceaselessly explored and developed experiments around bold, indeed audacious “tonalities” that were invariably disconcerting. Resistant to standards, he considered that “True art always appears where you do not expect it – where nobody thinks of it or utters its name.”


Dubuffet’s polymorphic work covers six decades of the 20th century. Therefore, in order to account for the different aspects of his creative output, the exhibition organised by Opera Gallery revolves around selected key moments underlined by an alternance between works on paper (drawings and gouaches), painted masterpieces, and sculptures.

In the wake of WWII, Dubuffet sparked off fierce debate when he exhibited works that were a deliberate counterpoint to a certain artistic “doxa”. He had a passion for art by self-taught creators and “outcasts”, whose work he began to collect. For his part, he produced a proteiform body of work made of assemblages and experimental approaches, mixing genres and media, somewhere between reality and the imaginary. “A chorus of materials. A chorus of the constituents of the artist’s thinking. Thus do reason and logic sing. Impetuosity, brutality, and ferocity sing. Spinelessness and cowardice too. All at once. With imaginativeness and gratuitous, indeed even bizarre or incoherent invention. Obscure aspirations. Exhilaration and madness. In that very moment, the oil paint wants with all its might to drip and run, the colours seek to corrupt themselves, seeping into the neighbouring colours that haven’t yet dried. The hand attempts to prevent them. And all the elements bawl at the top of their voices, free, unconstrained – or at least in such a way that there is no apparent constraint, for there is nonetheless a direction, there is a conductor, albeit a subtle supple and subtle one, leading this orchestra.”




Photos: Nicolas Brasseur