exhibitions artists about contact


outsider artists

hawkins bolden
eugene von bruenchenhein
eileen doman
paul duhem
howard finster
william hawkins
s.l. jones
gilles manero
justin mccarthy
jean-michel messager
j.b. murray
philadelphia wireman
gerard sendrey
simon sparrow
carter todd
mose tolliver
robert wilkinson
purvis young

 Jean-Michel Messager: French (born 1960)

Jean-Michel Messager
Untitled (2005)
Craypas on paper :: 16½ x 11¾
Jean-Michel Messager
Jean-Michel Messager
Jean-Michel Messager
Jean-Michel Messager
Jean-Michel Messager
Jean-Michel Messager

biographical information

Art-making may be the single activity over which Jean-Michel Messager believes he has control. This may explain why he now devotes hours each day to painting and drawing. Messager can neither read nor write. He has trouble making himself understood to all but those who are closest to him. He suffers from autism, a condition diagnosed when he was three.

Apparently because he acted out around his three siblings, Messager spent most of his days as a youngster in the care of his grandparents, and, nights, was returned to the family home. At eleven, he was admitted to an institution for children with developmental disorders. It was there, when he was fourteen, that he suffered a horrific accident. He climbed an electrical tower and was jolted with 10,000 volts of power. Doctors told Jean-Michel's parents that there was almost no chance their son could continue living. He did survive following a convalescence that was long and hard, but his left arm had been so badly burned it had to be amputated.

Messager seemed unable to understand why he lost the limb. Over and over, he tried replacing it with crude prostheses that he fashioned from sticks or rolls of paper. He became more withdrawn than ever.

He didn't start drawing and painting until some time after his accident. While subjects sometimes seem identifiable in Messager's art -- a wraith-like face, perhaps, or a flower bud or the side of a mountain -- mostly his pictures seem to be about pure expression. Coincidentally, perhaps, his work seems to have parallels with that of postwar European painters like Asger Jorn, Enrico Donati and Lucio Fontana who, under the rubric of art informel (anti art), sought to create an art that overthrew traditional ideas of order and composition to emphasize such feelings as joy, alienation and loneliness. Anne Messager, who with her husband now cares for her son on a small family farm near Saint-Genix, has no explanation why Jean-Michel started to produce art. She also doesn't know if he intends for his richly colored paintings and crayon drawings to represent anything. She observes, however, that, more than anything, Messager seems to enjoy the daily walks he takes with her through a nearby fore st and atop a mountain. The paintings and drawings may represent the way Jean-Michel sees, or perhaps feels, the natural world. He produces work almost constantly, drawing and painting even when he is in a car on motor trips with his parents.

Messager's art is in several Euopean museums, including the Collection of Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland; the Musee de la Creation Franche in Begles, France, and the ABCD Collection (Art Brut Connaissance & Diffusion). in Paris. It is also in numerous private European and American collections of art brut.

price range:

$250 and up