It was a perk I never expected to have at work. And it is a perk that is most likely lost on many of my colleagues. But every time I step into the R/GA office at 350 W. 39th street I get a special treat. That treat is being exposed to Robert (Bob) Greenburg’s massive collection of Outsider Art, or as it is also known Art Brut.
Art Brut describes works created by a spectrum from insane-asylum and prison inmates to individuals not within the mainstream art world. I believe this to mean they have no formal training, do not show in galleries or institutions and most likely are only discovered after they have passed from this world. I will be totally honest, the work is not really my cup of tea. The pieces often represent very extreme and disturbing mental states; mental states I personally wish to avoid. I am a big advocate for “that which you focus on you will become,” so plan to stick to happy, bright and uplifting thoughts. But that is art for you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and different tastes appeal to different people.
What I really dig about the collection at R/GA is that Bob has brought a museum setting into an active creative workspace. It makes it tangible and provides an interesting contrast to the digital work – visceral art meets virtual art. The work is right there in your face. My only qualm is attending meetings in their second floor conference rooms. The rooms to start with are pretty compact, so it is very intimate. Then there are these really creepy dolls separated from the conference table narrowly by a glass wall. Which means they command a major presence in the room. Basically they are participants – participants that evoke a certain tension putting this genre of art well into context.
If you want to learn more about Outsider Art I recommend diving into the Art Brut Collection in Lausanne, Switzerland. The web site has a fantastic index of artists and their works.
And if you are keen on seeing more of Bob’s collection do check out this video. Cameos of the art work are woven throughout the footage. In the last minute or so, Bob gives a brief tour and provides some background on several of the pieces.