artists & participants


press release

Art, exile and psychiatry around François Tosquelles
October 14, 2021–March 6, 2022

This unprecedented exhibition reveals a little-known story that made a special contribution to 20th-century psychiatry, lending it new connections to art brut and modern art. As its starting point, it takes the life of Catalan psychiatrist François Tosquelles (1912–1994). It traces paths of exile, both of the Spanish Retirada and the Second World War, describing the role this doctor played among the patients in the Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole psychiatric hospital. After fleeing along with 500,000 Spanish refugees after three years of war and after spending time in the Septfonds internment camp, he moved to Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole in 1940. In this hospital, he developed new methods of treatment based on the group and on artistic work and creation by patients whose artworks would later be collected by Jean Dubuffet as art brut. During this period, the hospital of François Tosquelles and Lucien Bonnafé received exiled artists and writers, as the Surrealist Nusch and Paul Éluard, who were struck by the place and its inhabitants. After the war, the foundation of a disalienating psychiatry, known as community psychiatry began to be laid through group activities such as cinema, clubs and magazines. Avant-garde psychiatrists worked at the hospital, such as Frantz Fanon, the philosopher on decolonization. Les Abattoirs is hosting the first stage of this international project, bringing together more than 100 artworks, including art created by the hospital patients as well as films, books, archives, photographs, and a section devoted to contemporary art. In 2022 this exhibition will tour to the CCCB in Barcelona and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, and in 2023 to the American Folk Art Museum in New York.