London’s unmissable new Museum (of Everything)


No question, this was the do-not-miss event of the Frieze Art Week, and now its on til the New Year. James Brett, a maverick collector of naïve, folk and outsider art has converted a rambling recording studio into a new museum for his collection (and quite a few loans), which evokes a glittering Aladdin’s cave of eccentric marvels. You enter via a tiny courtyard on a side street, off Primrose Hill High Street. The winding corridors and small rooms are perfectly suited to show this dense display of idiosyncratic, charming and sometimes cra-a-a-azy art dating from the early nineteenth century. Indian or Cajun music tinkles in the background. Some of the art here is by the best known names of ‘outsider’ art. There are a room of drawings by Henry Darger, full of innocent children gambolling provocatively in Edenic landscapes (Don’t worry, officer, there’s no need to send the Child Protection Unit round – it’s nothing like the Richard Prince at the Tate). And there are a handful of Ned Chand’s figures made from discarded pottery fragments and beads, – back in the Punjab Chand has filled 2 square kilometers with these totems. There is work by African American artist Sam Doyle – Basquiat once swapped an entire exhibition for a couple of Doyles. Yet the big names – including a few Alfred Wallis’s – are hung next to the most obscure discoveries. Look out for the chapel-like installation of the work of Sister Getrude Morgan and the intricate Indian Temple made from computer parts by A.C.M. There are tribute texts on the wall from well-known artists and musicians who have been inspired by them, including David Byrne, Ed Ruscha, Nick Cave, Peter Blake, Carsten Hoeller, Paul Noble and others.  

(Illustration: Friday Disasters by George Widener. Widener (b. 1962) was a Southern artist with exceptional memory and mathematical skills, whose inner world is revealed in beguiling diagrams on discarded paper napkins)

Museum of Everything, Corner of Regent’s Park and Sharpeshall St, NW1. until 2010

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