Ansicht Werke von Harald Bender in der Dauerausstellung im Museum Sammlung Prinzhorn
Museum Outsider Art

Outsider Art


The term "Outsider Art" refers to astonishingly original artistic works whose artistic language differs from concurrent or past high art or popular culture. This is because their creators are either not involved in the art business, or they do not consider their creations (individual works or groups of works) to be part of their actual artistic output. As a rule, Outsider Art is created out of a special existential condition (mental disability, developmental disorder), a special psychological state (lucid dreaming experience or mediumistic trance), or out of a special existential impulse, which can arise just as much from a loss of conventional ties to reality as from traumata of varying severity. Such sensitivities generate in some gifted people a great urge to create and/or express themselves, which activates all available creativity, and quickly creates a coherent and unquestioned new form. This can develop further, but mostly only within certain limits, as it contributes substantially to the (new) stabilisation of its creator. Today, the term "Art brut" (used especially in francophone countries) denotes almost the same thing as Outsider Art – with the exception of the fact that the advocates of the former are often more rigid in warding off attachments to other marginal forms of art.


The term "Outsider Art" is at a critical stage in its development. On the one hand, it has gradually become accepted in the art world, and the art market as a designation for an idiosyncratic form of art; on the other hand, it is precisely for this reason that it is being increasingly questioned by art critics. At any rate, one could argue that its task is to make itself superfluous.

However, a real, equal integration (in the sense of inclusion) of Outsider Art into the art establishment will only be achieved when we have also broadened our conception of art in general, and when we no longer expect to find behind the works in exhibitions only those with an approach to reality which largely resembles our own, but rather, when we are open to an abundance of alternative messages, as idiosyncratic and deviant as they may seem.

Exhibition view of Harald Bender's works in the Prinzhorn Collection Museum © Prinzhorn Collection, Heidelberg University Hospital