To engage the imagination of children around design concepts, Galerie Philia in France recently launched a non-profit initiative named “Design Brut,” which pairs school children in France with furniture design studios to create gallery-worthy pieces.
The project takes its name from the term Art Brut—loosely translated from French as ‘raw-art’—coined in the 1940s by artist Jean Dubuffet, who looked to marginalized communities in an effort to discover the ‘new’ and not settle for studied art and design practices.
About Art Brut, Dubuffet wrote, “Those works created from solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulses—where the worries of competition, acclaim, and social promotion do not interfere—are, because of these very facts, more precious than the productions of professionals.” In current times, we are able to understand Dubuffet’s desire to step outside the grip of academia and look to the work of cultural outsiders, including children, to find exciting new ideas.
To create “Design Brut,” Galerie Philia’s founder Ygaël Attali took Dubuffet’s philosophy as inspiration “to find ways to stimulate connections, reflections, and discourses on design beyond academic conventions through collective workshops and collaborations that would be sustainable.”
For the inaugural edition of the initiative, a workshop was held over the summer with school children aged six and seven from Breil-sur Roya, a French village in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, to introduce them to the concepts of furniture design, form, and sculpture.
Under the guidance of their teacher, Virgile Ganne, as well as the artistic direction of contemporary designers Antoine Behaghel and Alexis Foiny from Studio Behaghel Foiny, the children began by drawing shapes and writing down their own ideas for functional, sculptural designs. They imagined chairs, side tables, pedestal tables, coat racks, and more in drawings free from technical restrictions and cultural markers. The designers then used those drawings as blueprints to create physical designs with a cabinet maker from the region in locally sourced olive wood.
The exhibition “Design Brut” presents the beguiling furniture items together, emphasizing the possibilities of sculpture and design that come from untrained, unrestrained, open minds coupled with the mastery of contemporary designers and skilled artisans.
Following the exhibition, the works will be available for purchase online at Galerie Philia. All funds raised will be invested in the second iteration of the project, slated to take place in the Dominican Republic in 2023.