Curing the Institutions: The Legacy of Francesc Tosquelles
Curing the Institutions: The Legacy of Francesc Tosquelles
This exhibition—situated at the intersection of art and psychiatry—explores for the first time in the United States the legacy of Catalan psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles
American Folk Art Museum
April 12, 2024 to August 18, 2024
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Exhibition Details

After fleeing the Nationalist government of Franco amidst the Spanish Civil War, Tosquelles arrived in 1940 at the Saint-Alban psychiatric hospital in Southern France, where he devised a series of revolutionary psychiatric practices that came to be called “institutional psychotherapy,” predicated on non-hierarchical relations between patients, doctors, manual laborers on site, neighboring communities, and outsiders.

During the German occupation of France, this “asylum-village” also became a refuge for political dissidents and intellectuals associated with the artistic avant-garde, whom were exposed to the prodigious artistic output of its patients—among them Auguste Forestier, Marguerite Sirvins, and Aimable Jayet. It was in response to these very artworks that French artist Jean Dubuffet would come to coin the notion of “art brut” in 1945, beginning his now-celebrated collection.

Additional Details

The exhibition and accompanying book will include artworks by European artists associated with Tosquelles and Dubuffet’s concurrent aspirations to “cure” mental health and art institutions alike, as well as films and archival documents excavating Saint-Alban’s outsized but subterranean influence on French intellectual life in the 20th century, featuring Antonin Artaud, Paul Éluard, Frantz Fanon, and Jean Oury. In light of this rich legacy, Curing the Institutions will examine mental health history in the United States through the works of American artists—among them Martín Ramírez, Judith Scott, Masaaki Iswasmoto, Melvin Way, and Gabriel Mitchell.


American Folk Art Museum
2 Lincoln Square
New York, NY 10023

Image: Detail from Romain Vigouroux, Psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles on the roof of the Saint-Alban Psychiatric Hospital, holding a sculpture created by Auguste Forestier; summer 1947/ courtesy of American Folk Art Museum