MICHEL NEDJAR
(1947 | FRANCE)

Michel Nedjar was born in Soisy-sous-Monmorency (France) in 1947. Third of seven children, his family is Jewish and linked to Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions: his father, algerian Sefaradi, was a tailor, while his mother, polish Ashkenazi, settled in Paris in the early 1920s to escape the pogrom. Much of his family has disappeared in concentration camps.
During his childhood, Michel secretly loved playing with his sisters’ dolls, also making clothes for them; he also helped his grandmother sell rags at the Paris flea market. This textile passion was indulged so much that, at the age of fourteen, he was taken as an apprentice in a clothing store. At that time, he watched Alain Resnais’s film “Nuit et Brouillard” and became aware that most of his family had disappeared or exterminated during the Holocaust. This experience remains the most tragic event of his adolescence and his life.
A few years later he left for a trip to India, Asia and Mexico, where he came in contact for the first time with traditional magic rites and Kachina dolls capable of casting spells.
Upon his return to Paris in the Seventies, Michel began producing the first “Poupées”, fetish dolls with pieces of fabric, rags and plastic bags, further personalizing them with feathers, wood, straw, string and shells. Many were bathed in a mixture of water and dye, mud or blood, then hung to dry, to obtain an aged and also obscure effect.
Subsequently he begins other series of dolls: Purim (related to the traditional Jewish holiday) and leather dolls. Burned corpses and mutilated bodies are the main themes of his production.
In the late 1990s, the dark aura gave way to lighter, less frightening forms. In 1998, Michel started creating a series of “travel dolls” that underline the artist’s love for travel and global discoveries.

Michel Nedjar nasce a Soisy-sous-Monmorency (Francia) nel 1947. Terzo di sette figli, la sua è una famiglia ebrea legata a tradizioni aschkenazi e sefardite: il padre, algerino Sefaradi, era un sarto, mentre la madre, polacca Ashkenazi, si stabilì a Parigi all’inizio degli anni Venti per sfuggire dal pogrom. Gran parte della sua famiglia è scomparsa nei campi di concentramento. 
Durante la sua infanzia, Michel amava giocare segretamente con le bambole delle sue sorelle, realizzandone inoltre i vestiti; inoltre aiutava la nonna a vendere stracci al mercato delle pulci di Parigi. Questa sua passione venne assecondata tanto che, all’età di quattordici anni, venne preso come apprendista in un negozio di abbigliamento. In quel periodo, guardò il film di Alain Resnais “Nuit et Brouillard” e divenne consapevole che la maggior parte della sua famiglia era scomparsa o sterminata durante l’Olocausto. Questa esperienza rimane l’evento più tragico della sua adolescenza e della sua vita.
Qualche anno dopo partì per un viaggio in India, Asia e in Messico, dove venne a contatto per la prima volta con riti magici tradizionali e degli incantesimi delle bambole Kachina.
Ad suo ritorno a Parigi, negli anni Settanta, Michel iniziò a produrre le sue prime “Poupées”, bambole fetish con pezzi di tessuto, stracci e sacchi di plastica, personalizzandole ulteriormente con piume, legno, paglia, spago e conchiglie. Molte furono immerse in una miscela di acqua e tintura, fango o sangue, quindi appesi a seccare, per ottenere un effetto invecchiato e pauroso.
Successivamente incomincia altre serie di bambole: Purim (legate alla tradizionale festa ebraica) e bambole in pelle. Cadaveri bruciati e corpi mutilati sono i temi principali della sua produzione.
Alla fine degli anni Novanta l’aura oscura ha ceduto il posto a forme più lievi e meno spaventose. Nel 1998, Michel iniziato a creare una serie di “bambole da viaggio” che sottolineano l’amore dell’artista per i viaggi e le scoperte globali.

michel nedjar in his atelier à saint-martin © pierre-emmanuel rastoin
Michel Nedjar in his atelier in Saint-Martin © Pierre-Emmanuel Rastoin

Since 1980 he has also created drawings on wax and paintings on recovered supports, such as old colored rags, newspapers, packaging, together with bas-reliefs in plaster or papier-mâché.

Dubuffet discovered his works and started collecting his dolls. This was an opportunity to introduce Michel Nedjar to the world of Art Brut: this meeting was so enthusiastic that he himself started looking for new artists, to collect their works and, in 1984, to co-found – together with Madeleine Lommel and Claire Teller – L’Aracine collection: reaching 3500 works it was donated in 1999 to LaM in Villeneuve d’Ascq (therefore the first art brut museum in France).
Michel Nedjar currently lives in Paris, where he continues to work on his creations.

Dal 1980 realizza inoltre disegni su cera e pitture su supporti recuperati, come vecchi stracci colorati, giornali, imballaggi, insieme a bassorilievi in gesso o cartapesta. 

Dubuffet scoprì i suoi lavori e iniziò a collezionare le sue bambole. Fu l’occasione per introdurre Michel Nedjar al mondo dell’Art Brut: questo incontro fu talmente entusiastico che lui stesso iniziò a cercare nuovi artisti, a collezionare le loro opere e, nel 1984, a co-fondare – insieme a Madeleine Lommel e Claire Teller – la collezione L’Aracine: arrivata a 3500 opere venne donata poi nel 1999 al LaM di Villeneuve d’Ascq (considerabile dunque il primo museo di art brut in Francia).
Michel Nedjar attualmente vive a Parigi, dove continua a lavorare alle sue creazioni.

Untitled, between 1976 and 1982, sculpture of scrap rags, strings and various materials coated with mud, 40 x 50 cm, © Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
Untitled, c. 1983 mixed media 96.52 x 55.88 x 27.94 cm © Outsider Art Fair website
Untitled, c. 1983 mixed media 96.52 x 55.88 x 27.94 cm © Outsider Art Fair website
untitled (Belleville), 1985-1986, papier mâché, pigments, plaster, chaff, 19.99 x 19.99 x 14 cm
Untitled (Belleville), 1985-1986, papier mâché, pigments, plaster, chaff, 19.99 x 19.99 x 14 cm, © Christian Berst Gallery
Untitled, 1984, coloured pencil on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm, © Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
Untitled, 1984, coloured pencil on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm, © Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne

Useful Links:
Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne
Michel Soskine Inc, New York
Christian Berst Gallery, Paris
Outsider Art Fair

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