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Jean Dubuffet

Brutal Beauty

A painting by Jean Dubuffet, entitled Paysage aux Argus

An exhibition celebrating French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), one of the most singular and provocative voices in postwar modern art.

Brutal Beauty champions Dubuffet’s rebellious philosophy. Railing against conventional ideas of beauty, he tried to capture the poetry of everyday life in a gritty, more authentic way. This is the first major survey of his work in the UK for 50 years, showcasing four decades of his career, from early portraits and fantastical statues, to butterfly assemblages and giant colourful canvases. Dubuffet endlessly experimented and was clear on his purpose:

‘Art should always make you laugh a little and fear a little. Anything but bore’.

Alongside his own work, the exhibition features works from his collection of Art Brut (a phrase he coined, which translates as ‘raw art’). Acquired throughout his life, these works, and the artists that created them, profoundly impacted his approach to the making and meaning of art.

Advance booking is essential

Exhibition sponsored by Sotheby’s and generously supported by Mr Gregory Jankilevitsch; Waddington Custot; and Bauwerk.

All visitors, including Barbican Members, must book tickets online in advance at the moment as there is no ticket buying facilities on site. 

If you want to see the final selection of works in the exhibition please email [email protected]

Joint ticket offer

Your Visit

A few things to consider before your visit:

  • Our cloakrooms are currently closed so avoid bringing large bags with you. Long umbrellas will not be allowed in the gallery.
  • A large print guide is available to download here for visitors that might find it useful.
  • Advance Booking is essential - there are currently no ticket sales options available at the venue


‘Comical, cartoonish, wonky-nostrilled brilliance‘
‘Take a chance, see this show. This is art that feels alive.‘
‘This, I predict, will prove to be one of the exhibitions of the year, not least because it provides such a refreshing contrast to the sanitised ethereality of most art today.‘
‘You’d have to be very jaded to be bored by Dubuffet.‘
‘It is easy to see why Dubuffet’s joie de vivre should have proved so contagious.‘


black and white photo of jean dubuffet smiling against some sort of wall with giant black lines

Introducing Jean Dubuffet

Not familiar with Jean Dubuffet ? Don’t fear, as our Research Assistant and resident Dubuffet expert Camille Houzé has written a short biography about the artist’s life and legacy.

Rashid Johnson

Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty Talks

Explore this series of talks with contemporary artists about how Jean Dubuffet and the Art Brut movement have influenced their practice. With Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu and more. 



Families and Schools

Family Activity Sheet

Get the whole family involved in the Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty exhibition with our interactive exercises in our Family Activity Sheet

Teachers' Resource 

Download our Teacher Resource, suitable for Key Stages 2 - 5. Inspired by Jean Dubuffet's playful and experimental spirit, the tasks are aimed to get students of all ages exploring his life and work in a fun and creative way. 

School Groups 

Entry to the Art Gallery is free for all students in Key Stages 1-3. A discounted group booking rate of £3 per student is available to students in formal education groups up to the age of 19. 

For bookings and enquiries please contact the school groups booking line:
Tel: 020 7382 7211 (Mon–Fri 10am–5pm)
Email: [email protected]

Please note, you will need to book at least two weeks in advance if you would like a free exhibition introduction as part of your visit.

All group visits will be subject to current government guidance, so please check current developments before planning your trip.

With thanks

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Art Gallery