Artist, writer, founder of art organizations and political activist, Jean-Jacques Lebel is also a great collector. His eye is drawn to marginal pieces of mainstream culture: raw, non-Western, primitive and surreal art.
He inherited the rich collection of his father, Robert Lebel (1901-1986), an art critic specialized in Marcel Duchamp. The collection emerges as a testimony of the vivaciousness of another art history, going against the academic grain.
Robert Lebel, like Claude Levi-Strauss, Georges Duthuit, Isabelle and Patrick Waldberg, revolved around a core group of surrealist exiles in America between 1941 in 1946: André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Marx Ernst, Andre Masson, Yves Tanguy, Roberto Matta, Dorothea Tanning, Jacqueline Lamba.
In New York, they quenched their curiosity for north American and Inuit art in the American Museum of Natural History and Julius Carlebach’s antique shop. Julius Carlebach acted as middleman between George Heye, founder of the Museum of the American Indian, who dispersed a few pieces of the collections, and the collectors rooted in surrealism.