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CoBrA: Back to Folk Art

Paris maintained its position as the Capital of Art during the post-war period but was challenged by art movements that no longer regarded the City of Light as the international centre of art. The CoBrA group was born in Paris in 1948 when Danish artist Asger Jorn, Belgian artist and author Christian Dotremont and Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys met at Café Notre Dame. Composed of the initial letters of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, the CoBrA group aimed to extend the art scene to encompass other parts of Europe than Paris. Striving to remodel traditional notions of contemporary art and challenge the idea of the stylistic unity of art, the CoBrA group was characterised by a multifaceted anarchy that comprised as many approaches as it contained artists. The central figure of the group, Asger Jorn, who had trained in Paris under Fernand Léger, introduced a deliberate complexity into his mixture of Surrealism, Folk Art and Spontanism, which occasionally manifested itself in artistic actions labelled “Situationism”.

CoBrA’s open-ended opportunities attracted several Danish artists, including Else Alfelt, Ejler Bille, Carl-Henning Pedersen, Egill Jacobsen and Sonja Ferlov Mancoba. The group was also joined by the Swedes Carl Otto Hultén and Anders Österlin. CoBrA had a brief lifespan and was dissolved in 1951, which corresponded with the group’s anarchic ambitions.