Accidental Genius: Background Information

Why is Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection important? Two reasons—one is institutional; the other, art historical.

First and foremost, the exhibition celebrates the gift of over three hundred works of art to the Milwaukee Art Museum from Anthony Petullo. Petullo is a collector and entrepreneur whose passion for self-taught art is matched by his dedication to Milwaukee and the Museum. You can find out more about him at his website.

Second, Accidental Genius cements the Milwaukee Art Museum as a national center for art by self-taught artists. The exhibition adds to the discussion among art historians that seeks to properly identify and place this work. Since most of these artists created their works removed from the influence of the fine art world, their work does not readily “fit” within the established categories of the art historical canon.

In the end, there are many different ways for you and your class to look at the artwork in Accidental Genius: the compositions, techniques, subject matter, narratives, and use of repetition and symmetry, to name a few. These works of art can enrich many subject areas, but at the heart of this collection is an exploration into the nature of humanity and art: What compels humans to create? Why is art important in our lives?

This exhibition is an opportunity for students to explore the importance of (and need for) expression and creativity.