French, 20th century.
Born 1911, Paris, France; died 1976, Paris, France.
It would be an understatement to say that Marcel Storr had a difficult childhood. Abandoned by his mother at the age of two, Storr spent the early part of his life as a ward of the state, ending up in the care of Alsatian nuns. In his youth, he apprenticed as a farmer in the French countryside. However, Storr's life in the rural Yonne and Tarn-et-Garonne regions of France was far from bucolic. As a farm laborer, Storr was often physically abused and malnourished; he received little, if any, education and was frequently in poor health. Indeed, Storr eventually became deaf due to recurrent contractions of tuberculosis.
In 1932, Storr moved back to Paris and found various odd jobs, ranging from janitor to dishwasher. In 1946, he is known to have found a job as a load-handler for Paris’s Les Halles market. The subsequent 18 years of Storr’s life remain a historical lacuna; very little is known of his personal, professional and artistic life during this period.
By 1964, Storr had changed jobs once again, this time sweeping leaves in the Bois de Boulogne, and was married to a primary school caretaker named Marthe. Storr’s wife would come to play an important role in terms of his artistic legacy; one could even say that, without her, Storr’s fantastical architectural drawings may have died with him. In 1971, Marthe secretly showed a portfolio of about sixty works to a Parisian couple, Bertrand and Liliane Kempf. Despite the Kempfs’ interest and enthusiasm, Storr, known to be intensely private about his work, was obstinately opposed to any talk of exhibiting or selling his creations.
Storr passed away in 1976 and the Kempfs effectively became the custodians, as it were, of his legacy. In 2011, they helped organize the first exhibition of Storr’s entire oeuvre at the Pavillon Carré de Baudouin in Paris. Titled Marcel Storr: bâtisseur visionnaire (visionary builder), the exhibition drew over 20,000 visitors with its grand visions of a post-apocalyptic Parisian landscape.
Storr intended his work to be used as a kind of reference tool. He believed that Paris would be destroyed by nuclear warfare and that his drawings of soaring cathedrals and labyrinthine cities would be needed by the American government to rebuild the French capital. In this way, Storr’s drawings reveal not only a certain megalomanic imagination removed from structural and economic constraints, but also an awareness of the socio-political and cultural changes, ambitions and concerns that dominated the late 20th century.
2014, Marcel Storr: Reimagining Paris, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2013, Vues d'en haut: Collection Liliane et Bertrand Kempf, Centre Pompidou, Metz, France
2013, The Alternative Guide to the Universe, Hayward Gallery, London
2012, Marcel Storr: Bâtisseur Visionnaire, Pavillon Carré Baudouin, Paris
2011, Les Territoires de l'Art Modeste, Musée International de l'Art Modeste, Sète, France
2007, Magic Architecture, INSITA 2007, Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava
2005, Marcel Storr, La Mairie du IXe Arrondissement de Paris, Paris
2001, Halle Saint Pierre, Paris
Collection Liliane & Bertrand Kempf, Paris
Ebony, David, "In Step With The Outsiders: The Outsider Art Fair," Art in America, May 9, 2014.
Meier, Allison, "Psychedelic Plans for a Post-Apocalyptic Paris," Hyperallergic, June 25, 2013.
Cumming, Laura, "Review: Alternative Guide to the Universe," Observer, June 15, 2013.
Rousseau, Valérie, "Visionary Architectures," The Alternative Guide to the Universe, exhibition catalogue, ed. Ralph Rugoff, Hayward Publishing, London, 2013.
Couturier, Elisabeth, "Le rideau se lève sur Marcel Storr," Paris Match, February 23, 2012.
Dagen, Philippe, "Les cathédrales imaginaires de Marcel Storr," Le Monde, December 30, 2011.
Kempf, Liliane, Bertrand Kempf, Laurent Danchin, and Françoise Cloarec, Marcel Storr, Phébus, Paris, 2011.
Cloarec, Françoise, Storr, Architecte de l'ailleurs, Phébus, Paris, 2010.
Danchin, Laurent, "Les basiliques et cités paranoïaques de Marcel Storr: la revanche d'un imaginaire clandestin," Les dessins à l'ère des nouveaux médias, lelivredart, Paris, 2009.
Danchin, Laurent, "Marcel Storr: Revenge of an Underground Imagination," Raw Vision, No. 36, Fall 2001.