The Outsider Art Fair celebrates 20 years of soulful work from self-taught artists.
Founded two decades ago by Sanford Smith to showcase the work of artists who exist outside not only the art world but also normal society, the Outsider Art Fair has grown into an interactive event featuring 35 gallery-exhibitors from North America, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean, including the participation of the Collection de l’Art Brut from Lausanne, Switzerland and New York’s El Museo del Barrio. Powerful, moving and visionary, the work of outsider artists always comes with a story.
“From the prisoner who creates small embroidered paintings from the yarn in his sock, to the sharecropper in the south who paints or creates what he has in his head from God, (outsider art) is made by people who paint their fantasies, their horrors and their wishes,” explains Sanford Smith. “It’s created by all kinds of people and the exciting thing about the genre is people come and fall in love with the art, but they also fall in love with the story.”
“You can be outside the mainstream but there is a misunderstanding that you have to be outside running barefoot though the Ozarks,” adds gallerist Marion Harris, who represents the work of the late artist Morton Bartlett. “Bartlett went to Harvard for two years then dropped out.” Discovered after he died, the reclusive bachelor’s handcrafted “family” of dolls and photography has sold out, with a “greatest hits” of his imagery introduced at the fair this year.
Growing from a small section of Smith’s American Folk Art Show to the most high-profile venue for self-taught artists, the Outsider Art Fair has seen its offerings cross over—and even influence—the world of modern art. Pieces from Creative Growth gallery in Oakland, which represents artists with developmental disabilities, are in MOMA’s permanent collection and collected by the likes of David Byrne and Cindy Sherman. Morton Bartlett’s dolls and photography are set for a May 2012 retrospective in the contemporary art Bahnhof Museum in Berlin.
“Outsider Art is very interesting to people right now because it’s a reflection of our time. It’s so immediate, it’s not some postmodern game,” says Tom Di Maria, director of the non-profit Creative Growth. “Our artists are not making products for consumption and there’s no right or wrong (in what they create). No one’s going to tell you if it’s good or bad.”
Although certain works by the likes of the reclusive Henry Darger (the subject of the heartbreakingly beautiful 2004 documentary The Realms of the Unreal), and the schizophrenic folk artist Martin Ramirez can command hundreds of thousands of dollars, Smith says the majority of outsider art pieces can be bought for under $1,000, making it ideal for first time collectors. “Outsider art is wonderful for the novice collector because it’s reachable and it has a real emotional response.”
The Outsider Art Fair will run from January 27th through January 29th at 7 West 34th Street in Manhattan. For more information, please visit sanfordsmith.com.
— Posted by GrandLife Hotels , January 24, 2012