The Outsider Art Fair is the rare event that inspires visitors to say to one another again and again, as they walk up and down the aisles, “Don’t you love coming here each year?”
Open this weekend at New York’s Metropolitan Pavilion, on West 18th Street, the fair’s 25th edition brings together dozens of international dealers showing work by untrained artists, and you’re sure to find something you’ll want to take home.
Here are some favorites we found, some by unknown artists, some by Outsider superstars, while roaming the VIP preview on Thursday afternoon, attended by a record-breaking 3,500 people, according to the organizers.
1. Pinkie Maclure at Henry Boxer Gallery, Richmond, UK
The artist wandered Europe for years, trying her luck as a musician and recording some 10 albums before getting a job repairing stained-glass windows. She soon tried her hand at creating her own, based more on traditional imagery than the abstract ones she’d been charged with fixing up, with compelling results. Prices range from $4,500 to $8,500.
2. Michael J. Pellew Jr. at LAND Gallery, Brooklyn
Michael J. Pellew Jr.’s portraits of artists who need no introduction, hilariously wearing “Hello my name is” stickers, won my heart. Check out Lady Gaga and Prince thusly introducing themselves. They’re a bargain at $450.
3. Felipe Jesus Consalvos at Fleisher/Ollman
Felipe Jesus Consalvos worked in a cigar factory in Miami, where he often integrated cigar bands into collages that included all kinds of pop imagery from the early to mid-20th century. He frequently put George Washington in drag; in one collage here, our nation’s father drives a horse and buggy whose horse is actually a centaur, half-horse, half-Napoleon Bonaparte. Some collages are priced as low as $3,500.
4. Anonymous artist at Tanner-Hill Gallery
This tin plate hung on someone’s front door or the gate at the entry to their yard, and its African-American adaptation of an angel from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna echoes the efforts of countless artists who are contesting the white canon of art history.
5. Daniel Green at Creativity Explored
Daniel Green, who creates his drawings at studio-gallery Creativity Explored, often incorporates imagery from martial arts video games, sometimes juxtaposing it with historical figures. Here, Martin Luther King Jr. appears alongside John F. Kennedy and fellow Civil Rights organizer Roy Wilkins. They’re as affordable as $700.
6. Gil Batle at Ricco/Maresca
Gil Batle’s dexterity got him into trouble when it was turned to the purpose of forgery, and he landed in prison for some 25 years. His carved ostrich-egg sculptures depict scenes from behind prison walls, including stabbings, messages passed through prison bars, and cops with nightsticks. They’re wildly engrossing, and they’re $14,000.
7. Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern at Galerie Pol Lemétais
While there are increasing levels of crossover between the Outsider art sphere and the more conventionally delimited art world, integration is nothing new; the Surrealist artists championed Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern, and it’s easy to see why. Check out this bizarre landscape with a hybrid animal whose jaws are also heads. You can take it home for just $9,000.
8. Gee’s Bend Quilts at Wide Open Arts
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend are a staple of displays of outsider artists, but there’s no amount of exposure that could exhaust our adoration for them.
9. Frank Johnson at Chris Byrne
Chicagoan Frank Johnson, an itinerant musician by day, drew thousands of pages of comics devoted in part to a circle of friends he called Wally’s Gang. Though he started drawing at sixteen, and despite his abundant output, his wife discovered the drawings only after he died.
10. Tantra Paintings at Hervé Perdriolle
Tantra paintings, the anonymous work of Hindu priests, are nothing new to those who frequent this fair, but their abstract shapes, meant to evoke various spiritual states and principles, are endlessly alluring and they’re a bargain at $2,500.
11. Courttney Cooper at Western Exhibitions
Cooper’s work reminds us that long before surveying and computer mapping, cartography was partly the work of visual artists. His maps of Cincinnati are highly subjective; in one, various planes fly through the skies, dragging banners behind. One of them reads, “You’re a fat stinking drunk! —God.” Large maps go for up to $16,000, while small drawings are as affordable as $2,000.
12. Mark Hogancamp at One Mile Gallery
If you haven’t seen Marwencol, Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary about artist Mark Hogancamp, move it up to the top of your queue. Hogancamp was savagely beaten by some thugs at a bar when he drunkenly revealed his cross-dressing habit, and since emerging from a coma, he’s been working on a scale model of a World War II-era Belgian town populated by dolls. Check out the large photos, which sell in the range of $6,000 to $11,000. There are also smaller ones that go for as little as $1,000.
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