The Outsider Art Fair Calls Off Plans for a Basel Edition

The fair will stay put in New York and Paris—for now.

Andrew Edlin Gallery planned to bring Adolf Wölfli’s Bangali Firework, to the now-cancelled Outsider Art Fair Basel. Courtesy of Andrew Edlin Gallery
Andrew Edlin Gallery planned to bring Adolf Wölfli’s Bangali Firework, to the now-cancelled Outsider Art Fair Basel. Courtesy of Andrew Edlin Gallery

In just a little more than two months from now, the Outsider Art Fair was set to touch down in Basel. But dealer Andrew Edlin, who runs the fair in New York and Paris, has cancelled the first Swiss edition, originally scheduled for June 13–17.

“Even though we have great reach, we are still a modest-sized company that needs to be mindful of the size and speed of its growth,” Edlin told artnet News in an email. “There were a lot of hurdles for the fair and our dealers to pull off an exhibit in Switzerland, perhaps a bit more than anticipated.”

During the past several years, a number of art fairs have been expanding to new cities and continents, with Dutch mainstay TEFAF crossing the Atlantic to New York, and, more recently, the London-born Frieze announcing plans for an outing in Los Angeles.

But several others have stopped short in their expansionist plans. Paris’s Foire internationale d’art contemporain (FIAC) was set to launch a Los Angeles edition in 2015, but postponed and ultimately cancelled that event. Paris Photo Los Angeles is also a thing of the past, as are the Hamptons art fairs once run by Urban Expositions and Art Miami owner Nick Korniloff. The PULSE Contemporary Art Fair has cut its New York fair and now appears only once annually, in Miami.

Installation view of Paris’ Outsider Art Fair 2016. Courtesy Jean Picon / Say Who.

Installation view of the Paris edition of the Outsider Art Fair 2016. Photo courtesy of Jean Picon/Say Who.

The Outsider Art Fair, dedicated to the work of self-taught artists, was founded in 1993, and was purchased by Edlin through his company Wide Open Arts in September 2012. A second Paris edition followed the following year. In 2014, Edlin experimented with moving to a Frieze Week outing in May, before returning to its traditional January dates as part of New York Winter Antiques Week.

“We decided we were better off consolidating the considerable gains we’ve made in Paris over the last five years, rather than spreading ourselves too thin right now,” Edlin said. “I assure you that no exhibitors were out any fees or dollars as a result of our backing out of Basel. We made sure to let them know before they had booked flights or hotels.”

The expansion had been initially announced on February 23 and would have featured galleries who had previously exhibited at the fair in New York or Paris. Edlin said he hopes to revisit the possibility of a Basel edition in the future.

Read the full statement from the Outsider Art Fair below.

Wide Open Arts has decided to postpone the edition of the Outsider Art Fair Basel scheduled for June 13–17 in Switzerland.

The decision was not an easy one. While our cultural footprint is significant, we are still a modest-sized company that needs to be mindful of the size and speed of its growth. There is so much happening in Outsider Art right now. The current exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington DC, “Outliers and American Vanguard Art,” is shining an art historical light on our field, and we are also anticipating the opening of “History Refused to Die” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in late May.

We look forward to consolidating our tremendous strides in Paris, continuing with our dynamic programming and strengthening the great partnerships we have made there. After 26 years, the New York fair feels as fresh as ever and we plan on delivering another great edition in January 2019.

We’re sorry to disappoint our committed dealers and art lovers who were excited about Basel. To them we say, “We’re on our way, see you in Paris!”


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