Preview the 2015 Outsider Art Fair

It's more insidery than ever.

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Mehrdad Rashidi, Untitled (2014). Photo: Henry Boxer Gallery.
Henry Darger, Flanengoe Girl Scouts Thirty Three Degree Rangers. Photo: Andrew Edlin Gallery.
Milton George, The Heap (1991). Photo: Pan American Art Projects.
Clementine Hunter, Cotton Pickers and African House (1995). Photo: Gilley's Gallery.
Marianne Schipaanboord, Jan Runhaar (2006). Photo: Een Nieuwe Wind.
Guyodo, Monsieur Le Baron (2013). Photo: Gallery Bourbon-Lally.
Wesner LaForest, Drumming (1959). Photo: Arte del Pueblo.
Ted Gordon, Firm Convictions (2007). Photo: Ames Gallery.
Kwame Akoto (aka Almighty God), The Most Valuable Player…Bill Gates (2012). Photo: Ernie Wolfe Gallery.
Philadelphia Wireman, Untitled (VII) (1970–75). From "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day," curated by Jay Gorney and Anne Doran.
Philadelphia Wireman, Untitled (VII) (1970–75). From "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day," curated by Jay Gorney and Anne Doran. Photo courtesy: Jay Gorney.
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Untitled (1977).
Courtesy Andrew Edlin Gallery.

On January 29, the Outsider Art Fair will open its doors, and help kick off the 2015 art fair season (sadly, the brief post-holiday hiatus is nearly over), with 50 international galleries bringing folk, self-taught, and outsider art to New York City.

Founded in 1993, the fair has been under the leadership of dealer Andrew Edlin‘s company Wide Open Arts since 2013—the same year a Paris version was introduced. Edlin touts this year’s crop of exhibitors as featuring “a lot of great new dealers, up-and-comers as well as some established ones.” He told artnet News that he sees a growing crop of new galleries striking out as specialists in the field, as well established contemporary galleries who are branching out and adding outsider artists to their rosters. Among the participating exhibitors Edlin expressed particular excitement over are LA’s Ernie Wolfe Gallery, which is bringing African works, and Arte del Pueblo, which is selling Haitian art from the collection of filmmaker Jonathan Demme. “I’m psyched about that,” said Edlin.

Another change for the fair’s 2015 edition is that its program of talks and events will be held before the opening, rather than during the fair on the Center548 rooftop as in years past. “Some of our dealers are some of our most passionate people about the field, and it’s always been tough for them to get away from the booth to come hear the talks,” said Edlin of the shift, which he hopes will “help build excitement for the fair earlier in the week.”

Kicking off the program on Monday, January 26, at NeueHouse will be “Paranoia and Creativity,” a panel moderated by artist and critic Anne Doran. The panel is inspired by “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day,” the special exhibition Doran co-curated for this year’s fair with dealer Jay Gorney. On Tuesday, Christie’s will host a panel discussion on “The Burgeoning Market.” The event marks the second time that the auction house has partnered with the fair (Christie’s VIPs got a private tour of the fair’s Paris outing this past year), and is a clear indicator of the growing popularity of outsider art, and its cachet among collectors.

“Last year, we talked about how the Venice Biennale and Carnegie International were showing outsider art, and now the Metropolitan received a major donation from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation of African American self-taught art from the deep South,” said Edlin, also pointing to Judith Scott’s recent show at the Brooklyn Museum (see The Met Hit the Jackpot of African-American Art). “Things continue to roll in terms of major institutions demonstrating that they think this work is really important.”

This year will be the last time the fair is held at the Chelsea event venue Center548, the former Dia Art Foundation, recently purchased by new owners who are evicting arts tenants (see Owner of Former Dia Building Ousts Independent Fair and Zach Feuer). The Outsider Art Fair is likely the penultimate art event to be held at the historic space, which will also host the Independent during Armory Week in March. Last year, the fair boldly entered the Frieze Week fray (see The Puzzle of the Outsider Art Fair and Outsider Art Fair Preview), only to retreat to its old, less-competitive January time-slot for the upcoming edition.

The availability of the venue played a major role in the date flip-flop, as Center548 was never able to offer the Outsider art fair a multi-year contract. With the event space closing this spring, May was a no-go, and “every weekend there’s some other conflict, between Fashion Week, or some other fair,” said Edlin. “We just decided to go back to the original date.” Luckily, the fair has always found that the stand alone format has worked well—this is an event for “outsiders,” after all.

For those unconvinced that they should explore the world of outsider art, Edlin has a compelling pitch: “It’s the best venue and exhibition in the world each year to see outsider art. If people want to know about outsider art they couldn’t do better than to come to the fair. It’s really a great representation of the field.”

The Outsider Art Fair will be open January 29–February 1 at Center 548, 548 West 22nd Street, New York.

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