On January 29 the Outsider Art Fair will launch its 23rd edition, boasting 50 exhibitors (its most ever) at Center 548 in Chelsea, all part of a trend owner Andrew Edlin (of the eponymous gallery) sees as a growing demand and relevance for outsider art in the past few years.
As examples he cited the sale of a Henry Darger work at Christie’s Paris in December for over $700,000 and the prevalence of outsider artists (generally defined as those who work outside the art systems of their time or without training) in the last Venice Biennale, or at the most recant Carnegie International.
“More than ever contemporary collectors are buying outsider art,” he posited, naming the “blue chip” artists as Darger, Martin Ramirez, Grandma Moses, and James Castle, adding Augustin Lesage, a French artist from the late 1920s, a work of whose sold for $519,238 last year at auction, according to Artnet.
The fair will host a talk at Christie’s discussing that market the week of the fair.
But Edlin invited non-collectors to visit as well.
“I think in general people respond to how fresh the work is,” he said, “and that’s to a large degree because it’s not derivative. All contemporary art is based on, or certainly informed by, art historical references. The fact that these artists are not working in that continuum—most of the times the audience isn’t even in the equation when these [outsider] artists are making the work—that’s why the work is so radically individualistic, over anything else you see at any art fair, and right when you walk in you can see there are just things that you don’t see at any other fair.”