A rare art fair that trades transactional frenzy for folksy charm, New York’s Outsider Art Fair will mark its 30th anniversary in 2022 with a focus on guest-curated exhibitions to join booths presented by some 65 dealers from near and far.
Slated for February 3–6 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan, the fair will feature special thematic offerings including a major presentation of psychedelic art curated by artist Fred Tomaselli and an offering of works from the collection of Michael Stipe, who as a member of R.E.M. championed outsider artists from the American South such as Reverend Howard Finster.
Other thematic shows will include a survey of self-taught artist and clay animator Bruce Bickford organized by the painter Eric White and filmmaker Aaron Guadamuz, as well as “Beyond Genres: Self-Taught Artists Making Contemporary Art,” curated by writer and artist Paul Laster. Past iterations of the fair have presented only one or two curated booths, as opposed to the four more extensive ones planned for next year.
“I wanted to honor the fair’s history but, at the same time, I am conscious of continuing to evolve,” Outsider Art Fair owner Andrew Edlin said of the anniversary edition’s planned slate. “This year we’re doing that with our biggest focus on special curated exhibitions. By far, more square footage will be taken up by those than ever before, and that flows out of what we learned during the shutdown.”
While an edition of the fair was presented last winter, the Outsider Art Fair—like so many other enterprises of the sort—had to improvise to stay fully active and engaged. Among its extracurricular offerings was “Super-Rough,” a group exhibition organized in June by artist Takashi Murakami in collaboration with a number of Outsider’s participating galleries in a space in SoHo.
“That was beautifully curated, and it created a really powerful message and effect for all our visitors,” Edlin said of the show. “A fair can only be so tight curatorially when you have 60-some-odd dealers doing their own thing. But that made me think we can continue to evolve and do things that are a little outside the norm of the commercial art fair yet still have the works be at least to some degree for sale—because, after all, an art fair is a commercial enterprise.”
One idea Edlin conceived for the upcoming fair is “Field Trip: Psychedelic Solution, 1986-1995,” which he handed over to Tomaselli, whose own artwork shares special affinities with the lineage of psychedelia. The exhibition will take over three booths’ worth of space and feature work by artists including Bruce Conner, Robert Crumb, Alex Grey, and Rick Griffin. (Plus Grace Slick: “When she was tripping, she did a painting on a bass-drum head,” Edlin said. “We have that painting.”)
The presentation of work from Stipe’s collection amassed in and around Athens, Georgia, will be organized by Phillip March Jones, a former director of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation and the founder of Institute 193, a nonprofit art space and publisher based in Lexington, Kentucky.
“There’s an ongoing conversation about outsider art,” Edlin said. “And these curated exercises will spark contextual ways to keep pushing the boundaries, keep making it fresh, and keep getting people excited—for different constituencies who want to come to the fair.”