After a creative response to the pandemic last year where curated shows were presented across several local galleries along with an online viewing option, fans of outsider art can gather in person once again to view new works and this year, celebrate the increasingly popular New York fair’s 30th anniversary showing from March 3-6.
“We couldn’t hold an art fair in a convention center and have thousands of people come in the winter of 2020/21,” said Nikki Iacovella, director at Outsider Art Fair, “but we could use the galleries that were based here.” The annual show, usually held over four days at one location during the month of January, ran for 10 days instead during the citywide edition last year. A lot of people showed up.
“That was really well received, I’m really proud of that,” Iacovella said. “But in saying that, I’m really excited to actually be able to do an art fair in a traditional sense again, where [this year] we have over 65 exhibitors, and they really come from all over the world.”
So, what is outsider art?
In simplest terms, it is work by self-taught artists – “those who have never gone to art school,” Iacovella said. The range is vast, and has grown and expanded over time she explained.
The art form was originally termed “art brut” (or “raw art”) in 1945 by French artist Jean Dubuffet, who was drawn to these naturally created works from artists who “derive everything...from their own depths...not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art.” Such work was further promoted by British art historian Roger Cardinal, who first used the description “outsider art” in the early 1970s to define this varied body of work by artists without formal training.
“The essential characteristic of outsider artists is that they are not conditioned by art history or art world trends,” Iacovella said. The Outsider Art Fair, founded in New York in 1993 and billed as the only fair dedicated to showcasing self-taught art from around the world, appears to have increased demand for the work of outsider artists. In order to be part of the fair, these artists have to already be represented by a gallery that in turn applies to have their work showcased during the four days of the show. Some are already well-established in the genre, while others are newcomers.
“It’s a great opportunity for galleries to showcase new self-taught artists we have not heard of yet,” Iacovella said. “It’s really a great platform – and it’s a very beloved fair in New York.”
And now, also in Paris. Following the Fair’s success in New York, a Paris edition was launched in 2013 with preparations in the works for their 10th anniversary celebration in September of this year.