It’s time for the Outsider Art Fair and Christie’s coincident auction which have been growing the market for Outsider art which has had several cycles (going back to the 1930s) of popularity in the US.
Bloomberg’s James Tarmy tries to situate the trend:
“Collectors who have been supporting this market for the past 20, 30, even 40 years are excited for new discoveries at the fair, and to see how their old discoveries are now valued much higher,” says Becca Hoffman, director of the Outsider Art Fair. “This is about everyone sort of prospering from the growth of Outsider Art.”
Tarmy also wants to identify other contributing factors:
There are multiple possible reasons for the genre’s popularity: the unique history of many self-taught artists; the booming contemporary art market generally; and the (not insignificant) fact that much of the art looks uncannily like the modern and contemporary art that sells for millions. (Martín Ramírez’s drawings, for instance, bear a striking resemblance to, say, Italian futurism.)
Eventually, Tarmy puts his finger on one of the essentials of Outsider art: the artist must have a particularly colorful personally story. That key element may also be one of the limiting factors on the growth of this market.
Susan Moore profiles the top lot at Christie’s in Apollo magazine underscoring the fact that Outsider art had a boom of interest in the 1930s and puts her finger on the other limiting factor for Outsider rubric:
Last January, Christie’s secured a record for a work of Outsider Art at auction when William Edmondson’s limestone Boxer of around 1936 tripled expectations to sell for $785,000. The son of freed slaves, Edmondson had set himself up as a stonecutter making tombstones and sculpture for his community after losing his job as a janitor at the age of 57. The auction house is now offering his monumental limestone Lion of much the same date and similarly acquired directly from the artist in the 1930s ($200,000–$400,000). There is no doubt that Edmondson was an outsider, but in 1937 he also became the first African American to be given a solo show at MoMA. While there will always be Outsider Art somewhere, it may well prove harder and harder to find it ‘unscathed by artistic culture’, as its boundaries with the mainstream continue to blur.
Outsider Art Goes Mainstream (Bloomberg)
Why the market for Outsider Art is booming in New York (Apollo Magazine)