Outsider Art Fair Model Offers Glimpse of Post-Covid Art World

Art & Object

When the Outsider Art Fair (OAF) opens on January 29, it will have a decidedly post-pandemic stride. Rather than hosting the fair in one large venue as it has in years past, its owner, Andrew Edlin, will be holding the fair of self-taught art in a hybrid format with seven curated exhibitions across five locations around Manhattan combined with an online viewing room featuring 43 global exhibitors.

“I’m not into capitulating so fast,” said Edlin, whose eponymous gallery has, thus far, managed to survive the pandemic.

Under this new framework, four host galleries—Hirschl & Adler, Salon 94 Freemans, Shin Gallery, and Andrew Edlin—will present work from a variety of OAF dealers.

Salon 94 Freemans will stage Semiotic Terrain: Art from Australia and New Zealand, featuring the work of three Aboriginal artists: Yukultji Napangati, Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri and Mantua Nangala as well as Julian Martin and Alan Constable, two artists affiliated with Arts Project Australia, a space for artists with intellectual disabilities. Also featured are the drawings of Susan Te Kahurangi King, who first made a splash on the art world stage in 2014 after her solo exhibition in New York.

Shin Gallery will be hosting three exhibitions across its newly expanded space: Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning, a showcase of African-American artists from the Deep South.  Curated by Scott Ogden of SHRINE, the presentation will include works by Thornton Dial, Mary T. Smith, Ronald Lockett, Bill Traylor, and the Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers. The solo exhibition, The Realm of Minnie Evans, will offer works from The Daniel Collection, and Small World, a group show of small-scale works by self-taught artists will include works by Madge Gill, John Byam, Melvin Way, Morton Bartlett, and James Castle.

At Hirschl & Adler, To Be Human: The Figure in Self-Taught Art will feature works by some of the most renowned and beloved artists in the field from Henry Darger and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein to James Edward Deeds and Bill Traylor. 

Andrew Edlin Gallery will offer Figure Out: Abstraction in Self-Taught Art, a showcase of works from artists rebelling against the notion that outsider artists are only storytellers. Among this group are Dan Miller, Eugene Andolsek, Hiroyuki Doi, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, Melvin Edward Nelson, and Tom Bronk among many others. 

The OAF Curated Space, a signature event of the fair, this year will be held at the famed Electric Lady Studios (founded by Jimi Hendrix in 1969). The exhibition, Daniel Johnston: Psychedelic Drawings, will showcase the drawings of the late singer-songwriter curated by renowned cartoonist Gary Panter.

Some of the established dealers participating in the virtual component of the fair include Creative Growth Art Center from Oakland, Fleisher Ollman Gallery from Philadelphia, Yukiko Koide Presents from Tokyo, American Primitive from New York, Carl Hammer from Chicago, and Ricco/Maresca Gallery, which will show works by Martin Ramirez and George Widener. Phyllis Stigliano will stage a show of paintings by artist Mary Whitfield known for her watercolor scenes of slavery in the American South. The Pardee Collection of Iowa City will present paintings by sharecropper Emitte Hych.

Among the first-time exhibitors are Art Code Space of Miami who will showcase Cuban artists including the large-scale cut-out silhouettes of gender-fluid bodybuilders by Misleidys Castillo. 

Also of note, Marion Scott of Canada will show Françoise Oklaga and Outsider Inn of Tehran will show a series of tapestries by Asbahi Sisi (known as CC).

This isn’t the first time the fair has deployed a hybrid model. With the Paris iteration of his fair, which took place in October, Edlin held both an online viewing room featuring thirty-nine galleries paired with an in-person exhibition, curated by Alison Gingeras. It was held at partner site Hotel Drouot (which normally would hold the OAF panel discussion).

January 19, 2021