The eighth edition of the Outsider Art Fair in Paris opens today with an online and in-person model. Featuring the work of self-taught artists, the international fair includes viewing rooms from 39 exhibitors, powered by Artlogic. Participating galleries include American Primitive, Fleisher / Ollman, Rizomi Arte, Henry Boxer, The Gallery of Everything, Robert Heald, Gallería MUY, Galerie Miyawaki, and others.
In addition to viewing the digital fair, patrons in Paris can visit a coinciding physical exhibition at Hôtel Drouot, “Sexual Personae,” curated by Alison M. Gingeras. Included are works by Henry Darger, Elisabetta Zangrandi, Eugene von Bruenchenhein, and more.
Whitewall spoke with new fair director Nikki Iacovella about the unique 2020 edition, open through October 30.
WHITEWALL: What can we expect from this new hybrid fair model?
NIKKI IACOVELLA: We have been given a unique opportunity to do something new and rethink the fair model. Rather than stick to an online-only presentation, we felt it was important to physically bring our fair to Paris in some way.
Through our partnership with esteemed auction house Hotel Drouot, we were able to stage a comprehensive exhibition of over 100 artworks by 45 self-taught artists from around the world, curated by Alison M. Gingeras—whose reputation is major in the contemporary art world, having worked at the Guggenheim Museum and the Centre Pompidou alike. As a selling exhibition, the majority of the works sourced from our exhibitors as well as a few new additions to the fair, such as Venus Over Manhattan. This is exciting new territory for the fair, and we anticipate engaging a lot of French collectors and garnering plenty of public interest.
Over the summer, we launched an exciting online platform entitled Art Brut Global, which offered an opportunity for our exhibitors to connect to new audiences during the pandemic and generated a lot of new collectors. The approach with the Paris edition of OAF is similar, only we are going way deeper with Artlogic to come up with a dynamic, elegant platform to sell works virtually. With this hybrid model, you can expect that both the online viewing room and the in-person exhibition at Drouot will keep art collectors and lovers of Outsider Art engaged during this time.
WW: Your first year as the Director of Outsider Art Fair happened within a global pandemic. What have been the challenges that came from planning within these circumstances?
NI: I’m looking at it as an opportunity for expansion, using this time to explore ways to transcend the traditional art fair model. I am excited about the future and convinced that investing in this area will grow our audience—generating more interest in Self-Taught artists and OAF in general.
WW: Aside from the fair being partially online, what’s new and notable this year’s edition?
NI: This year is a year of many firsts. The nature of our partnership with Drouot is also something new that we have never done before. We had initially started as a partner of the Outsider Art Fair in Paris in 2017, hosting the fair’s live events and talk series. Now they are hosting the in-person component of the fair.
Given that the fair is presenting its first online edition, we have several first-time exhibitors who have not participated in the fair previously, as well as a highly international presentation. Indigo Arts (Philadelphia) will present a selection of Caribbean artists, including Guyodo – one of the key figures in the ad hoc community of visionary recycler-artists who call themselves Atis Rezistans. There is also strong presence of Japanese self-taught artists, including a presentation by Kushino Terrace (Hiroshima) of paintings by the late reclusive artist Strange Knight, whose Tama-chan series recalls the neo-pop aesthetic of Mr. and Takashi Murakami.
WW: Tell us about “Sexual Personae.” How did you choose Alison Gingeras to curate the show?
NI: Alison’s vast curatorial experience, from the Guggenheim to the Pompidou, in addition to her vast knowledge of outsider art made her an interesting person to curate the show. Sexual Personae examines how self-taught artists’ conception of “woman,” femininity, and gender is much less burdened than that of modern and contemporary artists, and that the lived experience of self-taught artists is transferred directly onto their images of women.
Alison brings a unique and interesting voice to this topic, especially when viewed through the Outsider Art lens. Through a comprehensive survey of both acclaimed self-taught artists such as Henry Darger and Eugene von Bruenchenhein, as well as many new discoveries, the exhibition brings together a panoply of iconic examples of womanhood that are deeply embedded in Western culture.
WW: What does the collector market look like for outsider art at this moment?
NI: The collector market for outsider art is strong. We believe this upcoming hybrid approach will further expand the market, making it even stronger. Going by the feedback we have obtained, an encouraging number of buyers visited Art Brut Global, many of whom were first time collectors at the fair. We hope that an enhance online platform, mixed with an in-person exhibition, will continue to bring a new, international audience to the fair.
WW: Any fair first-timers you’re excited about?
NI: We have 39 exhibitors from 29 cities representing 12 countries, one of the most international editions of OAF Paris to date which is exciting in itself. As far as first time participants go, Robert Heald (Wellington, New Zealand) will present a rare selection of early works by Susan Te Kahurangi King and Hawkins Bolden. Galerie Miyawaki (Kyoto) will showcase emerging and established Japanese self-taught artists. Also new to the fair is The Gallery of Everything (London), renowned for its comprehensive inventory of works by top echelon self-taught artists.