From the Outside looking in: The Outsider Art Fair in Review

The Outsider Art Fair describes and highlights art outside the confines of accepted mainstream culture. Originally named Art Brut, by Parisian artist Jean DuBuffet, the fair prides itself on showcasing untrained artists from all walks of life. Many of whom are outcasts in the art scene for having either a mental illness or rejected by peers for work that doesn’t fit into a single category. Playing a crucial role in changing the shape of modern and contemporary work, OAF brings together facets such as feminism, racism, social injustices and puts a spotlight on the abilities of the untrained eye.

Cathouse Funeral Gallery from Brooklyn, exhibited a series of politically infused art from notable visual artist Daniel Swanigan Snow. Formerly an actor, Snow‘s love of creating and collecting eventually transferred over to his art which he refers to affectionately as ‘lawn junk’. “These mixed media assemblages are created from found objects such as broken toys, car parts, discarded appliances, antique tools, hardware and natural elements collected on the beach or on country roadsides.” say Snow.  His piece ‘Sign of the Times’ is a political jab at President Trump, and was projected on his house at home. 

Korean galleriest Tong Won Kim who runs Korea Art Brut gallery, highlights mental health issues through the selection of pieces. Korean painter Kwang Joon, has a series depicting life and death, often drawing women without clothing, and no face. The confrontational nature of the paintings highlight the global movement towards women’s liberation. All the artists on this exhibit have some form of impairment ranging from bipolar, through to schizophrenia. The canvas becomes a portal into the inner workings of their mind, taking you on a journey through their personal universe. Citing isolation and insularity as the main source of their creativity, many of the artists showcased were able to build a body of work that oftentimes marginalized them during their lifetime, earning them the label of “eccentric” or “crazy”.

The fair falls on the one year anniversary of the Women’s March in New York. Onward Gallery is an collaborative open call inviting all artists regardless of background, reputation, level of success or anonymity to share their vision for the future of women. Two works are accepted from each on a first come first serve basis. Curator Jaime Sterns says the program should act as a highlighter for social change and empowerment of women everywhere. “People don’t need pretty things that make them feel good, they need images that invest in their activism or inspire the creation of hope by action. You can only do this by the acknowledgment of current events that can be used to motivate and inspire.”

OAF serves to create an open discussion on topics often considered taboo. This provides an environment where diversity is celebrated and gives the opportunity to unearth previously unknown artists. The visual appeal of this year’s show comes right on the heels of the widely successful Outside Art Fair Paris, which just celebrated its 5th year running. With this notable trend in the market it seems that collectors, buyers, and enthusiasts are no longer just looking for artists with a big name, but for relatable works from outsiders on the edge of the scene. What was once considered out, might just be in and the next big thing?

Outsider Art Fair

Metropolitan Pavilion


January 18th – 21st, 2018.


Photo Credit: Olya Vysotskaya

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