Art market news
Art market news
Art market news

Collectors and dealers still search for the undiscovered at New York's Outsider Art Fair

While insiders have started to embrace self-taught artists, those that are unknown or shrouded in mystery retain the strongest appeal

by Gabriella Angeleti  |  22 January 2016
Collectors and dealers still search for the undiscovered at New York's Outsider Art Fair
Visitors at the 2016 Outsider Art Fair
While artists that were once considered part of a fringe culture have been embraced by major art dealers and auction houses, collectors still gravitate towards works that have an air of the undiscovered at the Outsider Art Fair in New York (21-24 January).

The dissolving boundary between self-taught and mainstream art has become an “increasingly unfashionable topic”, said Massimiliano Gioni, the artistic director of the New Museum who included outsider artists in his exhibition for the 2013 Venice Biennale, during a panel discussion on Wednesday. Christie’s held its first major auction of outsider and vernacular art in New York on Friday, setting a record for the genre when William Edmondson’s sculpture Boxer sold for $785,000, and names like Henry Darger and Ionel Talpazan have become familiar to many. But what drew the attention of most dealers and collectors at the Outsider Art Fair’s opening on Thursday were works by artists who are totally unknown or those with an enigmatic history.  

  • The J Compton Gallery from Texas, meanwhile, is showing paintings by the late autistic artist Larry John Palsson, whose 600 known works were found by a Seattle picker at a yard sale in 2011
  • An early sale at the New York gallery American Primitive was a $28,000 marble triptych titled Garden of Eden (1937) by an artist known only as HD, who is believed to have lived in the Philadelphia area during the 1930s
  • ZQ Art+Auction in New York has several Haitian voodoo artefacts, such as a sequined mirror said to belong to a mermaid deity named La Siren, for $2,250
  • Carl Hammer Gallery from Chicago is showing paintings by Marcos Bontempo, a schizophrenic artist whose work sells for $1,000 to $8,000
  • The Mariposa Unusual Art gallery from New York is showing four tin statues of an Afro-Brazilian deity named Exú, which range from $500 to $2,800—but buyers should beware that such objects may attract unwanted spirits and could contain traces of blood from animal sacrifice
An early sale at the New York gallery American Primitive was a $28,000 marble triptych titled Garden of Eden (1937) by an artist known only as HD, who is believed to have lived in the Philadelphia area during the 1930s.

The J Compton Gallery from Texas, meanwhile, is showing paintings by the late autistic artist Larry John Palsson, whose 600 known works were found by a Seattle picker at a yard sale in 2011. Around 300 works are still available, selling for $2,000 to $5,000. And Carl Hammer Gallery from Chicago is showing an untitled work by Darger, listed at $550,000, alongside paintings by Marcos Bontempo, a schizophrenic artist whose work sells for $1,000 to $8,000.

Pieces that capture the collective imagination “do remarkably well” said a spokesman for ZQ Art+Auction in New York, although some of the more esoteric pieces require a bit of homework for the untrained eye. The gallery has several Haitian voodoo artefacts, such as a sequined mirror said to belong to a mermaid deity named La Siren, for $2,250 and an asson, a rattle that is shaken during rituals to call spirits, for $600.

The Mariposa Unusual Art gallery from New York is showing four tin statues of an Afro-Brazilian deity named Exú, which range from $500 to $2,800—but buyers should beware that such objects may attract unwanted spirits and may contain traces of blood from animal sacrifice.

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