Review of the 2013 Outsider Art Fair

No question about it – this year, 2013, was the best ever for the Outsider Art Fair. Quality was up, as were the prices. Interesting to note that many of the more famous Outsiders, such as Bill Traylor and Thornton Dial, had not increased in price from last year (at least not notably), while virtual unknowns (except regionally), are commanding prices in the 20 and 30 thousands.

Found the work and back story of Gayleen Aiken particularly fascinating. Her work was featured on the first page of the NY Times Art Section on Friday the 1st, a cardboard replica of Gayleen’s imaginary family – 24 “cousins” together with her mother and father, each with a name and individual characteristics. These were her family and companions for years in her Massachusetts home. I was told by her art dealer, Luise Ross, that the artist would even bring some of the “cousins” on the porch with her so that she would not be lonely when she sat outside. At $130,000 (although they can be sold individually), the family would fit suitably into a museum collecting Outsider Art.

The repeat pattern paintings of Winfred Rembert at Kinz & Tillou Fine Art was another interesting insight into the work of untrained artists, although somewhat optically challenging. Another repeat patternist was Josephe Jovelus of Haiti, at prices in the $2,000 – 5,000 range. But what really struck me was the similarity of Sylvain Corentin’s spirally plaster sculptures at the Cavin-Morris Gallery because they were so related to the spirally plaster sculptures of Enoch Perez, who is represented by major galleries in Manhattan. The difference is that an 86-inch work by Corentin is $6,700, while one by Perez is certainly ten or more times that. And the similarity between the outsize mud and stick and wood slat work of Bill Trayor and the outize mud and stick and wood slat work of Anselm Kiefer, all except the price. The Traylor’s were in the $65,000 – $75,000 category and the Kiefer’s are in the strasophere.

I have to comment upon the size of the crowd, despite the fact that the Super Bowl was just short of kick-off. There were so many visitors that the catalogs had sold out hours before, and the place – the former DIA Foundation – was packed. It was noticeable that work was selling at a fast pace – a change from other crowded art fairs where there has been a lot more smoozing than selling.

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