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Seeking a Definition of Outsider Art at the Outsider Art Fair

What, exactly, is outsider art? The label evokes a jumble of adjectives, from amateur to self-taught, shoddy to innovative, mad to genius, naive to prophetic. With this question in mind, we attended the 20th annual Outsider Art Fair in New York City over the weekend. Browsing through the over 30 booths, we asked curators, scholars, and the artists themselves what the term “outsider art” means to them, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of having one’s work labeled as such. As expected, the answers varied. View what those in the field had to say, along with some of the Fair’s highlights, after the jump.


Art by Purvis Young. Photo by Aaron Colussi.

“It’s a pejorative term and it’s terrible because it reduces the price of very good artists. The self-taught artists that I deal with are honest people. I’ve been a collector for many, many years, and I know the difference between contrived art and non-contrived art. I love the fact that these people don’t have any boundaries, that they haven’t been taught what the end of the envelope is. They’ve got something in their mind, and they have to create it. You don’t go to school to learn how to do this. You either have it or you don’t, and that’s what turns me on.” — George Viener, Owner of Outsider Folk Art Gallery


Art by Tom Duncan. Photo by Aaron Colussi.

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