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Claus Mueller

Claus Mueller is a Film Festival Ambassador to

He is based in New York where he covers the festival scene.


New York Outsider Art Fair 2020


The maverick Outsider Art Fair was founded in 1993 covering a market gap and instantly grew by responding to an already existing collecting community tripling its attendance by 2013. After its acquisition by Wide Open Arts, a curatorial and seminar program was added the Outsider Art Fair opening its first French edition in Paris in October 2013 for a European audience attracted to the work of self-aught artists in the art brut tradition.


The New York 2020 Outsider Art Fair was held from January 16-19 at New York’s Metropolitan Pavilion and featured a redesigned setting and new additions to its program. Sixty-four galleries and exhibitors participated with thirteen coming from foreign countries. There were several new galleries present for the first-time including ACM Gallery, Tokyo, Zarusha Art, New Dehli; bG Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York; Koelsch Gallery, Houston; Kushino Terrace, Hiroshima, Japan; and Stephen Score antique, Beacon, MA. They represented 34 cities from 9 countries, from more venues than last year. The New York Outsider Art Fair has become so successful that more applicants applied for space than the fair could accommodate. Its commercial success and the addition of new elements added to the trade and audience appeal. This year  new curated spaces were offered  such  The Hummingbird Paints Fragrant Songs  by Sara Flores and Celia Vasquez  with indigenous work from people struggling for ecological survival in the Peruvian Amazon and  Relishing the Raw: Contemporary Artists Collecting Outsider Art  showing  paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings  by self-taught artists assembled by contemporary artist. The special projects section featured a wall segment of fake stamps from fictitious countries highlighting their existence and a presentation of children’s artwork. Work in From the Perspective of a Child originated in several countries, regions and time periods reflecting how children of different age groups perceive their countries and socio-economic contexts. The Outsider Art Fair also offered a site-specific installation entitled Fredrick Weston: Blue Bedroom Blues at the Ace Hotel New York which also presented an interactive performance by Harvey J. Spiller, The Re-mark-able Pencil.  As in past editions there were seminars held by professionals such as Just Don’t Call It Practice on the professionalization of art, its impact on our culture and market realities.  The 2020 Outsider Art Fair had an attendance of 12,500 visitors reflecting an 8 percent increase over the 2019.  The fall 2019 Affordable Art Fair had an audience of 10,000.


That growth shows the lower art market segment is expanding while the upper art market segment remains relatively stable though for the upper most segment, the market is shrinking. Trump’s changes in tax rules increased art capital-gains taxes to 28%.   Some imperial galleries like Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth may not have been affected by this tax change as their multi-million-dollar expansions indicates. With respect to the lower art market end, shows like the Affordable Art Fair have been held in 13 locations in New York and 9 foreign cities since 1999 with Berlin possibly added this year. To date total sales have been close to $500 million. Upscale auction art venues are benefitting to from the art market shift towards outsider art. Christie’s, which has incorporated outsider art in its shows since 2012  grossed close to $5 million in that art segment last year and generated $3.3 million this year at its  January 17 auction with 98% of the lots sold . The artwork shown at the fairs makes outsider and affordable art a rather unique and popular choice for potential buyers.  There is an upper price limit of $10,000 at the affordable art fair. At the outsider art fair there are no official limitations but there seem to be self-imposed constraints as I encountered only few works with a price tag exceeding $25,000. For Christie’s there was no upper limit with the work priced considerably higher than the work at the Outsider Art Air but lower than that of the auction house’s traditional and modern artwork.


The affordable and outsider art fairs are successful in attracting a growing younger and less affluent audience compared to groups which are used to visiting larger established art galleries, attending auctions, or large art fairs like Frieze.  The unusual and large variety of artistic c approaches which do not require a traditional understanding of the arts that upscale members of art audience tend to have is very appealing to a younger audience. Their lack of a formal artistic training is often like the background of the artists whose work they buy. The motivation to buy is prompted by the pleasure the artwork gives even if it comes close to decorative desires or meets the quest for the unusual. It is rarely if ever an investment purchase and value considerations common among upscale art collecting individuals do not apply. Though some gallery representatives at the Outsider Art Fair are puzzled by the “art” they see, one rarely encounters dissatisfaction with the fair. To the contrary, these savvier art professionals are happy to attend and often return if space is available since they generate income covering their gallery costs. No one I spoke to expected to make less at the outsider art fair than they made last year. It was striking how much work was sold during the opening day including some galleries with little left.

This shift towards the lower segment of the art market is borne out by several studies. In gentrifying urban areas more galleries are closing which serve the middle and upper middle-class segment of the art market.  They cannot cover their overhead, specifically rent, nor can they keep in their stables cash generating artists who migrate to wealthier galleries. In those segments there has not been a significant increase in disposable income over the last decades that could be used for art. 

Among the innovative elements of the 2020 Outsider Art Fair program was the curated space RELISHING THE RAW: CONTYEMPORARY ARTISTS COLLECTING OUTSIDER ART. Their collection of the raw works by self-taught artists provided insights into the works the current artists selected considered to be attractive and of personal value. The work acquired included paintings, sculptures, photos, and drawings by established   outsider artist ranging from Morton Bartlett, Hawkins Bolden, Howard Finster, Lee Godie, Vahakn Arslanian, and many others.   Among the notable artists lending works from their collections were Maurizion Cattelan, James Siena, Terry Winters and Julian Schnabel.  Schnabel’s drawing IMAGE by Arslania is reproduced blow.  None of the works in this section were for sale.


Robert Kippur whose powerful dynamic paintings in wide brushstroke and vibrant colors represent semi-distorted figural largescale compositions with the figures shown expressing despair, nightmarish sentiments, images, suffering and abandonment.  They remind us of the mural work by Hironimus Bosch and Thomas H. Benton, though Kippurs paintings have an immediate unmediated impact. Robert Kippur meets perfectly the profile of the outsider artist. He was rejected from art school, made a living as a bus driver, lived in total isolation without friends and was disconnected from his family.  His UNTITLED oil on canvas work was made around 1984 and is now selling for $ 24,000 through the New York Garam Shay gallery.

The Tokyo based Yukiko Koie Gallery presented several works by Yuichiro Ukai executed on 29 by 35 inch cardboard with markers, colored pencil, and ink in 2019. Priced at $15,000 the gallery sold all his work during the opening day of the art fair. Yuichiro’s unique compositions are inhabited by many colorful small images of strangely positioned and interacting bizarre creatures such as insects, various species of animals, costumed people, cartoon characters, plants, dinosaurs, inanimate objects, etc.  After graduating from high school he joined an atelier making a living cleaning schools and parks.  The longer the viewers regards the composition the more is discovered.


Claus Mueller

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