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Art Fair

Outsider Art Fair 2021 Part I: Inside to Outside to Virtual to 'Real'

Alexandria Deters

Feb 08, 2021

Outsider Art Fair (OAF) 2021 was different from its previous iterations. Unlike other fairs that have completely abandoned any physical component, OAF decided on a different path with seven curated presentations located at five physical locations in New York City.


One of the draws to Outsider art is the unknown: the discovery of something amazing that has never been seen or overlooked. Another charm of Outsider art is that, through discovering utilitarian objects that are made into art, not knowing what the original use of the objects was, and trying to fill the cultural gap by realizing the ways of seeing the world differ from person to person. This is why OAF is so appealing. It gives people the chance to wonder and ponder, tapping into their curiosity. 


Through the online platform Artlogic, the viewer can get close to the work, possibly closer than when in a physical space, by magnifying works of interest at home. They are able to do this while simultaneously making inquiries to multiple galleries. Unlike the traditional fair, where there seems to be hierarchy on who a gallery will take the time to talk to, everyone is technically on the same playing field. 


The physical component of the fair was quite a unique experience. Instead of leisurely walking through multiple gorgeously curated booths on opening night, it was possible to visit the seven physically curated spaces located throughout New York. This resulted in my ‘opening night’ beginning on Thursday afternoon and extending intro Saturday morning.


Looking at the physical and online components, both ways of viewing art have positives and negatives. It seems unfair to compare two experiences when each offers a collector, and casual viewer, different and valuable ways of appreciating art. For this reason, the review is broken into two parts. The first is a few wonderful artists and works that I discovered at this year’s OAF online, and part II focuses on standout presentations from the seven physical curated sections. 


In the first part of this year’s OAF, standout artists are listed below in no particular order. 



Ricco/Maresca Gallery 

New York, NY

The works by Renaldo Kuhler, presented by New York based Ricco/Maresca Gallery, are dark and mysterious, with a slight film noir vibe. My first impression had enough hook to straight away encourage me to online search to learn more about this artist. Kuhler, like another Outsider artist Henry Darger, created an entire world of his own creation; filled with its own unique history, characters, laws, and quirks. The scene Kuhler creates in his work, Viscountess Florence Ostenwelt holding Anne Marie de Rochelle, sickly daughter of Cesar, held captive by Captain Hinds, 1953, feels like a scene in chapter torn from an old pulp thriller, and in a way, it is; a scene from the life of Kuhler’s world.



Renaldo Kuhler
Viscountess Florence Ostenwelt holding Anne Marie de Rochelle, sickly daughter of Cesar, held captive by Captain Hinds, 1953
Ink, colored pencil, gouache on heavy sketch paper
8 1/2 x 6 3/4 in.
Courtesy of Ricco/Maresca Gallery 



Outsider Inn Gallery
Tehran, Iran
A new favorite OAF booth was Outsider Inn Gallery based in Tehran, Iran. All the works on view were lovely, especially the mixed media textile works by CC (Alireza Asbahi Sisi). His Untitled work, with a smartly dressed red mustached man with a pastel pink background and with two cat-like creatures on either side, looks poetic in its execution, the stitchery is elegantly done on the carpet that and I yearned to touch. I hope to see more works by this artist at next year’s fair, hopefully in person.  


CC (Alireza Asbahi Sisi)
Untitled, 2020, Sewing & Collage on Carpet
27 1/2 x 27 1/2 in.
Courtesy of Outsider Inn Gallery



Carl Hammer Gallery

Chicago, IL

Every year Carl Hammer Gallery, based out of Chicago, IL, displays a booth full of museum-quality works that any collector would envy to have. This year one of those works was a piece of classic tattoo flash DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR, c.1930 by W.R. King. Beautiful clean lines, the perfect example of the type of tattooing made famous by Sailor Jerry. Tattoo art has traditionally been an undervalued art form and it is only through recent years that it has gained attention in the art world, partially due to galleries such as Carl Hammer.



W.R. King
Tattoo Flash, mixed media
10 x 13 in.
Courtesy of Carl Hammer Gallery 



Gallery of Everything


The Gallery of Everything, located out of London, presented the stellar work Jealousy (My Weeping Soul), 2017 by Olga Frantskevich. Made from the traditional of rug weaving technique that comes off not just beautiful, but filled with emotion, and a particular history, that even when viewing online can be felt through the screen. Olga is an artist born in 1937 in the former USSR; in her practice is able to reflect the heavy history she has lived, survived, and continues to thrive in.



Olga Frantskevich
Jealousy (My Weeping Soul), 2017
Acrylic thread on cloth
52 3/4 x 42 7/8 in.
Courtesy of Gallery of Everything



American Primitive

Pomona, NY

Each year the American Primitive booth is where some fantastic artists can be discovered. This year it was Robert Adale Davis. His textile works keep the viewer going in closer and closer on the screen to admire and examine the details of the works. Especially with his hand made leather jacket, Untitled, covered with likes of spider webs, or nest, with strings embroidered thickly in patterns over the jacket, creating pathways leading the eye to the center, where a lizard lays prominently sewn into on the chest.



Robert Adale Davis
Sewn string on leather jacket
28 x 20 x 7 in.
height on metal table stand 29 in.
Courtesy of American Primitive


Other standout artists at this year’s fair were: Daniel E. Rohrig presented by Marion Harris based in New York, and Anonymous Foot Fetish Artist, presented by Henry Boxer Gallery in London. Rohrig’s works in particular are an example of how cross-cultural appreciation, and appropriation happens during wartime. And finally the colorful feminine powered collaged scenes projecting hope and community by Della Wells presented by Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art in Milwaukee, WI.


Outsider Art Fair New York

January 29 - February 7, 2021 (online)


Read the full press release here.


OAF Curated Space: Daniel Johnston


Psychedelic Drawings
Curated by Gary Panter
Electric Lady Studios, 52 West 8th St


Semiotic Terrain: Art from Australia and New Zealand
Salon 94 Freemans, 1 Freeman Alley
(Off Rivington between Christie St and Bowery)


Figure Out: Abstraction in Self-Taught Art
Andrew Edlin Gallery, 212 Bowery


To Be Human: The Figure in Self-Taught Art
Hirschl & Adler, 41 East 57th Street


Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning
Curated by Scott Ogden
Shin Gallery, 68 Orchard Street


The Realm of Minnie Evans
Shin Gallery, 68 Orchard Street


Small World
Shin Gallery, 68 Orchard Street


Read the review of the curated space here.