RASHIDI_5388Mehrdad Rashidi, “Untitled” (circa 2009), ballpoint pen ink on found paper (courtesy of Henry Boxer Gallery, London)

Has the outsider art field become a victim of its own success? If so, it is a peculiar “victim,” and its success must be measured by standards that go beyond the money-obsessed art world’s primary criterion for determining aesthetic value — the price tag that any specific work happens to sport at any given time.

“This was the year that outsider art came in from the cold,” the New York Times reported last December in a year-end, art-news summary, with late-to-the-party breathlessness. That observation packed a loaded assumption. From exactly which “cold” precincts did outsider art supposedly emerge? As the Times pointed out, offering a rationale for its assertion, outsider art had been featured “most prominently in the centerpiece exhibition of the [2013] Venice Biennale.”

That big show at the Biennale, which was titled The Encyclopedic Palace, placed outsider art right alongside the products of academically trained artists (among them: Bruce Nauman, Charles Ray, Cindy Sherman and other big-brand-name contemporaries). In fact, for a long time now, the market for the creations of the best self-taught artists has been hot, hot, hot — increasingly visible in the mainstream media, more and more popular among general-interest audiences, and, yes, ever more costly in gallery, art fair and auction sales.

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Edward M. Gómez
Hyperallergic

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