CMA Stories

6 Fun Facts About Outsider Art

This Thursday, January 16 through Sunday, January 19, CMA will be exhibiting artworks from the museum’s permanent collection at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City. On view will be selected pieces from the Kuniyoshi Collection, a portion of the collection representing young artists who participated in the Federal Art Project (FAP), part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created in the 1930s.

Outsider artists create works of uninhibited expression, without rules and taboos, and provide a valuable insight into the world seen through their eyes. Much can be said that relates this ideology to the artwork of children, who often express their experiences, understandings, and thoughts through artistic expression. Learn more about this exciting art movement below!

1. The term “outsider art” was first used by art historian Roger Cardinal in 1972 to describe art made by people outside of the mainstream art world, including children, those living in poverty, or those struggling with mental illness.

2. Unlike other art movements that are categorized by an artistic style, such as Abstraction or Minimalism, outsider artists don’t have much in common with each other, besides straying from the norm. Outsider artists work in different mediums and throughout different times and places, often without sharing aesthetic styles.

3. Outsider artists tend to depict fantasy worlds of their own that exist outside of time, space, and history and often serve as a mirror of the artist’s state of mind when he or she created the work.

4. An example of a well-known outsider artist is Bill Traylor, a former slave from Alabama. Traylor was in his 80s when he was discovered as an artist! His work is grounded in realism and often depicts images of the American South. Last October, Traylor was the subject of a solo exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery in New York.

5. In recent years, outsider artwork has become popular among art collectors. The annual Outsider Art Fair has taken place in New York City since 1993 and recently expanded to include a satellite fair in Paris. 

6. The outsider art movement extends to other artistic mediums, including music.

Learn more about CMA’s involvement with Outsider Art Fair here

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