What is Outsider Art? | Christie’s

‘Outsider Art is a catch-all term,’ explains Christie’s specialist Cara Zimmerman. ‘It encompasses a lot of different types of art makers, but I tend to classify it as art made by people who weren’t working within the artistic establishment.’

In the United States, she says, the material stems from a folk-art tradition. Most Outsider artists received no formal training and were influenced by pop culture and the world around them rather than other mainstream artists.

In the modern world, says Zimmerman, ‘The idea of an artist removed from society doesn’t exist.’

In this video, the specialist looks at Critter by William Edmondson (1874-1951), whom she describes as possibly her ‘favourite artist of all’. Edmondson held two jobs for much of his adult life: from 1900 to 1907 he worked for the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, and from around 1907 to 1931 he served as a janitor at the Nashville Women’s Hospital.

After he lost his job at the hospital, Edmondson decided to become a tombstone carver. ‘After a while he started to carve what he called his garden ornaments,’ says Zimmerman, looking over the skilled architectural carving on Critter. Remarkably, Edmonsdon became the first African-American artist to have a solo exhibition at the MoMA.

Find out more at www.christies.com/features/What-is-Outsider-Art-7659-3.aspx

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