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Artwork Set To Create A Buzz In New York

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
american folk art museum.gif
american folk art museum.gif

10 July 2008 - A collection of New Zealand art will feature at the New York Outsider Art Fair for the first time in January 2009 and Stuart Shepherd, who has been invited to host a New Zealand booth, believes the work will create "a real buzz".

The Wellington artist, curator and academic has been attending the New York Outsider Art Fair since its inception in 1991. Over the years, he has established valuable international networks, and his application to host the New Zealand booth was supported by influential New York curators and dealer galleries.

"I'm absolutely delighted to be invited to represent New Zealand at the fair and it means that the organisers see serious investment potential in what I have to show," he says. "It's great news for the ten or more artists I'll be representing but it will also have a wider impact on the sector. I hope it will change New Zealanders' perceptions about the value of our self-taught artists and their work."

Among the artists whose work he will showcase are Andrew Blythe of Auckland, and Martin Thompson and Colin Korovin of Wellington.

More than 12,000 people attend the annual four-day fair from 8 to 11 January. Held during Outsider Art Week at the American Folk Art Museum, it includes a gala opening, trade show, lectures and tours. Shepherd's booth will stand alongside presentations from more than 30 leading galleries of "outsider art" - all intent on selling their work to the European, North American and Asian dealers and collectors who flock to New York to attend the fair.

The term "outsider artists" describes marginalised artists who don't fit into the mainstream art scene. Shepherd prefers to use the term "self-taught and visionary artists", referring to those who have had no formal or traditional art training and do not follow a particular style.

Shepherd has been promoting self-taught and visionary art since he attended the 1991 New York Outsider Art Fair. "As an artist, I was keen to see the latest ideas in contemporary art and when I went to that first fair, I was totally inspired. It was like turning on a light and opening my eyes. That's the effect the fair has on people. They realise the work is as hot as any other contemporary artwork."

Shepherd curated the exhibition for Arts Access Aotearoa's Outside-In Gallery, launched by Prime Minister Helen Clarke in December 2007. Executive Director of Arts Access Aotearoa Marianne Taylor describes Shepherd as "a leading advocate" for self-taught artists in New Zealand.

"Stuart has been providing a voice for these artists for many years and this invitation is tremendous recognition of his dedication, and the knowledge and networks he has built up.

"New Zealand's presence at this important fair will enhance the profile of both the participating artists and other self-taught artists, providing opportunities to generate income from their work."

Shepherd says that self-taught or outsider art is well-established internationally and has a growing market. "New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world not to have a folk art museum. These museums show the work of self-taught artists, providing opportunities for authentic local expression. You don't have to have a university degree to create work of cultural value."

In 2002, Shepherd undertook a national survey of self-taught artists in New Zealand and discovered the work of more than 400 artists. Since then, awareness of this work has grown and it is featuring in a growing number of galleries.

Stuart Shepherd and Marianne Taylor are part of a panel discussion on 3 August at TheNewDowse in Lower Hutt, looking at the connection between creativity and mental illness; the important role that community organisations and spaces play in fostering creative talent and expression; the status and increasing international interest in the work of New Zealand's outsider artists - and, in fact, whether "outsider artist" is still a relevant term.

The discussion will be facilitated by Jo Randerson, curator of My House Surrounded by a Thousand Suns, an exhibition showcasing the work of 15 artists who have experience of mental illness or intellectual disability.

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