Art collecting is a fascinating hobby, but in most cases it is a rich man's game - unfortunately, most art lovers don't have the means to bid on the next Matisse that comes up for auction.
Sure, most folks can afford work by lesser-known artists, and local shows are a great place to start, but you sure do have to wade through plenty of crap to find work that showcases actual talent.
For most of us, art collecting can take one of two turns - either as an investment, or as a passion. If you collect pieces you love, pieces that speak to you, and you need nothing else from them, that is absolutely fine.
It is, in fact, how most artists prefer their work to be used. On the other hand, buying the work of a talented unknown can really pay off if they ever break through, and you can easily sell the painting for a 1000% return.
Art's New Direction
This is why outsider art is so hot with collectors. Outsider art is not concerned with color theory or balance, symmetry or perspective. In fact, a true outsider artist has never been trained, and may not even be aware of the current art world at all.
Outsider art is about pure creative expression, and it can range from lighthearted and silly to almost frighteningly dark and moody - often, within the same artist's collection.
It was the art of institutionalized mental patients that began the movement - work that was done as therapy, emptying the heart and mind onto paper. The rawness of it had massive appeal, and a movement was born.
Unfortunately, as soon as there was money to be made in the genre, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Before long, "outsider art" became synonymous with "bad art" because untalented wannabes thought they had finally found a way to be considered "real artists".
In the early 2000s, it seemed like anyone with a glue gun was making junk sculptures and calling it "outsider art" - but in most cases, it was still just junk.
True outsider art is hard to come by, and your best bet is to seek out the weirdos. It is these types who produce the purest, truest form of the genre, producing absolute definitive works of abject creativity and passion.
Be Someone's Break
Bill Traylor's work began as outsider art - until an auction of 21 of his drawings brought in $777,000, and the demand for his work became so great that he is now considered a legitimate part of contemporary art dealings. So, don't go looking for Traylors, because you can't afford them.
In fact, the demand for outsider art has grown so large that if the artist is referred to by their last name only, they have become established and you can no longer afford them.
No, the best way to collect outsider art is to find the outsiders yourself. Not in a gallery, not at a museum, not at an art fair. Seek out the strange. Talk to the guy who glued doll heads all over his van. Make friends with the lady who sews giant pom-poms onto her clothes and argues with herself.
Worst case scenario, you might have an interesting conversation. Best case scenario, you might pay $50 for something that could fetch six figures one day. But if they refer to themselves as an outsider artist, run. Because they are not. In this case, awareness negates the possibility.