This year’s art fair Unfair in Amsterdam shows work by a so-called outsider artist: Bruin Parry, an artist “with one chromosome more”, as his discoverer Jan Hoek calls it.
It is one of the first times that several works by an outsider artist can be seen at a ‘regular’ art fair in the Netherlands; an artist with an intellectual disability. Parry himself hates that word, just like the label down, which he finds too restrictive. Parry prefers to speak of a mental super power.
“Look, I like this guitar the most,” says Bruin Parry (23) as he tours the part of the art fair where his work is displayed. He points to a red wooden guitar on which is written ‘On a journey through Europe’. “That is based on my favorite series by Bassie and Adriaan”.
All art with which Parry exhibits at Unfair has the theme Bassie and Adriaan. From a large red and white gate that he made together with artist Lucas Hendrix to a collection of sweaters with drawings of robot Robin on it. Everything is for sale for prices ranging from a few tens for a porcelain plate made by Parry to 3000 euros for the wooden gate.
‘Works go away for a lot of money’
The popularity of outsider artists had been increasing abroad for some time, says Hans Looijen. He is director of Outsider Art, a museum in the Hermitage Amsterdam. The museum is dedicated to “artists who are outside the mainstream art world and sometimes have a mental or intellectual disability”, as the museum itself defines it.
“At auction house Christie’s in New York they have separate specialists for outsider artists,” explains Looijen. “There you have annual auctions where works are sold for a lot of money.” He does make the comment that the best-selling works are by deceased artists, but according to him it is an example of the fact that outsider artists have been taken for that before.
And now the art of a Dutch outsider artist can be seen at a Dutch art fair. Looijen: “As far as I know, this is really the first time that multiple works by one outsider artist have been shown at a regular art fair.”
According to the museum director, Parry belongs to the A-list, the top of outsider artists in the Netherlands. This year he has been nominated for the Volkskrant Visual Art Prize, a leading prize for young art talent. His work will therefore also be on display in the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam later this year.
Artist Hoek has been campaigning for years for breaking the barrier that exists between artists from the regular circuit and outsider artists. He collaborates with them in many of his works. He met Parry when he was his nanny. Now Parry works four days a week in Hoek’s studio on his own work or assists.
Hoek also sees the popularity of artists such as Parry growing, but he also sees obstacles. “In the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, for example, there is now a lot of attention for diversity. Art by non-Western artists should be on display, more art by women and art by non-white people. But the chance that someone like Bruin will being allowed to participate in a group exhibition is virtually nil.”
That doesn’t seem to bother Parry much. He likes to be in a museum, but he makes less and less work. “If I have enough money, I want to make music with an American producer, like my idol Michael Jackson did.”
Hoek: “What I have agreed with Bruin’s parents is that we take seriously every idea he comes up with. For example, when he said that he wanted to make an exhibition about Bassie and Adriaan, I held my breath for a while. This is a serious art fair. , but then I’m going to think with him: how do we do it in a way that it’s not just a joke,”
Conversely, Hoek also learns from outsider artists such as Parry, he says. “He’s not preoccupied with what high art is. He shows that art really doesn’t have to be salonfähig.”
Museum director Looijen also believes that much can be learned from artists such as Parry and other outsiders. “Their works are stripped of pretensions and tastemakers in art are looking for sources of inspiration. That’s what these types of artists are part of.”
Art fair Unfair can be seen until 17 July in the Gashouder in Amsterdam. The exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam with works by Parry opens in October. The Outsider Art Museum in Amsterdam is open daily.