Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection | The Whitworth
On Tuesday 16 October the group had their first visit to the Whitworth to hear more about the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection, view some works from it and to talk about the tricky topic of labeling artworks. Matthew Pendergast, the curator at Castlefield Gallery, joined the group and Holly Grange, the Curator of the Outsider Art Collection, led the session.
The group was first given an overview of what Outsider Art is, where the label came from and a general history leading up to it. Each artist was asked what he or she thought the term Outsider Art meant, with examples given being:
· Outcast people
· Raw art
· Outside of formal art/education
· No external influence
James made a very good point and one where the discussions continued, … “is it liberating or isolating to be labeled as an outsider artist?” He was asking about what we meant by the mainstream these days, and thus how can Outsiders be the opposite of this since it is always changing. The group also discussed the use of materials by many Outsider Artists and whether this was a factor in how they were labeled.
Holly split the group up and gave each smaller group a series of quotes taken both from artists classed as Outsider Artists, from people working in the art world and from Monika Kinley herself who is one half of the people whose collection the Whitworth now has. Each group had to decide whether they thought the statements were positive or negative in relation to Outsider Art, in order to determine how this field of art has been viewed over the years and is still viewed to this day. This led to some very interesting discussion, and to conversations around why people collect this work, and if it is collected for the right reasons. It also highlighted art critics views of this field of art, and seemingly their lack of knowledge about it.
The group also heard from Holly about several artists in the Collection who did not like the label Outsider, including London based Albert Louden, who was told he could not show his work in too many exhibitions as that went against being an Outsider – but he rebelled!
A highlight for many on this day was seeing a beautiful large textile sculpture by Judith Scott – Scott used to attend Creative Growth in California, but passed away in 2005. Her work is now in both Outsider and mainstream collections around the world, with her being known for her wrapping style of artwork.
On the second visit on Tuesday 6 November the group took part in a quiz where they once again chatted about labeling and they became the decision makers on a range of artists on slides about whether they thought they were an Outsider Artist or not and why. Ultimately the group decided it was down to the person doing the labeling and their views on what the terms meant to them.
James talked about Outsider Artists not copying the styles of others, and then asked what the ‘Outsider Art style’ is meant to be anyway! It seems there isn’t one! Joe talked about seeing the artwork at face value without the artist’s names or stories attached, and this having a different reaction on him to once he knew more. The group also discussed whether medication dampens people’s creativity, and whether medication was stopped in order to allow certain types of creativity to take place.
Once again more works from the Collection were viewed, with a highlight being a small drawing by the infamous Henry Darger from Chicago. Darger’s work now commands high prices at Outsider Art auctions, and he is one of the more famous Outsider Artists that are discussed still to this day.
Conversations from both these days and the artworks themselves have influenced the artists back at the studio both directly and indirectly since.