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This year’s art fair Unfair in Amsterdam is showcasing work by a so-called outsider: Bruin Barry, an artist who “has one more chromosome,” as his discoverer Jan Hock calls him.
It is one of the first times that many works by an outside artist can be seen in a “normal” art gallery in the Netherlands; An artist with an intellectual disability. Barry himself hates this word, just like the naming he finds too restrictive. Barry prefers to talk about a Super mental strength.
“Look, I like this guitar the most,” says Bruen Barry, 23, as he tours the part of the art gallery where his work is displayed. He points to a red wooden guitar that has “On a Journey Through Europe” written on it. “This is based on my favorite series by Bassey and Adrian.”
All of Barry’s artwork on Unfair is themed by Bassey and Adrian. From a large red-and-white portal he created with artist Lucas Hendrix to an array of jackets featuring robot Robin graphics. Everything is on sale at prices ranging from a few dozen for a porcelain plate made by Parry to 3000 euros for a wooden gate.
“Business goes too far for a lot of money”
Hans Looijen says overseas artists have been growing in popularity abroad for some time. He is director of Outsider Art, a museum at the Hermitage Amsterdam. The museum is intended for “artists who are outside the mainstream art world and who sometimes suffer from an intellectual or intellectual disability”, as defined by the museum itself.
“At Christie’s auction house in New York, they have separate specialists for outside artists,” Looijen explains. “There are annual auctions in which works sell for huge sums.” He made the comment that the best-selling works are by deceased artists, but according to him, they are an example of outside artists who have been taken for that before.
And now the Dutch artist’s foreign art can be seen in a Dutch art gallery. Looijen: “To my knowledge, this is the first time that multiple works by a single outside artist can be seen in a regular art gallery.”
According to the museum director, Barry belongs to the A-list, the best outside artists in the Netherlands. This year he was nominated for Volkskrant Prize for Visual ArtsA leading award for young artistic talents. Hence, his work will also be on display at the Stedelijk Museum in Schiedam later this year.
Artist Hawk has been campaigning for years to break the barrier between artists from the mainstream and outside artists. He collaborates with them on many of his works. He got to know Barry when he was his nanny. Barry now works four days a week at Hoek’s studio on his own business or helps out.
Hoek also sees the popularity of artists like Parry growing, but he also sees obstacles. “At the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, for example, there is now a lot of interest in diversity. Art should be shown by non-Western artists, more art by women and art by non-white people. But the chance that someone likes Bruin will be allowed to participate in A group exhibition of almost nothing.”
This doesn’t seem to bother Barry much. He loves being in a museum, but he does less and less work. “If I have enough money, I want to make music with an American producer, like my idol Michael Jackson did.”
Hawk: “What I agreed with my dad Bruyn is that we take very seriously every idea he comes up with. For example, when he said he wanted to do an exhibition about Bassey and Adrien, I held my breath. That’s serious art. Fair, but then I’ll think with him: How We do it in a way that is not just a joke,”
Conversely, Hoek also learns from outside artists like Parry, he says. “He’s not busy with what fine art he is. It shows that art doesn’t have to be a salon.”
Museum director Looijen also believes a lot can be learned from artists like Parry and other outsiders. “Their work has been stripped of pretension and art tastemakers are looking for inspiration. That’s what this type of artist is part of.”
The exhibition Unfair Art can be seen until 17 July at Gashouder in Amsterdam. The exhibition at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam opened with Parry’s work in October. The Outsider Art Museum in Amsterdam is open daily.
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