Contemporary Art Market: Inside the Outsiders

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The Independent Online
MASTERPIECES of Outsider Art are on show in London this week with remarkably modest price tags. The Rona Gallery (1-2 Weighhouse St, W1) is offering 'Another World of Art, The Outsider' which includes great work by Britain's two most famous Outsider artists, Scottie Wilson and Madge Gill, while Reeds Wharf Gallery (Mill St, SE1) is showing Michel Nedjar and Pascal Verbena, French artists discovered and loved by Dubuffet.

Outsider artists are defined as 'compulsive visionaries'. They are people with no artistic training and little money, living on the margins of society, who have a compulsion to create art. Outsiders were discovered and appreciated in the 1920s and their art was a major influence on Paul Klee and the Surrealists; Dubuffet formed the most important collection of Outsider art, now in Lausanne.

London art dealer Victor Musgrave, a friend of Dubuffet, who died in 1984, took up their cause and organised a major show of Outsider Art at the Hayward in 1978. His partner Monika Kinley is trying to turn the collection they formed together into Britain's first Outsider Art Museum - and appears to be only pounds 100,000 short of success. She has helped curate both of the dealer shows and consigned several works from her collection to the Rona Gallery.

But the stars, a dozen magical doodles by Scottie Wilson, have been sent for sale by another London art dealer. Gimpel Fils, of Davies St Gimpel, bought them early on for very little and prices range from pounds 1,150 to pounds 2,400.

Scottie Wilson grew up in Glasgow, moved to Toronto, then settled in London. His work includes densely hatched drawings of birds, fishes, flowers, monsters and humans. He died in 1972.

Stephen Lacy, who runs Reeds Wharf, a dazzling new gallery with large windows opening on the river, has been to France to meet Michel Nedjar and Pascal Verbena.

Verbena works for the post office in Marseilles and makes mysterious, sculptural boxes out of driftwood and other flotsam that he picks up on the beach. They resemble altars, with folding doors, and contain secret compartments and drawers in which odd treasures are concealed.

Nedjar uses discarded packaging and city detritus as supports for his pictures of mysterious figures and faces, executed in pastel, crayon and wax.

(Photograph omitted)