Introduction

Outsider Art: The Collection of Victor F. Keen

February 6-September 7, 2020

Outsider Art: The Collection of Victor F. Keen

Image from Outsider Art: The Collection of Victor F. Keen exhibition
Martín Ramírez (Mexican, active in America, 1895–1963). Untitled (Trains and Tunnels) A, B, (detail), c. 1960–63. Graphite, gouache, crayon and colored pencil on pieced paper, 17 x 78 in. (43.2 x 198.1 cm). Copyright Estate of Martín Ramírez. Collection of Victor F. Keen

With more than 70 artworks from artists including Martín Ramírez, George Widener, Lee Godie, James Castle and more, this exhibition spans both gallery spaces at Intuit and showcases the genre’s masters.

In the words of Victor F. Keen:
“Visitors to my Bethany Mission Gallery in Philadelphia often ask what it was that attracted me to the world of outsider art, the primary focus of my collection. It’s not an easy question to answer. Like other collectors, I have found the question challenging and have concluded that to a large extent the allure is visceral and not easily articulated, though I occasionally have pondered the “why” of my collection.

It’s a question as complex as the much-debated question of how best to refer to the art itself. “Outsider,” “self-taught,” “naïve,” “visionary,” “untrained” are terms variously used and no one term seems entirely satisfactory to describe this category of art. For convenience, I refer to “outsider” art and “outsider” artists, as a shorthand with the understanding that others may favor other descriptives. The biographical narrative of every outsider artist is unique, but most share one or more of the following: no or only limited art training; living with mental or physical infirmities; poverty; educational deficit; being held back by racial discrimination.

I have found these aspects of the outsider art world compelling, including the fascinating (though almost always terribly challenging and unfortunate) variations in the individual artists’ personal circumstances. But personal challenges and disadvantages for the artists aside, the art must stand on its own. It was well after I finished law school that I developed any real interest in art or in collecting. My first collecting interest, beginning around 1975, was Catalin radios. In the late 1970s I was introduced to Frank Maresca, co-owner of Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York. My awareness of outsider art grew in time from conversations with Frank, who has been a mentor in my collecting all along.”

Press coverage of this exhibition:
9 can’t-miss exhibits at Chicago museums in 2020 (Choose Chicago)
A discerning eye (Chicago Sun-Times)
Outsider Art: The Collection of Victor F. Keen (Chicago Reader)
Weekend art highlights (Chicago Gallery News)
Outsider art master artists fill Intuit’s galleries (Art Daily)