The 23rd edition of the Outsider Art Fair comes to Chelsea this weekend, taking over three floors of the Dia space on far West 22nd Street. It's the largest such exhibition in the event's long history, with 50 galleries from around the world presenting works of self-taught artists from all walks of life, with all sorts of intriguing and sometimes quite bizarre histories.

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

As several different gallery owners tried to explain to me, for a piece to qualify as "outsider art", it mostly just has to have been created by someone without any formal training, who's not part of any school or movement, who creates his or her work largely in isolation, and
without any particular ambition to sell it, or have it displayed somewhere. And yet here it is at a huge art fair in NYC, where everything is most definitely for sale!

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Outsider art also includes work that wasn't necessarily even made as "art." For example, some of my favorite pieces at the fair were the scarecrows in the Shrine Gallery booth, constructed out of whatever was around by Hawkins Bolden, who made hundreds of these things for his garden in Memphis, Tennessee; the found-art press and personal photographs on display in the Winter Works on Paper booth; and John Brill's semi-creepy ephemera in the Kent Fine Art area.

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

There's also plenty of work here that probably falls within the category of primitive, or folk art, and there are enough terrible/brilliant paintings, drawings, and sculptures to keep you
engaged and delighted for at least an hour or so. Longer if you talk to the gallery owners, who, unless they're making a sale to some well-heeled folks (though honestly, the prices here are refreshingly sane, often in the hundreds or low thousands of dollars), are more
than happy to chat away about the artists they represent. And the story behind some of this art is even more entertaining (and crazy) than the pieces themselves.

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

As you might expect, this is a somewhat less glamourous atmosphere than you find at, say, Frieze, or any of the fairs that come to town during Armory Arts Week. Most everyone on hand for the Outsider Art Fair preview yesterday—the dealers, the buyers, the fans, the artists themselves—were decidedly more down-to-earth in dress and manner, with only a sprinkling of the more typical Chelsea scenesters.

Scott Lynch / Gothamist

The Outsider Art Fair is located at 548 West 22nd Street, and is open Friday and Saturday from 11:00 until 8:00, and on Sunday from 11:00 until 6:00. Admission is $20.