Currently, many categories of antiques and vintage items are cheap or not selling at all. This is not the case when it comes to primitive folk art and “foreign art”.
Although largely unrecognized before the 1940s, this category can sell for high prices in recent decades. When Bud and Judy Newman’s folk art collection arrived at the recent Pook & Pook auction, estimates were high. Outdoor art has made its way into the galleries of major cities. Museums add it to their collections.
Surprisingly, many people can have examples of valuable folk art and don’t even know it. Basically, folk art is something handcrafted by an untrained craftsman. It covers a lot of ground and many items have their own categories. For example, some paints, pots with hand-painted designs, and swirls also have their own categories.
And what about “20th century outdoor art”? How is it different from folk art? The difference, perhaps, may be in the artist’s use of “found” materials, such as creating a sculpture from pewter bottle caps. The common denominator for all of them is that they were made by untrained American artists.
CLUES: Is everything worth collecting under the folk art label? It certainly has to be a matter of taste whether you want a collection of woodcarvings or paintings.
Recently, while browsing through family memories, I came across a small painted wooden sculpture of a pumpkin and a witch. This was done by my now adult son decades ago. It is signed with his initials. Suppose in a few years it finds its way to an antique store, where it is sold as folk art or to a Halloween collector. After all, it’s primitive and done by an untrained artist!
Many years ago I made my one and only real estate sale. The late owner had a knack for making whirlpools. In the basement, I discovered five figurative swirls painted in red, white and blue. They were made in the 1940s from a model. The dealers bought them like mad for the asking price of $ 10. Fast forward 10 years. A Chicago merchant was selling one as a 19th-century folk art for $ 600.
Most expensive foreign objects these days are the work of documented artists such as Howard Finster and African-American artists such as Purvis Young. In the popular arts category, artists may or may not be known to sell for thousands of dollars. My best advice is to get the certification documents from the seller before paying too much.