exhibitions artists about contact


outsider artists

hawkins bolden
eugene von bruenchenhein
eileen doman
paul duhem
howard finster
william hawkins
s.l. jones
gilles manero
justin mccarthy
jean-michel messager
j.b. murray
philadelphia wireman
gerard sendrey
simon sparrow
carter todd
mose tolliver
robert wilkinson
purvis young

 Philadelphia Wireman: American

Jean-Michel Messager
Untitled (ca. 1970s)
Bound wire, paper, plastic and mixed media :: Diagonal metal shaft is approximately 7 inches
Philadelphia Wireman
Philadelphia Wireman
Philadelphia Wireman
Philadelphia Wireman

biographical information

The sculptures here are among more than 1000 that were found in boxes and bags on a street corner in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia in 1982. Apparently, someone had intended for the pieces to be picked up by the city's trash collecors.

The young man who discovered the work, an art student, brought the work to the attention of John Ollman, director of the Fleisher-Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia, one of the nation's premier outsider art/folk art galleries. Thereafter, the mysterious creator of these fascinating assemblages became popularly known as "The Philadelphia Wireman."

Because all the work was found in a black neighborhood -- and because of its kinship with some African art -- it has always been presumed that the Philadelphia Wireman was an African-American artist.

Through exhibitions, the Fleisher-Ollman began introducing the work to an ever-widening audience. Works by the Philadelphia Wireman have since been shown at such institutions as the Contemporart Art Center, Cincinnati; the San Jose Museum of Art; the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts; the Museum of African Art, New York, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.

Virtually all of the works had taken the form of tightly coiled wire bundles in which the artist imprisoned bits and pieces of tin foil, plastic, radio condensers, match boxes, cigaret packaging, nuts, bolts and magazine and newspaper snippets. The process used in producing the work seems akin to that employed by some American Indian shamen as well as the artists of some African tribes. However, the intentions of the Philadelphia Wireman in creating these pieces can only be a matter of conjecture.

price range:

$1,500 each