"Prior to the 1970s one finds no trace of U.S. twentieth century folk art as a cultural field. The Museum of American Folk Art was founded in 1963 but for its early supporters, most of them old guard and wealthy collectors from the northeast, 'the possibility of genuine contemporary expression was of negligible interest' (Hartigan, 1991 : 29). There were no contemporary folk art galleries in 1970 and very few writings on the subject, nor had such work appeared at public auction. Antiques dealers and even the large auction houses had handled the odd twentieth century piece, nearly always by an anonymous hand, but in general objects made after 1900 were assumed to have been influenced by machine-made articles or modeled on elite or popular sources, and thus not properly 'folk art' at all. Moreover, since folk art's pricing was derived from the antiques trade, twentieth century objects lacked the cachet of years and so were typically passed over.
While the parameters of the twentieth century folk art world continue to be subject to debate, an examination of three indicators - membership in the Museum of American Folk Art, numbers of twentieth century folk art exhibitions, and numbers of galleries specializing in this type of art - suggest the field's expansion through the 1970s. Additionally, museum acquisitions, regular public auction sales, and university course offerings in folk art suggest its growing legitimation. Data from art periodicals, archival records, auction house catalogues, exhibition catalogues, encyclopedias, and several folk art histories taken in sum illustrate the inception, extension,
and autonomization of a new artistic subfield."
Julia Ardery, 'Loser wins': Outsider art and the salvaging of disinterestedness