Fleisher/Ollman Gallery opened in Philadelphia in 1952 as the Janet Fleisher Gallery. Over the course of the next four decades, the gallery established a reputation as one of the world’s premiere sources for self-taught art, defining the field and helping to develop major public and private collections of this once-marginalized group of artists. Fleisher/Ollman was among the first to mount major exhibitions of work by Henry Darger, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Bill Traylor, and Martin Ramirez, and we published early catalogues on James Castle, William Edmondson, and Joseph Yoakum. Since 1997, when John Ollman became the gallery's sole owner, emphasis has shifted toward the exhibition of contemporary artists who reflect the influence of the self-taught, such as Anthony Campuzano and Tristin Lowe. This revised curatorial mission—recently amended to remove from discourse entirely the “self-taught” label as a distinct entity—has become particularly relevant as many contemporary artists eschew the academic in favor of intuitive practice. In addition to our modern and contemporary interests (among them Joseph Cornell, H.C. Westermann, Ed Ruscha, and Alfred Jensen), the gallery continues to showcase the most significant American vernacular artists of the 20th Century, including the exclusive representation of Felipe Jesus Consalvos and the Philadelphia Wireman.
In keeping with Fleisher/Ollman's diverse program, past exhibitions have explored the profound influence of artists like Joseph Yoakum and Martin Ramirez on the Chicago Imagists Jim Nutt, H.C. Westermann, and Ray Yoshida. “Fabulous Histories: Indigenous Anomalies in American Art," organized by Fleisher/Ollman for Harvard University’s Carpenter Center, outlined the shared formal and conceptual concerns of nine artists: Jim Nutt, Martin Ramirez, P.M. Wentworth, Christina Ramberg, James Castle, Luis Romero, Jess, Felipe Jesus Consalvos, and Anthony Campuzano. An extrapolation of this landmark exhibition was also presented at Art 36 Basel. More recently, Fleisher/Ollman presented "2000 Years of Sculpture," an exhibition which brought together the work of sixty-one artists spanning multiple cultures and more than 2000 years, and "Castle In Context," which placed James Castle's soot and spit drawings and constructions alongside the work of such artists as Jasper Johns, Grant Wood, Terry Winters and Forrest Bess.
Fleisher/Ollman has participated in a variety of art fairs, including The Armory Show, Art Basel (Basel), Expo Chicago, Frieze New York, Köln Art Fair, Independent New York, and The Outsider Fair (New York and Paris).
The Gallery has contributed toward building comprehensive self-taught collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the High Museum, Atlanta, GA; the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; and the Milwaukee Museum of Art. We have also been involved in the acquisition of works by the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the American Folk Art Museum, NY; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.