A many-splendored thing Inner Harbor: After apocalyptic views, visions of love fill Baltimore's expanding museum of outsider art.


AFTER LAST exhibiting apparitions of apocalypse, Baltimore's American Visionary Art Museum has shifted gears. In a year-long show that opens Friday, it is exploring love in all of its mysterious manifestations. David Bowie and his wife, Imam, are honorary co-chairmen of the exhibit.

"All of us have had very unique experiences with love, both when we err and when it's divine," explains museum founder Rebecca Hoffberger.

This is AVAM's fourth thematic show since the museum opened on Thanksgiving, 1995 at the foot of Federal Hill. Each show has strengthened AVAM's artistic reputation locally and beyond Maryland's borders. This one does so as well. It is curated by John and Maggie Maizels, founders of London's Raw Visions journal of intuitive and visionary art, and includes a number of previously unexhibited Europeans among 71 participating self-taught artists.

When it opened, AVAM was a pioneering institution. Since then, the popularity of outsider art has exploded. Other cities are now competing for undiscovered talent. Artists are also winning unprecedented commercial recognition. This is underscored by a sale and show of outsider art this weekend (by an Atlanta impresario) just across from the museum.

In its two and half years of operation, AVAM has managed to expand even as such rivals for visitors' time as the Columbus Center and the City Life Museums failed. It is now raising funds for another ambitious expansion, which involves turning an adjacent, vacant whiskey warehouse into additional exhibit and conference space. The museum won matching funds for that purpose from the General Assembly recently. Now it is asking the the community to show its generosity.

Love conquers all -- but money helps.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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