John Ollman has been actively involved in the field of 20th century self-taught art since the early 1970’s. Mr. Ollman received a BFA in sculpture from Philadelphia College of Art, MFA in sculpture from Indiana University with a minor in Art History. At that time, his primary interest was ethnographic art, with a strong interest in Native American and pre-Columbian art which led him into the field of American folk art. Also, during this period he taught an art history course at Philadelphia College of Art, dealing with African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, Native American and American self-taught art. He appraised the Herbert W. Hemphill Collection for the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., the Michael and Julie Hall Collection for the Milwaukee Art Museum, the T. Marshall Hahn collection for the High Museum in Atlanta, GA and recently, the Samuel Yellin estate for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
During the twenty-seven years as director of the Fleisher Gallery, Mr. Ollman mounted major shows of Bill Traylor, William Edmondson, Horace Pippin, Martin Ramirez, Joseph Yoakum, Henry Darger, Frank Jones, and Purvis Young, as well as Felipe Jesus Consalvos, with its accompanying catalog. He curated one of the first museum shows for Howard Finster and produced the first catalog on his work. He has also published catalogs on Joseph Yoakum, William Edmondson, James Castles, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and Frank Jones. John curated a traveling exhibition, “Visionaries, Outsiders and Spiritualists,” which traveled to Brown University, Sheldon Art Memorial, Lincoln, Nebraska and Hechsher University in Huntington, New York. He mounted a major one-person exhibition of the sculpture of William Edmondson, which included a 64-page full color catalog with an essay by Jack Lindsay. The gallery has actively participated in international art fairs, having exhibited at Art Chicago since 1988, the Cologne Art Fair in 1995 and the Outside Art Fair from 1991 until 1999. From 1999 till the present, we have chosen to exhibit in New York at the John McEnroe Gallery instead of the Outside Fair. In 2006, he exhibited at Basel 36 Switzerland, presenting an exhibition that had been curated by the gallery for Harvard University entitled, Fabulous Histories, Indigenous Anomalies in American Art.
In 1997, after twenty-five years as the director of the Janet Fleisher Gallery, Mr. Ollman became a sole owner. Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, as it is now called, has continued to exhibit major self-taught artists of the twentieth century, as well as contemporary artists that share similar inspiration with folk and self-taught artists. John is on the Board of Advisors of the Fabric Workshop, The Foundation for Self-taught American Artists, and Stonington Opera House, Maine. He also was part of the Mayor’s Advisory Board for the Arts in Philadelphia.
Mr. Ollman has lectured on the subject of self-taught art at a number of venues including the National Museum of American Art, Brown University, University of Delaware, The University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Contemporary Center, Atlanta, Georgia and to the collectors group from the Craft and Folk Art Museum of California. He has lectured at the Museum of American Folk Art on Ellis W. Ruley and James Castle and continues to lecture around the country on self-taught art and artists. He advised the Philadelphia Museum on the exhibition they mounted as a companion exhibition to the exhibition Self-taught Art of the 20th Century, an American Anthology and is actively involved in the formation of the museum’s collection of twentieth-century self-taught art. Currently he is advising on the planned James Castle exhibition which will begin it tour in 2008.