Tag Archives: Contemporary Art

Getting Closer to Now: The Revised Contemporary Artists Meta-List

I’ve revised the meta-list of contemporary artists (and selected works) by adding 10 more lists, bringing the total number of original source lists to more than 20.  I first created this meta-list in 2015 and a great deal has happened in the art world since then, so this new list has a lot more artists.  In fact, there are 44 new artists on the list, from all over the world.  Here are their names, dates, and countries where they have worked.  For each artist, I researched their more-often mentioned works of art by doing an informal Internet survey.  I have added these new works of art (there are several hundred) to my visual arts checklist and also to the geographical lists that tell where you can find the artwork.  Many of the listed artworks cannot be found in museums, but may be viewed at occasional exhibitions or installations, or at certain art galleries.

Here is the link for the revised list: Best Contemporary Artists.

Here are the 44 new artists on the list, organized chronologically by date of birth:

  1. Donald Judd (US, 1928-1994)
  2. Dan Flavin (US, 1933–1996)
  3. Christo and Jeanne-Claude (Christo Vladimirov Javacheff: Bulgaria/France, 1935-2020) (Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon: Morocco/France, 1935–2009)
  4. Eva Hesse (Germany/US, 1936–1970)
  5. Frank Stella (US, 1936- )
  6. Robert Smithson (US, 1938–1973)
  7. Gilbert and George (Gilbert Prousch: Italy/UK, 1943- )(George Passmore: UK: England, 1942- )
  8. Jörg Immendorff (Germany, 1945–2007)
  9. Sean Scully (Ireland/US, 1945- )
  10. Marina Abramović (Yugoslavia (Serbia)/Netherlands/France/Germany, 1946- )
  11. Chris Burden (US, 1946- )
  12. Luo Zhongli (China, 1948- )
  13. Barbara Kruger (US, 1949- )
  14. Jenny Holzer (US, 1950- )
  15. Julian Schnabel (US, 1951- )
  16. Günther Förg (Germany, 1952-2013)
  17. David Salle (US, 1952- )
  18. Carrie Mae Weems (US, 1953- )
  19. Albert Oehlen (Germany, 1954- )
  20. Robert Gober (US, 1954- )
  21. Christopher Wool (US, 1955- )
  22. Zhou Chunya (China, 1955- )
  23. Kerry James Marshall (US, 1955- )
  24. Rudolf Stingel (Italy/US, 1956- )
  25. Andy Goldsworthy (UK: England, 1956- )
  26. George Condo (US, 1957- )
  27. Luc Tuymans (Belgium, 1958- )
  28. Mark Wallinger (UK: England, 1959- )
  29. Grayson Perry (UK: England, 1960- )
  30. Mark Bradford (US, 1961- )
  31. John Currin (US, 1962- )
  32. Sarah Lucas (UK: England, 1962- )
  33. Liu Xiaodong (China, 1963- )
  34. Zeng Fanzhi (China, 1964- )
  35. Liu Wei (China, 1965- )
  36. Matthew Barney (US, 1967- )
  37. Mark Grotjahn (US, 1968- )
  38. Wolfgang Tillmans (Germany/UK, 1968- )
  39. Chris Ofili (UK/Trinidad & Tobago, 1968- )
  40. Cecily Brown (UK: England/US, 1969- )
  41. Jenny Saville (UK: England, 1970- )
  42. Adrian Ghenie (Romania/Germany, 1977- )
  43. Kehinde Wiley (US, 1977- )
  44. Njideka Akunyili Crosby (Nigeria/US, 1983- )

Here is my visual arts checklist: My Checklists – Visual Art

Here are the geographical lists with new items:
North America & South America
Africa, Asia & Australia




The Art of the Now: A Contemporary Art Meta-List

All Art Has Been Contemporary, Maurizio Nannucci (1999).

As the above work of contemporary art makes clear, the term “contemporary art” is problematic.  “Contemporary” doesn’t refer to a specific method, technique, movement, style or even sensibility. It’s about time – and nothing else. Despite the term’s limitations, when I looked for lists of the best contemporary art, I found a general consensus that the term applied to a period of time beginning in the 1960s or 1970s and continuing to the present day.  Many art historians, critics and others agree that Contemporary Art is what followed Modern Art. While there is  significant disagreement about when the Modern Art period ended, just about everyone agrees that it did end some time ago.

Here’s the new meta-list:
Best Contemporary Art – A Chronological List

In looking at the works on the meta-list (and those that didn’t make the cut), I can make several general observations about contemporary art. Here are 10 takeaways:

(1) Many contemporary artists are interested in the process of making, displaying and acquiring works of art as a subject in itself.  For example, when Damien Hirst priced For the Love of God – a diamond-encrusted skull – at 50 million British pounds in 2007, his marketing strategy was part of the conceptual piece.  Other artists have eschewed or mocked the traditional notion of art museums.
(2) While some contemporary artists continue to create art in traditional forms such as painting (Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Alice Neel, Ellsworth Kelly) and sculpture (Richard Serra, Duane Hanson, Anish Kapoor), many are drawn to other means of expression. One path leads to technology: films and videos (Francis Alÿs, William Kentridge, Matthew Barney), electronics (Jenny Holzer), multimedia. Another path leads to ephemeral or temporary art: installations (Olafur Eliasson, Yayoi Kusama, Christo), performances (Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramović, Pussy Riot), and street art (Keith Haring, Banksy).
(3) Commodification of art is a concern for many artists. Many artists produce replicas, duplicates or variations of earlier work.  (This artistic practice has a long history, of course.)  The artists may produce multiple copies of identical or similar works (see Andy Warhol’s Mao or Shepard Fairey’s HOPE poster), or they may take a theme and produce variations on it (see Donald Judd’s Stacks, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms, Sigmar Polke’s Watchtower paintings, Louise Bourgeois’ Cells).  This is particularly common with photography; many photographers go from series to series during their careers (see Sally Mann’s Immediate Family; Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lightning Fields; Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills).
(4) As with the modernists who preceded them, many contemporary artists love to play with the notion of “what is art?” and enjoy provoking the question, “Is this art?” from the viewer (see Damien Hirst’s Natural History series, or Jenny Holzer’s Truisms).  Others appear to be interested in the shock value of their art.
(5) Many contemporary artists encourage viewers to take part in, become part of or otherwise actively interact with the artwork (see Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, Chen Zhen’s 50 Strokes to Each or Marina Abramović’s The Artist Is Present).
(6) There seems to be a dichotomy between artists who love to explain the meanings of their works – who use texts, interviews and other means to discuss the works – and artists who refuse to attribute any deeper meanings to the works they create.  In a few cases (Jeff Koons comes to mind), some critics feel that the artwork does not live up to the deep meanings ascribed to it by the artist.
(7) Bigger is better.  Many contemporary artists create works that are very large in size or scope (Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty; Jeff Koons’ Puppy, James Turrell’s Roden Crater; Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field), or that include many hundreds or thousands of elements (see Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds; Marta Minujín’s Parthenon of Books; Joseph Beuys’ 7,000 Oaks; Antony Gormley’s Field series).
(8) Art as a forum for personal expression – particularly personal autobiography – is a theme of much contemporary art (see Edward Kienholz’s The Birthday, Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead and the work of Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin).
(9) As more women and people of color have been able to overcome barriers to have their artistic voices heard, they raise difficult issues of race and gender in their work (see Judy Chicago, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kehinde Wiley).
(10) Postmodernism is a theoretical underpinning to much contemporary art, leading many artists to engage in a dialogue with (or repudiation of) the art of the past (see Kehinde Wiley’s Napoleon Leading His Troops Across the Alps, Yasumasa Morimura’s Portrait (Fugato), Vik Muniz’s Pictures of Garbage). Postmodern ideas also underlie the practice of appropriation art, in which artists incorporate or repurpose objects or images produced by others in their work – either untouched or manipulated in some way (see Andy Warhol’s Mao silkscreens, Thomas Ruff’s jpeg series, Shepard Fairey’s HOPE poster, Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs).

For more on contemporary art, check out this list:
Best Contemporary Artists and their Work 


My Kid Could Paint That, But If She Did, I’d Be Concerned: The Contemporary Art List

When did we decide that some art was modern art?  Did modern art began at the dawn of the 20th Century, or some time before?  Was Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907 the defining moment or was it some earlier work by Matisse or Kandinsky?  One would think that modern would stay current, but apparently it got old, and we needed a new term to describe what came after modern.  (Does postmodern follow modern? Yes and no.  They’re in a relationship and it’s complicated.)  The near-universally accepted term for the most recent art and artists is contemporary.  We even have museums devoted exclusively to contemporary art.  When did we go from modern to contemporary?  The term ‘contemporary art’ has been defined in a variety of ways, all of which seek to distinguish newer art and artists from the modernists who came before.  Because those Picassos, Matisses and Kandinskys are over 100 years old – and that doesn’t sound very modern, does it?  Contemporary is the new modern, but how do we establish boundaries for a present tense that keeps moving into the past?

For some critics and art historians, contemporary art encompasses all the postwar movements of the 1950s and 1960s – Abstract Expressionism (think Jackson Pollock), Neo-Dada/Pre-Pop (think Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg) and Pop Art (think Andy Warhol) – and continuing all the way to the present.  Others say ‘contemporary’ means art since 1970.  Still others define it as art by artists living today, which means that the scope of contemporary art changes every time we see an artist’s obituary.  Once we’ve defined the time period covered by ‘contemporary art’, we must try to comprehend not only the artists and their particular works of art, but also struggle with what generalizations we can make about the various means, techniques, movements and ideas employed by these artists (and by the critics, curators and historians who think and write about them).  As an example of the difficulties involved in making such generalizations, consider just a few of the contemporary art ‘movements and styles’ identified by the obsessive-compulsive folks at Wikipedia: environmental art, holography, postminimalism, wildstyle,  froissage, culture jamming, transgressive art, transavantgarde, neo-expressionism, hyperrealism, pseudorealism, toyism, stuckism, superflat and metamodernism.  Where to find an umbrella big enough to cover all these and many more disparate paradigms?

Considering the breadth of contemporary art, it is foolish (even dangerous) to attempt generalizations.  We can only point to some common trends.  It is almost a cliché to say that contemporary artists seek to challenge our understanding of what art is and can be and what the artist’s role is in ‘creating’ the art, but many contemporary artists are interested in exploring (and challenging assumptions about) the nature of art – what is art?, is this art?  They also like to draw attention to (and challenge our assumptions about) the nature of the creative process and the relationship between the artist and the person who interacts with the artwork, or buys the artwork.  While some contemporary artists create works of art that require sophisticated artistic skills, others deemphasize technical skill and instead focus on what is simple, easy or already visible (everyday objects, advertising, etc.) – they appropriate the work of others or use assistants or the public to execute their ideas.  Others use high-tech techniques that permit the creation of stunning visual effects that could not have existed in the days before computers and digital manipulation.  The age-old questions about the relationship between the artwork and external reality (if they even concede its existence) continue to be asked but in new ways.

Contemporary artists use contemporary media.  Instead of painting a canvas, framing it and hanging it on a wall, or shaping a sculpture from stone, bronze or clay, many of them create performances and installations that live temporary lives; after the happening happens, it exists only in various forms of documentation: videos and photographs, preparatory sketches and props.  They create artworks that reshape the environment or change with time.  They make artworks about their own artworks or the artworks of others.  They blur boundaries between trash and art, art and commerce, lowbrow and highbrow, painting and sculpture, word and picture, sight and sound, performance and exhibit.  (Is this photograph art or is it a photograph of art?)  They take a tradition and add something that doesn’t belong, or subtract something that does.  They break the rules or they draw your attention to the rules they are following.  While some contemporary artists may only want you to come away from their work thinking “What pretty art” or “Wow is he talented!”, it is more likely that they want to send you away from an encounter with their art filled with questions: ‘Why this?”, “What for?” and perhaps, ultimately, “Why not?”

All this is prelude for my latest meta-list: Best Contemporary Visual Artists – the Critics’ Picks.  To make the list, I collected a number of lists of the best contemporary artists (mostly still living, but a few who have recently passed) and arranged them with the most-listed artists at the top.  Then, for each artist, I compiled their most highly-regarded works of art.  These range from relatively traditional paintings and sculptures to a man with gold paint on his face explaining artworks to a dead rabbit, a shark floating in formaldehyde, a room full of light, pictures cut out of biker magazines, a portrait created from thousands of magazine pictures, instructions for painting a wall and many more.  I hope you enjoy the list and use it to explore the world of contemporary art.