10 Contemporary Artists You Should Know

Yayoi Kusama
The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

Artsper has selected for you some of the most important contemporary artists of today. Breaking sale records, exhibited in the most renowned galleries and contemporary art museums, praised by art critics and collectors, here are the artists who leaving their mark on today’s art world.

1. Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami

A key figure of the international art scene, the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, represented by the Galerie Perrotin, colours the world with his flowery art inspired by the vibrant manga scene. Often referred to as as Andy Warhol‘s successor, he is associated with the Japanese neo-pop movement. However, his work remains highly unique and hard to pin down into one category.

2. Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville
Jenny Saville

The British painter Jenny Saville has recently become the world’s most expensive woman artist after her painting Propelled sold for $12.4 million at a Sotheby’s sale. Her visual treatment of bodies, nude and voluptuous, displays a rigorous technical mastery, and her handling of form is comparable to sculptors.

3. David Hockney

David Hockney
David Hockney – Garden (2015)

The world’s most expensive living artist, British painter David Hockney, has become an omnipresent figure in contemporary art. After three recent exhibitions in some of the world’s most famous contemporary art museums, the Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the MET in New York, the artist’s heavenly landscapes will be presented at an eagerly awaited sales at Christie’s.

4. Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama
The artist Yayoi Kusama in front of one of her artworks

The famous Japanese artist needs no introduction. Yayoi Kusama has invaded the art market and cultural institutions with her signature dots. Her art is all the more fascinating as it is the product of a mental illness the artist has had since her childhood, in which she experiences hallucinatory visions. For Kusama, art is a form of important catharsis.

5. Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons
Koons – Bouquet of Tulips (1995, 2004) in the back; Ballon Dog Blue (1994, 2000) on the foregroun

The scandalous king of PR is probably one of the most controversial figures in the art world. Known for his monumental artworks, the American artist and former Wall Street trader is one of the most expensive artists in the world. His creative approach has triggered many criticisms: many centred around the fact that Koons does not create the artworks himself but has a studio working on them. For many, this is enough to dismiss his merit as an artist.

6. Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei – Forever Bicycles (2011)

The artist Ai Weiwei, an crucial figure of the independent Chinese artistic scene, is a perfect example of what an engaged artist ought to be. Involved in the fight for human’s rights, openly opposed to the Chinese government, Ai Weiwei succeeds in reaching a wide audience with his engaged work. Art Review magazine has ranked him as one of the most influential contemporary artists.

7. Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown Untitled
Cecily Brown – Untitled (Blood Thicker Than Mud), 2012

Often compared to Willem de Kooning or Francis Bacon, the British artist Cecily Brown oscillates between abstract art and figurative art. Her art is erotic, violent, sometimes disturbing, and her sensual silhouettes have drawn a lot of attention. There is no doubt that Cecily Brown is becoming a leading figure of contemporary art.

8. Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer Walhalla
Anselm Kiefer – Walhalla (2016)

Represented by Thaddaeus Ropac, the German contemporary art Anselm Kiefer rules as a master of the art market. The artist’s style, characterised by thick brushstrokes and dark tones on large canvases, openly refers to the Germany’s nazi past and explores themes of memory, heritage and dealing with a complicated past.

9. Kara Walker

Kara Walker
Kara Walker – World Exposition (1997)

The Afro-American artist Kara Walker tackles themes of racism, problematic stereotypes and slavery. The exaggerated cut out silhouettes address the history of American slavery. The silhouettes become violent and dark witnesses of these times and convey a strong message. The artist uses a cut-out technique to illustrate the idea of negating the Other.

10. Jean-Michel Othoniel

Jean-Michel Othoniel
Jean-Michel Othoniel’s installation in the Water Theatre’s Bosquet in Versailles (2015)

The French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel is also known as the “glass virtuoso.” His aerial and colourful installations are exhibited everywhere: from Galerie Perrotin in New York to royal gardens at Versailles, and the Palais Royal metro station in Paris. Genuine work of goldsmithery suspended in the air, Othoniel’s fine and subtle pearls delight the viewer’s eyes.

This list is far from exhaustive and choosing only ten artists was not an easy task. Why not make your own mind up? Discover emerging and famous contemporary artists on Artsper!

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