10 Contemporary Artists You Should Know

kusama contemporary artists
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

Today Artsper is breaking down 10 of the world’s most important contemporary artists. From breaking sale records and being exhibited in the world’s most renowned art galleries and museums to receiving praise from art critics and collectors alike, here are the artists who leaving their mark on the contemporary art world.

1. Takashi Murakami

murakami contemporary artists
Takashi Murakami

A key figure on the international art scene, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is represented by Perrotin gallery. He is known for creating stunningly colorful floral art, inspired by Japan’s vibrant manga scene. Often considered Andy Warhol’s successor, he is associated with the Japanese Neo-Pop Art movement. However, his work remains highly individualized, and he refuses to be confined to a single art style.

2. Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville contemporary artists
Jenny Saville

British painter Jenny Saville recently became the world’s most expensive female artist after her painting titled Propelled sold for $12.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction. Her visual treatment of bodies, nude and voluptuous, displays her impressive technical prowess, and her handling of form is comparable to sculptors.

3. David Hockney

David Hockney contemporary artists
David Hockney, Garden, 2015

The world’s most expensive living artist, British painter David Hockney, has become an omnipresent figure in contemporary art. After recent exhibitions in 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
contemporary artists
The artist Yayoi Kusama in front of one of her artworks

The famous Japanese artist needs no introduction. Yayoi Kusama has taken the art market by storm with her signature dots. Her art is all the more fascinating as it is the product of a rare mental condition the artist has experienced since her childhood, in which she experiences hallucinatory visions. For Kusama, art is a form of important catharsis.

5. Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons
Left: Jeff Koons, Bouquet of Tulips, 1995-2004 / Right: Jeff Koons, Ballon Dog Blue, 1994- 2000

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

6. Ai Weiwei

Ai Wei Wei
Ai Weiwei, Forever Bicycles, 2011

Artist Ai Weiwei, a crucial figure of the independent Chinese artistic scene, is a perfect example of what a socially 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 (Blood Thicker Than Mud), 2012

Often compared to Willem de Kooning or Francis Bacon, British artist Cecily Brown oscillates between abstract 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, German artist Anselm Kiefer is a mainstay of the contemporary art market. The artist’s style, characterized by thick brushstrokes and dark tones on large canvases, openly addresses 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

Afro-American artist Kara Walker tackles themes of racism, problematic stereotypes and slavery. Her signature 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’s cut-out technique is effectively used to illustrate the idea of negating the Other.

10. Jean-Michel Othoniel

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

French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel is known by many as the “glass virtuoso.” His colorful aerial installations are exhibited everywhere from the royal gardens at Versailles to the Palais Royal metro station in Paris. Suspended in the air, Othoniel’s masterful creations delight any viewer’s eye.

Finding the next generation of iconic contemporary artists…

This list is far from exhaustive, and choosing just ten artists from a such a vibrant contemporary scene is no easy task. Why not make your own mind up? Discover thousands more emerging and famous contemporary artists on Artsper!

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