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Have The Most Influential Contemporary Artists of the Decade in Your Collection

  • Jeff Koons Gazing Ball (Manet Olympia)
December 26, 2019
Deeply invested in modern and contemporary art, the Widewalls magazine aims at providing a unique experience for its readers in the form of in-depth and quality journalism.

What a decade in art this has been.

What differentiates it from its predecessors surely is globalization, achieved through different ways, perhaps the most important among them being social media and particularly Instagram. Old and new names alike made headlines in a myriad of creative manners, be it through protest, stunts, through-the-roof auction sales, lawsuits, arrests, biennale withdrawals, restitutions, Nazi loot disputes…

Behind us are numerous seminal exhibitions, events and artworks, like Marina Abramović’s The Artist is Present show and performance at the MoMA; the revolutionary presidential portraits by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald; Kara Walker’s A Subtlety…or the Marvelous Sugar Baby; Christian Marclay’s The Clock; JR’s paste-ups around the world; Banksy’s half-shredded Girl with Balloon; Ai Weiwei’s arrest, studio arsonist, and refugee activism; Maurizio Cattelan’s $120,000 banana and a stolen golden toilet; 5 Venice Biennales; the rise of exhibitions dedicated to female artists, mostly thanks to the #MeToo movement, as well as those tackling the environmental issues, climate change, human rights, gender, race, and the refugee crisis; a very expensive Salvator Mundi by Leonardo; Art Basel’s absolute dominance among art fairs across three continents; Hito Steyerl’s wonderful video art; Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms all over Instagram and the world; Zanele Muholi’s captivating photography; the Turner Prize winners 2019; Jeff Koons, who we still love to hate, or hate to love… to only name a few.

With such a legacy, the 2020s have some quite big shoes to fill.

In the meantime, as we count down the very last moments of this year and this exciting decade, below you can find the works by some of the aforementioned living artists available via our partner galleries on our website. Right now, we can’t think of a better opportunity to enrich your art collection.

  • Ai WeiWei - Odyssey

Ai Weiwei - Odyssey

Ai WeiWei is one of the most established contemporary Chinese artists. He is best known for his critically charged multidisciplinary practice that is interwoven with human rights activism. This figure was exposed to various threats and pressures in his native country for the way he publicly condemned the acts of the regime as repressive. Through the medium of installation and an extended field of sculpture, Ai Weiwei explores the themes of migration, belonging, and identity in a globalized world.

This particular print is the artist’s interpretation of the aesthetic of classical Greek vase paintings and friezes that reflects the contemporary global refugee crisis. It was made in 2017 as a commission for the New York’s Public Art Fund traveling exhibition titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

Buy the work here.

  • Nan Goldin - Restaurant Wall Capri

Nan Goldin - Restaurant Wall, Capri

This photograph was made in 1997, as the title suggests the location, by the celebrated American photographer Nan Goldin who is saluted as one of the most inspiring artists of her generation. By documenting the subcultural circle to which she belonged in unpretentious and deeply melancholic fashion, the photographer explored the themes of love, sexuality, and addiction. Throughout the decades Goldin’s style gradually evolved; however, it showed a continuity in a stylistic and conceptual sense.

Buy the work here.

  • Kerry James Marschall - Untitled Frankenstein

Kerry James Marshall - Untitled (Frankenstein)

Kerry James Marshall is a contemporary painter who investigates the representations of the Black bodies, as well as the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and its effect on the lives of the Afro-American community. By combing both historical and personal references, the artist constructs vibrant compositions that take into account the tradition of Western painting, the notion of authenticity and craftsmanship, as well as the erasure of black bodies throughout art history.

The drawing Untitled (Frankenstein) was produced by the artist as a commentary on the hegemony of white-centered narratives through the Western culture.

Buy the work here.

  • Vija Celmins - Untitled

Vija Celmins - Untitled

An American, Latvian-born artist Vija Celmins is celebrated for her sophisticated photorealistic drawings and paintings of the natural structures such as spider webs, stars in the night skies, rocks, and ocean. Although initially influenced by Pop Art, her style gradually developed towards a more graphic aesthetic reminiscent of Gerhard Richter.

Untitled is a print made by Celmins in 1999 and it seems it features a selection of her previous works arranged in a collaged manner.

Buy the work here.

  • Yayoi Kusama - Mountain Range

Yayoi Kusama - Mountain Range

Dotted installations and pumpkins became synonymous for one and only Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese artist who came to prominence in the early 1960s during the burst of pop art. Her fame grew even more with the rise of the hippie counterculture when she used to organize happenings consisting of naked human bodies covered with dots.

This particular acrylic spray paint on board titled Mountain Range differs from Kusama’s signature style and offers a more contemplative experience than her other works.

Buy the work here.

  • Olafur Eliasson - National career lamp

Olafur Eliasson - National career lamp

The next artwork on our top list was made by the celebrated Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson known for his projects based on the intersection of art and science. Ever since 1995, he operates through his studio for spatial research simply called Studio Olafur Eliasson, and is a member of the Social Practice movement. Through his practice, Eliasson tends to examine environmental issues by unraveling natural phenomena such as rainbows or shadows.

National career lamp was designed by the artist in 2007; it is an actual large solar cooker mounted on an aluminum stand.

Buy the work here.

  • Swoon - Thalassa

Swoon - Thalassa

Swoonis an American street artist who gained quite a recognition for her paper cutouts and large-scale prints which feature portraits of her friends and family. Her captivating images are often printed in a poster form on recycled newspaper and are hanged onto abandoned buildings, bridges, and street signs around the world.

Thalassa is a 2017 print featuring a young girl emerging from a colorful abstract swirl.

Buy the work here.

  • Banksy - Queen Vic

Banksy - Queen Vic

The enfante terrible of contemporary art and one of the most famous British artists, Banksy is known for his anonymous identity and critically charged figurative stencils. By appropriating imagery from politics and pop culture, the artist produces bold satirical compositions that can be found in cities such as London, Bristol, New Orleans, New York, and Paris.

Queen Vic is a print made by Banksy in 2003 which depicts late Queen Victoria as a symbol of British imperialism found in a pose of a lusty dominatrix.

Buy the work here.

  • Dana Schutz - The Wanderer, 2018

Dana Schutz - The Wanderer

Often regarded by her peers and critics as the best painter of her generation, Dana Schutz is best known for her humorous, gestural paintings that take on specific subjects or narrative situations as a point of departure. Drawing influence from cubism and expressionism, but also other movements from the 20th and 21st centuries, she creates images that feel familiar but are entirely unique.

The artist brings to her etchings the same dynamism that enliven her paintings. The Wanderer features a character that is alone and somewhat monstrous, struggling to inhabit its own image.

Buy the work here.

  • JR - JR at the Louvre, La Pyramide, close-up South West angle, 2016

JR - JR at the Louvre, La Pyramide, close-up South West angle

A prominent photograffeur, TED Prize winner, Oscar nominee and one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2018JR merges photography and street art, creating works charged with emotion and tackling heavy social issues. Plastering giant, monochrome photographs in urban centers, he aims to tell stories of the marginalized and voiceless.

In 2016, the artist made the iconic glass pyramid outside Louvre seemingly disappear. Using his trademark technique of sticking large-size pictures to the outdoors of buildings, JR created a trompe l’œil, an optical illusion that appeared to turn the pyramid into a black-and-white filter for the buildings behind.

Buy the work here.

  • Kiki Smith - Possibility, 2016

Kiki Smith - Possibility

A German-born American contemporary artist, Kiki Smith creates sculptures, prints, and drawings that focus on narrative, the human condition, and the natural world. Belonging to the end of the second wave of Feminist art, she found new ways to explore the social, cultural, and political roles of women. Her visceral, often disturbing artworks show the human body in detail, focusing on themes of women from mythology and folklore, or reference her Catholic upbringing.

Rendered with pencil and colored pencil on paper, Possibility is a delicate work featuring a pigeon sitting on top of a hand.

Buy the work here.

  • Jeff Koons - Gazing Ball (Manet Olympia)

Jeff Koons - Gazing Ball (Manet Olympia)

Often described as the king of postmodernism, Jeff Koons is one of the most influential and controversial artists of the post-war era. He rose to prominence in the mid-1980s as part of a generation of artists who explore the meaning of art in a media-saturated era and the attendant crisis of representation.

Koons’ Gazing Ball series features repainted versions of masterpieces, from Titian’s Venus and Mars to the Mona Lisa. Each of the works has an addition of a shiny blue sphere placed in front of each, the so-called “gazing ball” popularized by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and now more often used as garden ornaments. Placed on a little shelf, the sphere is painted as if it had sprouted directly from the image. As the artist explained, the gazing ball “represents the vastness of the universe and at the same time the intimacy of right here, right now”. This piece is a repainted version of Manet’s Olympia.

Buy the work here.

  • Faith Ringgold - The Sunflower's Quilting Bee at Arles

Faith Ringgold - The Sunflower's Quilting Bee at Arles

An African-American artist, Faith Ringgold is best known for her narrative quilts that tell stories of her life and those of others in the black community. A social activist and self-described “black woman in America”, she has been challenging perceptions of African American identity and gender inequality through the lenses of the feminist and the civil rights movements.

In The Sunflower’s Quilting Bee at Arles, the artist depicted eight powerful African American women from the past and present display a colorful quilt that is a communal symbol of their achievements. These women are Madam Walker, Sojourner Truth, Ida Wells, Fannie Lou Hammer, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Ella Baker. A ninth figure, on the lower left, is Willia Marie Simone, a fictional character created by the artist. Vincent van Gogh is depicted standing on the right.

Buy the work here.

  • Cleon Peterson - Out of the Darkness (Gold)

Cleon Peterson - Out of the Darkness (Gold)

A Los Angeles-based artist, Cleon Peterson is celebrated for his chaotic and violent paintings depicting clashing figures. Executed in a limited color palette, these works symbolize a struggle between power and submission in the fluctuating architecture of contemporary society. He draws inspiration from both the classic Greco-Roman vases depicting warriors and battles and the graphic vigor of German Expressionism.

Created in 2018, Out Of Darkness II features a group of a black and a white man struggling in a swirl of a circle.

Buy the work here.

  • Sophie Calle - My mother, my cat, my father

Sophie Calle - My mother, my cat, my father

A controversial figure of the European scene and one of France’s leading conceptual artists to date, Sophie Calle dedicated her career to the creative exploration of personal relationships, investigating both psychological and emotional terrains of all of us. All of her pieces are meant to provoke a strong emotional reaction in the viewer, as well as to probe the ideas of control, vulnerability, freedom, gender, intimacy and distance in human relationships.

The work My mother, my cat, my father is part of her series Autobiographies, which pairs short autobiographical texts and photographs. Following upon the deaths of Calle’s aforementioned loved ones, the series examines loss and absence from the artist’s characteristically unsentimental perspective.

Buy the work here.

  • Invader - Invasion Kit. IK 16, Flash Invader 80ppi, 2014

Invader - Invasion Kit. IK 16, Flash Invader 80ppi

An anonymous street artist, Invader puts up iconic installations in cities around the world based on popular 8-bit video games from the 1970s and 80s. These characters are presented in the form of mosaics, with each pixel being represented with a tile. Placing his works across the streets from Hong Kong to New York, he refers to these postings as “invasions”.

The work Invasion Kit. IK 16, Flash Invader 80ppi features his distinct 8-bit character, rendered in reds and oranges.

Buy the work here.