10 Contemporary Artist Under 40

November 29, 2014

For today's edition of Widewalls Top 10 list we have hand-picked ten young contemporary artists you should most definitely know. From emerging artists, just out of their teens, to those of wide international acclaim. All ten of them create exceptional art which shows extraordinary talents and rather unique aesthetics. Whether through paintings, sculptures, installations and performance art, each artist illuminates the complexity of the self with a unique and bold vision. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it is intended to suggest the breadth of contemporary art and introduce extremely talented visual artists who are making a proper mark on the current art scene. Some honed their skills on the street, others by dreaming up on pieces of applied art pieces in their parent's shops. A few are already immediately recognizable artists of worldwide praise, while some are just emerging, but are well on their way to become widely recognized household names.

Our artist database list all these and many more artists. The search function in our database allows you to filter artists by nationality, style, gender and age. As utilized for this Top 10 feature you can narrow down age groups of over 500 artists.

Editors’ Tip: The Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist, Enhanced Edition

There are thousands and thousands of artists under 40; and they are usually classified as emerging artists. It’s not always the case – we know some young artists who managed to make a huge breakthrough on international contemporary art platform. Still, the majority of artists who are younger than 40 are usually labeled as emerging artists. If you like our list of 10 artists under 40, or if you are an emerging artist under 40, we have an excellent book to suggest you. It’s called The Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist, Enhanced Edition. Primarily designed to help visual art students make the transition from art school to their own practice, The Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist is also an excellent resource for practicing artists. This Enhanced Edition continues to focus on all aspects of the emerging artist's career-studio practice, including developing ties in the art world, documenting work, making digital images, exhibiting art, writing about art, etc.


JR (1983) is a photographer and street artists extraordinaire, widely famous for his larger-than-life street installations featuring blown-up photographs of ordinary people he pastes up on walls throughout the world. Even though JR has became increasingly popular in recent years, he successfully manages to keep his identity unknown to the general public. Entering the world of street art by writing graffiti under the moniker Face 3 as a teenager, JR's unique style evolved tremendously after he had introduced a camera into his work. He broke out globally after photographing the Paris riots of 2004 and pasting up large prints of rioter's faces all around the city. After 'accidental' discovery of the biggest gallery in the streets, JR has been continuously showcasing his socially engaged artworks in the cities of Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (1979) is one of the most prominent English contemporary artists, widely recognized for his playful artworks that traverse the disciplines of design, illustration, contemporary art and entrepreneurism, and clearly illustrate his exceptional sense of humor and limitless imagination. Burgerman's instantly recognizable drawings, canvases, murals, sculptures, toys and various different design items situated somewhere between fine art, urban art and pop culture often feature humor while referencing and questioning his contemporary milieu. His truly pioneering artworks of captivating beauty can be seen in some of the most renowned galleries and museums worldwide, as well as on products of world's famous brands. Living and working in New York City, Jon Burgerman can be found doodling and drawing on its streets on any given day.

Conor Harrington

Conor Harrington (1980) is a extremely talented Irish painter and street artist who has garnered worldwide recognition for his dramatic and mesmerizing artworks which wonderfully fuse together various street art motifs and rather ambitious realist painting. His prolific large-scale murals, canvases and opulent print editions of complex and overwhelming compositions, which masterfully blend classic imagery of great masters with contemporary elements, represent some of the most compelling contemporary art on display today. Harrington’s loose brushwork, seemingly unfinished imagery, dripping paint, and graffiti flourishes provide an antidote to his sometimes sentimental evocations of duty and honor. Originating from Cork, Ireland, and a former graffiti writer, Conor Harrington today works from his east London studio, but he is very active all around the world, from Dublin, US and UK, to Norway, Spain, and the Bethlehem Wall.

Anthony Lister

Anthony Lister (1979) is a highly prolific street artist and painter, and one of Australia's most prominent contemporary artists, widely known for his astonishing, thought-provoking works of unique sensibility that wonderfully combine variety of different styles, most importantly twentieth-century figuration and street art. Painting since the late 1990s, Lister gained huge international following and today exhibits in some of the most respected galleries across the world. Lister's eye-catching paintings, drawings and installations depict a lucid world of his imagination, filled with strange creatures including flawed superheroes, imperious vamps and flirtatious ballet dancers.

Be sure to check out an interesting selection of works by Anthony Lister!

In 2000 Anthony Lister was one of the first artists to paint Brisbane’s traffic signal boxes in a project launched by city authorities, yet this November he was arrested and appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on twelve charges of wilful damage pertaining to his graffiti works dating back to 2009.

Daniel Arsham

Daniel Arsham (1980) is a renowned American artist whose career exploded in the last ten years. He is widely recognized for his extraordinary works that employ various elements of architecture, sculpture and performance in order to challenge and distort viewer's preconceptions of structures and space. His practice has been guided by a curiosity for architecture and structured space, stemming from childhood memories of seeing his house being demolished by Hurricane Andrew that swept through his hometown of Miami. Some of Arsham's best known works include a series of installations that destabilize the solidity of gallery walls, in a way that they appear to be melting, dripping and folding or absorbing people and furniture. Lately, Arsham has been working on a four-year project of nine short films that will ultimately constitute a full-length feature film set to be released in 2017.

Lucien Smith

Lucien Smith (1989) may be one of the youngest artists on our list but he is already a true superstar of the contemporary artworld whose artworks fetch mind-boggling prices at auctions worldwide. Smith is a painter and sculptor who fuses various art genres, concepts and techniques in his works which often incorporate ready-made materials and use of collage references, which give them a certain Dadaist quality, yet his non-representational renderingsnod to Art Informel and Tachisme. In 2011, Smith has executed an acclaimed series of abstraction paintings titled Rain Paintings, which were created by spraying fire extinguishers filled with paint. His most recent show of eleven camouflage-patterned abstract paintings titled Tigris received worldwide praise and cemented his status of one of the most prominent young artists of our time. Forbes Magazine featured Smith in its 2012 list of 30 notable individuals under 30.


Hiroyasu Tsuri, also known as TWOONE (1985) is a famed Japanese painter and street artist, living and working out of his warehouse studio situated in Collingwood, Australia. TWOONE gained an early interest in visual arts through graffiti and shortly after his move to Melbourne in 2003, he became one of the most prominent members of the local street art scene that was booming in those years. After obtaining a diploma in visual arts, TWOONE started expanding his field of work to paintings, murals, sculptures, performance art and installations. Since then he has been participating in number of group exhibitions, constantly producing commissioned murals. In 2008 TWOONE broke internationally with his acclaimed One Thousand Can Show solo exhibition which featured one thousand individually hand painted cans of spraypaint.

Caleb Hahne

Caleb Hahne (1993) is a young American illustrator and artist and a new, emerging star in the contemporary artworld, only 21 years old but extremely skillful and gifted classic draftsman not afraid of exploring new digital media. His innovative practice involves the utilization of modern day technology combined with traditional, hundreds of years old techniques in order to digitally collage appropriated imagery taken from magazines and textbooks drawn into new and captivating compositions. Hahne's body of work involves found objects and images, graphite, oil paint, as well as wide variety of other mixed medias, and clearly demonstrates his incredible talent and skill clearly cultivated and influenced by Hahne's deep understanding of art history and design. With his delicate attention to contrast of softness and hardness, Hahne's artworks balance different components in an aesthetically pure whole images.

Sebas Velasco

Sebastián Velasco Navarro Burgos, or simply Sebas Velasco (1988), is a renowned Spanish painter, graffiti and street artists whose exceptional body of work includes a wide variety of different themes and techniques, which range from contemporary figurative painting to illustration. Velasco started drawing as a small child and in 2004 he began writing graffiti on the walls of his hometown of Burgos. After graduating in Fine Arts in Bilbao, he continued his artistic education and studied illustration in Barcelona. Gradually moving toward working on canvas Sebas Velasco maintained  a continuous activity in the streets, regularly painting walls in the streets of Spanish and European cities. Employing a rather extraordinary naturalist technique, Velasco creates mesmerizing artworks of unique aesthetics, that take their viewers into a blurred and fleeting universe similar to that of their own memories.

Kour Pour

Kour Pour (1987) is a English artist of international acclaim, widely recognized for his extremely popular series of carpet paintings inspired by traditional Persian carpets. Each of Pour's extremely elaborate paintings usually take several months to complete. They often incorporate variety of techniques, including an under-painting using silkscreen painting, sanding, broomsticks and Pour's meticulous hand painting, and depict wide range of subjects all merged together on one picture plane. Growing up in the South West of England, Kour spent good part of his childhood in his father's rug shop where they would hand-dye faded portions of Persian carpets in order to bring back their original vibrant colors. After moving to Los Angeles where he obtained his BFA degree from Otis College of Arts and Design, Kour Pour hanged on to his childhood memmories and developed his unique style in creating mesmerizing paintings of beauty rarely seen in contemporary artworld.

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