8 Contemporary Artists Who Have Changed the Course of Art History

8 Contemporary Artists Who Have Changed the Course of Art History


A s institutions around the world re-examine the diversity of their collections, Sotheby’s invites you to do the same. Our Contemporary Curated auction (26 September, New York) features a spectacular array of works from the post-war period to the present, many by trailblazing artists who are finally receiving the recognition they deserve. Alongside Contemporary Curated, the premium luggage company RIMOWA will showcase its burgeoning archive for the first time in our New York galleries. Ahead, we spotlight eight artists who have defied means and medium, epitomizing RIMOWA’s motto: “No one builds a legacy by standing still.”

Kerry James Marshall

Throughout his career, Kerry James Marshall had been committed to shifting the paradox of presentation. His unwavering devotion to representations of black people in traditional art historical modes has earned him the highest place in the pantheon of figuration.

Sam Gilliam

An African-American artist associated with the Washington Color School, Sam Gilliam pushes the traditional boundaries of painting by altering our perception of the picture plane through draping and beveling the edges of the canvas. In recent years as the industry strives to re-examine the work of black artists from the 1960s and 1970s, Gilliam has risen to prominence.

Olga de Amaral

Because of her ability to reconcile local concerns with international developments, de Amaral became one of the few artists from South America to become internationally known for her work in fiber during the 1960s and 1970s. Using a base of intertwined linen fibers, she covers each piece with layers of gesso and various pigments, resembling surfaces of light. de Amaral’s inspiration ranges from Colombia’s artisanal culture and landscapes to pre-Colombian textiles, Indian basketry, gold artifacts, mathematics and geometry. She is also considered an important practitioner in the development of postwar Latin American Abstraction.

Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer is a member of the feminist art movement that began in the 1970s and sought to promote the study, creation, understanding and promotion of women’s art. Holzer uses forms of graphic mass communication, such as refined slogans, to increase awareness of the inequity faced by female artists. Her work often grapples with violence, oppression, sexuality, power, war and death, bringing to light matters thought in silence and intended to remain hidden.

Joan Mitchell

As an important member of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s, Joan Mitchell achieved the type of success that eluded many of her female peers. While she has been somewhat eclipsed by her male counterparts in the decades since, the tides are changing as her artistic talent becomes internationally acclaimed.

Ed Ruscha

By objectifying the written word into his distinguished lexicographic painting style, Ruscha became the trailblazing “Pop Artist of the West coast” and purveyor of American cool. His cultural impact is reflected in the numerous retrospectives and major museum shows of his work.

Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown has shattered the archaic barriers of this creative industry and found her way to the top of the male-dominated market. Compared to her contemporaries, her work explores the ideals of feminism and sexuality. She is most famously known for her role in the rebirth of painting and her ongoing theme of underlying eroticism.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s oil paintings focus on fictional figures that exist outside of specific times and places. She has received increasing attention in recent years from an art world that has increasingly embraced a return to historical styles of portraiture.

Contemporary Art

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