Contemporary Art

Four Contemporary Artists to Watch

By Nicole Bray

Nicole Bray is the founder of Mercer Contemporary, an art consulting business started in 2015. From home interiors to company boardrooms, she curates artwork to reflect the vision of private, corporate and non-profit clients and steers them through the process of procuring, deaccessioning, managing or displaying art. A graduate of the Contemporary Art Master's program at Sotheby's Institute of Art in New York, Bray was the recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation's Emerging Curator Fellowship in 2015. Throughout her career she has worked on both sides of the business, for an auction house and for a distinguished private family. She has developed a keen eye for established and emerging artists and through her company shares works worthy of consideration or collection. Here are four contemporary artists to keep an eye on, according to Nicole.

Vaughn Spann: A Rising Star of Materiality and Abstraction
When confronted with Vaughn Spann’s work, one finds the compositional delicacies between the figurative and abstract immediately intriguing. Rich with textures, colour and subject matter, the artist's work seeks to contribute to the dialogue of the black experience that was once written out of art history books. Traditionally, as cultures have been valued on the perceived importance of their art, there was once a time when no one believed in the value of work made by black artists. Contributing to this critical social and art historical narrative is a central theme of Spann’s work.

Physicality and materiality are crucial to his abstract works. Experimenting with twine, fabric, spray paint, oil paint, resin, plastilina and paper, among other materials, he creates luscious reliefs that combine painting and sculpture. Excited by the radical spirit of artists David Hammons and Shanique Smith, Spann takes objects of the everyday and transforms their meanings through context and the juxtaposition with other materials.

Sarah Meyohas: From High Finance to High Art
What if an artist traded stocks online in a gallery and visualized the moves of the market on a canvas? What if an artist created a digital currency called Bitchcoin that was backed by photography assets at a fixed exchange rate of 1 Bitchcoin to 25 square inches of photographic print? What if the artist took over the desolate Bell Labs Holmdel Complex and hired temps to pick tens of thousands rose petals to be captured as digital data? This is just a sample of the artwork created by the phenomenal Sarah Meyohas.

Born and raised in New York, Meyohas is not your typical artist. At 24 years old, she holds a finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and has interned with private equity and hedge fund firms. After completing a photographing class, she applied to Yale to pursue her MFA.

Meyohas’s practice traverses the worlds of finance and art to examine how we conceive, understand and represent value. Her project Stock Performance, 2016, involved her trading stocks online by subjectively choosing companies based on their name or industry, with the goal of moving the stock price in order to see a visual change.

Russell Tyler: Finding Vitality and Stillness
Walk into Russell Tyler’s studio, and you're met with the most wonderful array of coloured canvases. Inpsired by both Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, Tyler is a master of colour and movement, and indeed minimalist forms with expressive gestures and abstract forms derived from nature abound in his work. 

Tyler’s minimalist paintings draw from Joseph Albers and Mark Rothko in their repetitive rectilinear forms. Whereas Albers sought perfection of line and experimented with colour combinations, Tyler purposefully hand paints lines to create visible imperfections while also experimenting with varying shades of the same colour. The subtly of the colour and repetitive forms recall Rothko's canvases. However, the gestural brushstrokes and marks from the artist's fingers encourages viewers to examine the evidence of the artist’s hand at work.

Lisa Fromartz: Off the Wall
Lisa Fromartz lives and works surrounded by her sculptural installations and gestural paintings. The artist's allegiance to highly visual art with a strong composition has remained constant throughout her career, and her desire to embrace her surroundings and absorb the cultural landscape in elegant abstraction is a signature note of her style. She takes the vocabulary of everyday objects and mass media to create vibrant, exciting and sensual works.

Ranging from sculpture and collage to photography and painting, Fromartz's work draws on the messiness of life, and observing her abstractions creates new interpretations with every encounter. Her sculptural works incorporate unexpected forms and materials such as foam, crutches, window blinds, hair rollers, plastic, mesh and metal scraps to a playful yet sophisticated effect. It's only upon closer examination that the familiarity of these objects reveal themselves from the abstract. These sculptural installations and mobiles helped Fromartz to later create prints, collages and photographs by drawing on the colours, forms, fragments and representations of objects she had gathered from the streets.

To contact Nicole, please email her at or visit

The above excerpts were originally published on artREAL.

Learn more about Sotheby's Institute of Art.

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

More from Sotheby's