Best Contemporary Visual Artists – The Critics’ Picks

I found over 10 lists of the best visual artists who are described as modern, contemporary or ‘alive today’ and combined them into one meta-list.  I then removed the names of artists who were already included on my Best Visual Artists of All Time list.  Here are the results: every artist on three or more of the lists, including the most highly regarded artworks.  Unlike the list of Best Visual Artists of All Time, which consists almost exclusively of painters and sculptors, the Contemporary list also includes photographers, video and film artists, multimedia and performance artists.

On 9 Lists

Jeff Koons with Michael Jackson and Bubbles.

Jeff Koons with ‘Michael Jackson and Bubbles’ (1988).

Jeff Koons (US, 1955- ) sculptor, painter, multimedia artist 
Rabbit (1986)
Ushering In Banality (from Banality series) (1988)
Michael Jackson and Bubbles (from Banality series) (1988)
Pink Panther (from Banality series) (1988)
Made in Heaven (series of sculptures and photographs) (1990–1991)
Puppy (1992)
Balloon Dog (Magenta) (from Celebration series) (1995-1998)
Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) (from Celebration series) (1995-1998)

7 Lists

Gerhard Richter with 4900 Colors: Version II. Photograph: Graeme Robertson.

Gerhard Richter with ‘4900 Colors: Version II’ (2007).  Photograph by Graeme Robertson.

Gerhard Richter (Germany, 1932- ) painter, photographer, illustrator, stained glass artist
Lebensfreude (Joy of life) (1956)
Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) (1968)
Grau (Grey) (1970)
Forty-eight Portraits (1971–1972)
Kerze (Candle) (1982)
Clouds (1982)
October 18, 1977 (series of 15 paintings) (1988)
Betty (1988)
November (1989)
Lesende (Reader) (1994)
September (2005)
Stained Glass Window, Cologne Cathedral (2007)
Atlas (1962-Present) 

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Cindy Sherman with her 1975 photograph Lucille Ball.

Cindy Sherman with her photograph ‘Lucille Ball’ (1975).

Cindy Sherman (US, 1954- ) photographer, filmmaker
Untitled Film Still #21 (1978)
Untitled #66 (from the Rear Screen Projection series) (1980)
Untitled #92 (from the Centerfolds series) (1981)
Untitled #96 (from the Centerfolds series) (1981)
Untitled #137 (from the Fashion series) (1984)
Untitled #153 (from the Fairy Tales and Disasters series) (1985)
Untitled #193 (from the History Portraits series) (1989)
Untitled #425 (from the Clowns series) (2004)
Untitled #466 (from the Society Portraits series) (2008)
Untitled #474 (from the Society Portraits series) (2008)

Anish Kapoor with a model of Orbit.

Anish Kapoor with a model of ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’ (2012).

Anish Kapoor (India/UK, 1954- ) sculptor, architect
1000 Names (1979-1980)
Sky Mirror (multiple versions) (2001)
Marsyas (2002)
Cloud Gate (2006)
Memory (2008)
ArcelorMittal Orbit (London Olympic Park) (2012)

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Ed Ruscha with Trademark with Eight Spotlights.

Ed Ruscha stands with ‘Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights’ (1962).

Ed Ruscha (US, 1937- ) painter, photographer, printmaker
Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights (1962)
Oof (1962-1963)
Twentysix Gasoline Stations (series of 26 photographs) (1963)
Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas (1963)
Burning Gas Station (1965-1966)
Standard Station (1966)
Every Building on the Sunset Strip (photographs) (1966)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Fire (1965-1968)
Premium (film) (1971)
Now Then, As I Was About To Say (1973)
I Dont Want No Retro Spective (1979)
The End (1991)
Tulsa Slut (2002)

Bruce Nauman in a still photograph from the video Art Make-Up No. 1, White (1967). Copyright 2006 Bruce Nauman/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bruce Nauman in a still photograph from the video ‘Art Make-Up No. 1, White’ (1967). Copyright 2006 Bruce Nauman/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Bruce Nauman (US, 1941- ) painter, sculptor, photographer, performance artist, filmmaker
Self Portrait as a Fountain (1966)
Art Make-Up (series of four videos) (1967)
The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign) (1967)
Wall-Floor Positions (1969)
Run From Fear – Fun From Rear (1972)
Human/Need/Desire (1983)
One Hundred Live and Die (1984)
Good Boy Bad Boy (1985)
Clown Torture (1987)
Learned Helplessness in Rats (Rock and Roll Drummer) (1988)
Mapping the Studio I (Fat Chance John Cage) (2001)

A 2011 photo of Anselm Kiefer standing in front of two of the paintings from his series 'The Secret Life of Plants for Robert Fludd' (2001-2002).

A 2011 photo of Anselm Kiefer standing in front of two of the paintings from his series ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ (2001-2002).

Anselm Kiefer (Germany, 1945- ) painter, sculptor, photographer, mixed media artist
Besetzungen (Occupations) (1969)
Winter Landscape (1970)
Resurrexit
(1973)
Margarethe
(1981)
Interior (1981)
Your Golden Hair, Margarethe (1981)
Nuremberg (1982)
To the Unknown Painter (1983)
Nigredo (1984)
Jerusalem (1986)
Osiris and Isis (1985–1987)
Sets, Am Anfang (In the Beginning) (opera) (2009)
La berceuse (for Van Gogh) (2010)

Martin Kippenberger dressed as a Turkish cleaning lady for this photograph in 1988 as part of his exhibition, "Helmut Newton for the Poor."

Martin Kippenberger dressed as a Turkish cleaning lady for this photograph in 1988 as part of his exhibition, “Helmut Newton for the Poor.”

Martin Kippenberger (Germany, 1953-1997) painter, sculptor, photographer, multimedia artist
Dear Painter, Paint for Me (series of 12 paintings) (1981)
Dialogue with the Youth of Today (1981)
Friendly Communist Woman (1983)
Try as I Might, I Cannot Find a Swastika (1984)
The Martin Bormann Gas Station (Salvador de Bahia, Brazil) (1986)
The Peter Sculptures (installation) (1987)
Model Interconti (table with Gerhard Richter painting) (from The Peter Sculptures) (1987)
Untitled (self-portrait in red underwear, painting) (1988)
Untitled (self-portrait in white underwear, with blue head) (1988)
Untitled (Martin, into the Corner, You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself) (1989)
Feet First (from Fred the Frog series) (1990)
Street Lamp for Drunks (1988)
The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika’ (installation) (1994)
The Raft of the Medusa (installation) (1996)
Jacqueline: The Paintings Pablo Couldn’t Paint Anymore (series of eight paintings) (1996)

Andreas Gursky stands in front of his photograph. Getty Photo.

Andreas Gursky stands in front of his photograph ‘Qatar’ (2012). Getty Photo.

Andreas Gursky (Germany, 1955- ) photographer
Ratingen (1987)
Paris, Montparnasse (1993)
99 Cent (1999)
Rhein II (1999)
99 Cent II Diptychon (2001)
Madonna I (2001)
Nha Trang, Vietnam (2004)
Bahrain I (2005) 

Damien Hirst in front of

In 2012, Damien Hirst poses with his artwork, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (1991).

Damien Hirst (UK, 1965- ) painter, sculptor, filmmaker, musician, multimedia artist
A Thousand Years (1990)
In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays) (installation) (1991)
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)
Pharmacy (1992)
Mother and Child Divided (1993)
Away from the Flock (1994)
Lullaby, the Season Spring (2002)
Hymn (1999-2005)
For the Love of God (2007)
Beautiful Inside my Head Forever (244 works) (2008)
Verity (2003-2012)
Mickey (2012)

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A 1996 photograph of Louise Bourgeois with her sculpture 'Spider IV.' (Photo by Peter Bellamy; courtesy of Zeitgeist Films.)

A 1996 photograph of Louise Bourgeois with her sculpture ‘Spider IV.’ (Photo by Peter Bellamy; courtesy of Zeitgeist Films.)

Louise Bourgeois (France/US, 1911-2010) painter, sculptor, draughtswoman, mixed media artist
Femme Maison (Housewife) (series of paintings and drawings) (1946-1947)
Spider (drawing) (1947)
Persistent Antagonism (1947–1949)
The Blind Leading the Blind (1947–1949)
Sleeping Figure (c. 1950)
Quarantania I (1947–1953)
Fillette (1968)
Janus Fleuri (Janus in Bloom) (1968)
The Destruction of the Father (1974)
Nature Study (1984)
Articulated Lair (1986)
Mamelles (latex, 1991; marble 2000)
Arch of Hysteria (1993)
The Nest (1994)
Spider (series) (1996)
Maman (1999)
Rejection (2001)
Spiral Woman (series of drawings and sculptures) (1952-2006)

Robert Rauschenberg in his studio, in an undated photo.

Robert Rauschenberg in his studio, in an undated photo.

Robert Rauschenberg (US, 1925-2008) painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer, mixed media artist
The White Paintings (series) (1951-1953)
Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953)
Automobile Tire Print (1953)
Bed (1955)
Factum I and Factum II (1957)
Canyon (1959)
Monogram (1959)
Retroactive I (1963)
Sets & Costumes, Merce Cunningham Dance Co. (1955-1964)
34 Drawings for Dante’s Inferno (1965)
Hoarfrosts (series) (1974-1976)

Sol Lewitt creating a Structure.

Sol Lewitt creating a Structure.

Sol LeWitt (US, 1928-2007) conceptual artist, painter, sculptor, mixed media artist
Wall Structure, Blue (1962)
Standing Open Structure, Black (1964)
Muybridge II (1964)
Serial Project #1 (ABCD) (1966)
Buried Cube Containing an Object of Importance but Little Value (1968)
Wall Drawing #65 (1971)
Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes (installation) (1974)
Wall Drawing #260 (1975)
Lines in Four Directions in Flowers (designed 1981; executed 2012)
Black Form – Dedicated to the Missing Jews (1987)
Five Pointed Star with Color Bands (1992)
Wall Drawing #766 (1994)
Four-Sided Pyramid (installed 1999)

Jasper Johns with 'Flag' (1954-1955).

Jasper Johns with ‘Flag’ (1954-1955).

Jasper Johns (US, 1930- ) painter, sculptor, mixed media artist
Flag (1954–1955)
White Flag (1955)
Target with Four Faces (1955)
Three Flags (1958)
Flashlight III (1958)
Numbers in Color (1958–1959)
False Start (1959)
The Critic Smiles (1959)
Painted Bronze (Ale Cans) (1960)
Painted Bronze (Savarin) (1960)
The Critic Sees (1961)
0 through 9 (multiple versions) (1960-1961)
Map (1961)
Periscope (Hart Crane) (1962-1963)
According to What (1964)
Savarin (print) (1977)
Perilous Night (1982)
Fragment of a Letter (2009-2010)

Georg Baselitz in front of his painting 'Wir besuchen den Rhine' (1996).

Georg Baselitz in front of his painting ‘Wir besuchen den Rhine’ (1996).

Georg Baselitz (Germany, 1938- ) painter, sculptor, mixed media artist
The Big Night Down The Drain (1962-1963)
Heroes (series) (1965-1966)
The Great Friends (from Heroes) (1965)
The Rebel (1965-1966)
The Wood on its Head (1969-1970)
The Corn Gleaner (1978)
Model for a Sculpture (1980)
Dinner in Dresden (1983)
45 (1989)
Women of Dresden (series) (1989-1990)
Karla (from Women of Dresden) ( 1990)

Richard Serra with one of the sculptures from 'The Matter of Time' (2005).

Richard Serra with one of the sculptures from ‘The Matter of Time’ (2005).

Richard Serra (US, 1939- ) sculptor, painter, draughtsman
Cutting Device: Base Plate Measure (1969)
One Ton Prop (House of Cards) (1969)
Equal (Corner Prop Piece) (1970)
Circuit II (1972)
Tilted Arc (1981)
Fulcrum (1985-1987)
Snake (1994-1997)
Torqued Ellipse IV (1998)
The Matter of Time (installation) (2005)
Sequence (2006)

Sigmar Poke with his painting 'The Illusionist' (2007).

Sigmar Poke with his painting ‘The Illusionist’ (2007).

Sigmar Polke (Germany, 1941-2010) painter, photographer, mixed media artist
Raster Drawing (Portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald) (1963)
Girlfriends (1965-1966)
Moderne Kunst (Modern Art) (1968)
Apparatus Whereby One Potato Can Orbit Another (1969)
Higher Beings Commanded: Paint the Upper-Right Corner Black! (1969)
Untitled (photo of leaning man and paper) (1975)
Supermarkets (1976)
Untitled (Quetta, Pakistan) (manipulated photo) (1974-1978)
Negative Value II (1982)
Watchtower (series) (1984-1988)
Mrs. Autumn and Her Two Daughters (1991)
The Three Lies of Painting (1994)
Untitled (Rorschach) (1999)

Isa Genzken at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013.

Isa Genzken at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for a 2013 retrospective.

Isa Genzken (Germany, 1948- ) painter, sculptor, photographer, mixed media artist
Red-Yellow-Black Double Ellipsoid “Twin” (1982)
Painting (sculpture) (1989)
MLR (More Light Research) (series) (1992)
Rose (1993-1997)
I Love New York, Crazy City (scrapbook) (1995–1996)
Sibling (2004)
Mother and Child (2004)
New Buildings for Berlin (series) (2004)
Holiday (2004)
Bouquet (2004)
The American Room (installation) (2004)
Children Filming I (2005)
Untitled (wrapped wheelchair) (2006)
Oil XI (installation) (2007)
Disco Soon (from Ground Zero) (2008)
Hospital (from Ground Zero) (2008)
Actors (installation) (2013)

Richard Prince with one of the artworks in his Cowboy series, which features appropriated photos from advertisements.

Richard Prince with one of the artworks in his Cowboy series, which features appropriated photos from advertisements.

Richard Prince (US, 1949- ) photographer, painter, sculptor, mixed media artist
Untitled (three women looking in the same direction) (1980)
Spiritual America (1983)
Untitled (from Fashion) (1982-1984)
Gangs (series) (1984- )
Creative Evolution 2 (1985-1986)
Jokes (series) (1986-2006)
Untitled (from Cowboy) (1989)
Hoods (series) (1989- )
Girlfriends (series) (1992-1999)
Untitled (Girlfriend) (1993)
Checks (series) (1999-2005)
Nurses (series) (2002-2006)
Untitled (Dude Ranch Nurse) (from Nurses) (2002)
Untitled (Debutante Nurse) (from Nurses) (2004)
Pure Thoughts (refitted 1970 Dodge Challenger) (2007)
Oz (from Hoods) (2007)

Anthony Gormley with the installation 'Firmament.'

Anthony Gormley with the installation ‘Firmament’ (2008-2010).

Antony Gormley (UK, 1950- ) sculptor
Three Ways: Mould Hole and Passage (1981)
Field for the British Isles (from Field) (1993)
Amazonian Field (from Field) (1991)
Asian Field (China) (from Field) (2003)
Another Place (1997)
Angel of the North (1998)
Quantum Cloud (1999)
Planets (2002)
Filter (2002)
Domain Field (2003)
Blind Light (2007)
Event Horizon (London, 2007; New York, 2010)
One & Other (Trafalgar Square, London) (July 6–Oct. 14, 2009)

William Kentridge with his 'Self-Portrait' (1997).

William Kentridge with ‘Self-Portrait (Testing the Library)’ (1998).

William Kentridge (South Africa, 1955- ) painter, draughtsman, filmmaker, designer
9 Drawings for Projection (series of videos) (1989-2011)
Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris (video) (from 9 Drawings for Projection) (1989)
Felix in Exile (video) (from 9 Drawings for Projection) (1994)
Ubu Tells the Truth (video) (1996-1997)
Drawing for Stereoscope (figure standing in blue water) (1998-1999)
Sets and Costumes, The Magic Flute (2007)
Sets and Costumes, The Nose (2010)
The Refusal of Time (video) (2012)

Francis Alÿs carrying a pistol in Mexico City in his performance piece, 'Reenactments' (2001).

Francis Alÿs carrying a pistol in Mexico City in his performance piece, ‘Reenactments’ (2001).

Francis Alÿs (Belgium/Mexico, 1959- ) painter, performance artist, filmmaker
The Collector (1991)
Le Temps du Sommeil (series) (1996-Present)
Paradox of Praxis I (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing) (1997)
Cuentos Patrioticos (1997)
The Rehearsal I (1999-2001)
Reenactments (2001)
When Faith Moves Mountains (2002)
The Green Line (Sometimes doing something poetic can become political
and sometimes doing something political can become poetic)
(2004)
Tornado (2000-2010)

Peter Doig with a painting from the '100 Years Ago' series (2001).

Peter Doig with a painting from the ‘100 Years Ago’ series (2001).

Peter Doig (UK: Scotland, 1959- ) painter, printmaker
White Canoe (1990)
The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991)
Concrete Cabin (series) (1991-1996)
Blotter (1993)
100 years ago (series) (2001)
Pelican (Stag) (2003)
Red Boat (Imaginary Boys) (2004)
Figures in Red Boat (2005-2007)
Man Dressed as Bat (2007)
Ping Pong (2006-2008)
Cricket Painting (Paragrand) (2006-2012)

Mauricio Cattelan with his sculpture 'Le Nona Ora' (1999). Photo by Pierpaolo Ferrari.

Mauricio Cattelan with his sculpture ‘Le Nona Ora’ (1999). Photo by Pierpaolo Ferrari.

Maurizio Cattelan (Italy, 1960) sculptor, painter, mixed media, performance artist
Untitled (man in Picasso costume with enlarged Picasso head) (1998-1999)
La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999)
A Perfect Day (art gallery owner duct-taped to wall) (replica) (1999)
Not Afraid of Love (2000)
HIM (2001)
Untitled (sculpture of three boys hanging, with nooses around their necks) (2004)
Stephanie (“Trophy Wife”)
(2003)
Untitled (taxidermied horse with post inscribed “INRI”) (2009)
Toilet Paper (magazine) (2010-Present)
All (installation of 128 of artist’s 132 prior works) (2011)

Takashi Murakami with a small version of his sculpture 'Tongari Kun - Mr. Pointy & the Four Guards' (2005).

Takashi Murakami with a small version of his sculpture ‘Tongari Kun – Mr. Pointy & the Four Guards’ (2005).

Takashi Murakami (Japan, 1962) sculptor, painter, filmmaker, designer
727 (1996)
Miss Ko2 (1997)
Hiropon (1997)
My Lonesome Cowboy (1998)
The Castle of Tin Tin (1998)
Jellyfish Eyes (series) (2001)
Tan Tan Bo Puking – a.k.a. Gero Tan (2002)
Louis Vuitton Handbags (2002)
Flower Matango (series) (2001-2006)
Second Mission Project Ko2 (installation) (2007)
Oval Buddha (2007)
Isle of the Dead (2014)

Tracey Emin with one of the works in her 2014 exhibition 'The Last Great Adventure is You.'

Tracey Emin with one of the works in her 2014 exhibition ‘The Last Great Adventure is You.’

Tracey Emin (UK, 1963- ) painter, printmaker, sculptor, photographer, mixed media, filmmaker
Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995 (installation) (1995)
Ripped Up (drawing) (1995)
Sad Shower in New York (drawing) (1995)
Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made (series of paintings) (1996)
Tracey Emin C.V. Cunt Vernacular (video) (1997)
My Bed (installation) (1998)
Berlin The Last Week in April 1998 (series of watercolors) (1998)
I’ve Got It All (photograph) (2000)
Sometimes I Feel Beautiful (photograph) (2000)
The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don’t Leave Me Here II (photograph) (2000)
Knowing My Enemy (installation) (2002)
Death Mask (sculpture) (2002)
Details of Depression (series of photographs) (2003)

Kara Walker with her piece 'Authenticating the Artifact' (2007). AP Photo.

Kara Walker with her piece ‘Authenticating the Artifact’ (2007). AP Photo.

Kara Walker (US, 1969- ) painter, sculptor, printmaker, filmmaker, mixed media artist
Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart (installation) (1994)
The Battle of Atlanta: Being the Narrative of a Negress in the Flames of Desire—A Reconstruction (installation)  (1995)
The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven (installation) (1995)
Slavery! Slavery! (installation) (1997)
Do You Like Crème in Your Coffee and Chocolate in your Milk? (series of 80 watercolors) (1997)
Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) (series of 15 prints) (2005)
8 Possible Beginnings, or, The Creation of African-America (film) (2005)
A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant (installation) (2014)

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Francis Bacon in front of 'Triptych' (1976).

Francis Bacon in front of ‘Triptych’ (1976).

Francis Bacon (Ireland/UK, 1909-1992) painter
Crucifixion (1933)
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944)
Painting (1946)
Head VI (1949)
Study for Portrait (1949)
Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)
Man with Dog (1953)
Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969)
Triptych, May–June 1973 (1973)
Triptych (1976)
Study for a Self Portrait –Triptych (1985-1986)
Second Version, Triptych 1944 (1988-1989)

Joseph Beuys performing 'How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare' (1965).

Joseph Beuys performing ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’ (1965).

Joseph Beuys (Germany, 1921-1986) performance artist, sculptor, painter, photographer, printmaker
Lightning with Stag in its Glare (installation) (1958-1985)
Fat Chair (1964-1985)
How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (performance) (1965)
Homogenous Infiltration for Piano (performance) (1966)
Eurasia Siberian Symphony 1963 (1966)
Sled (1969)
The Pack (1969)
Felt Suit (1970)
La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi ((We Are the Revolution) (photoprint) (1972)
I Like America and America Likes Me (performance) (1974)
7,000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration (1982-1987)

Lucian Freud painting 'Night Portrait, Face Down' (1999-2000).

Lucian Freud painting ‘Night Portrait, Face Down’ (1999-2000).

Lucian Freud (Germany/UK, 1922-2011) painter
Girl with a Kitten (1947)
Interior at Paddington (1951)
Girl with a White Dog (1951-1952)
Reflection with Two Children (1965)
Naked Man with Rat (1977-1978)
Naked Man, Back View (1991-1992)
Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995)
After Cezanne (1999-2000)
Queen Elizabeth II (2000-2001)

Ellsworth Kelly, at age 90, speaks about 'Sculpture for a Large Wall' (1957).

Ellsworth Kelly, at age 90, stands in front of ‘Sculpture for a Large Wall’ (1957).

Ellsworth Kelly (US, 1923- ) painter, printmaker, sculptor
Window, Museum of Modern Art, Paris (1949)
Colors for a Large Wall (1951)
The Meschers (1951)
Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance (series of eight collages) (1951–1953)
Red Yellow Blue White and Black (1953)
Sculpture for a Large Wall (1957)
Concorde Relief I (1958)
White Disk III (1961)
Red Blue Green (1963)
Lemon Branch (drawing) (1964)
Suite of Twenty-Seven Color Lithographs (1964–1966)
Nine Squares (1976)
Colored Paper Image III (Blue Black Curves) (1976)
Colored Paper Image XII (Blue Curve with Brown and Gray) (1976)
18 Colors (Cincinnati) (1979-1982)
Three Panels: Orange, Dark Gray, Green (1986)

Cy Twombly stands in front of his 'Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor)' (1994).

Cy Twombly stands in front of ‘Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor)’ (1994).

Cy Twombly (US/Italy, 1928-2011) painter, printmaker, sculptor, photographer, mixed media artist
Tiznit (1953)
Untitled (Funerary Box for a Lime Green Python) (sculpture) (1954)
Panorama (1955)
The Italians (1961)
Ferragosto V (1961)
Leda and the Swan (1962)
Nine Discourses on Commodus (series of nine panels) (1963)
The ‘Blackboard’ Paintings (series) (1967-1971)
Nini’s Paintings (series of five) (1971)
Fifty Days at Iliam (series of ten panels) (1978)
Cycnus (sculpture) (1978)
Wilder Shores of Love, Bassano in Teverina (1985)
Tulips, Rome (photograph) (1985)
Painting Detail and ‘By the Ionian Sea’ Sculpture (photograph) (1992)
Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor) (1994)
The Four Seasons (first version, 1993-1994 (New York); second version, 1993-1995 (London))
Spring (from The Four Seasons, second version) (1993-1995)
Cabbages, Gaeta (photograph) (1998)
Foundry, Rome (photograph) (2000)
Bacchus (series of eight paintings) (2005)
Painting Detail (Roses) (photograph) (2009)
Ceiling, Salle des Bronzes, Louvre, Paris (2010)

Yayoi Kasuma wearing clothing and sitting in a room, the designs of which are derived from her painting 'Yellow Trees' (1994).

Yayoi Kasuma wearing clothing and sitting in a room, the designs of which are derived from her painting ‘Yellow Trees’ (1994).

Yayoi Kusama (Japan/US, 1929- ) painter, sculptor, performance artist, filmmaker, mixed media artist
Infinity Nets (series of paintings) (1959-1965; 1990-Present)
Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (installation) (1963)
Infinity Mirrored Room – Phalli’s Field (installation) (1965)
Narcissus Garden (series of installations) (1966-Present)
Horse Play (performance/happening) (1967)
Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead (performance/happening) (1969)
Mirror Room (Pumpkin) (installation) (1991)
Pumpkin (sculpture, Naoshima) (1994)
Infinity Mirrored Room – Love Forever (installation) (1996)
Dots Obsession (series of installations) (1996-Present)
Fireflies on the Water (painting) (2002)
The Visionary Flowers (sculptures) (2002)
An Encounter with a Flowering Season (painting) (2009)
Late Night Chat is Filled with Dreams (painting) (2009)
Louis Vuitton products (collaboration with Marc Jacobs) (2011)
Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life (installation) (2011)

John Baldessari's 'Portrait (Self) #1 as control + 11 Alterations by Retouching and Airbrushing" (1974).

John Baldessari’s ‘Portrait (Self) #1 as control + 11 Alterations by Retouching and Airbrushing” (1974).

John Baldessari (US, 1931- ) painter, sculptor, printmaker, filmmaker, photographer, mixed media and performance artist
What is Painting (photo-text painting) (1966-1968)
Pure Beauty (photo-text painting) (1966-1968)
Quality Material (photo-text painting) (1966–1968)
Painting for Kubler (photo-text painting) (1967–68)
The Cremation Project (mixed media) (1970)
I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (video) (1971)
I Am Making Art (video) (1971)
Baldessari Sings LeWitt (video) (1972)
The Artist Hitting Various Objects with a Golf Club (series of 30 photographs) (1972-1973)
Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (Best of 36 Attempts) (series of 12 photographs) (1973)
The Fallen Easel (mixed media) (1988)
Noses & Ears, Etc. (series; mixed media) (2006-2007)
Beethoven’s Trumpet (with Ear) (series; mixed media) (2007)

Chuck Close in 1968 with his 'Large Self-Portrait' (1966-1967).

Chuck Close in 1968 with his ‘Big Self-Portrait’ (1967-1968).

Chuck Close (US, 1940- ) painter, printmaker, tapestry maker, photographer, mixed media artist
Big Self Portrait (1967-1968)
Phil (1969)
Keith/Mezzotint (1972)
Fanny/Fingerpainting (1985)
Alex/Reduction Print (1993)
Self-Portrait (2000)
Self-Portrait/Scribble/Etching Portfolio (set of 25 prints) (2000)
Emma/Woodcut (2002)
Self-Portrait (2007)
Self-Portrait (Yellow Raincoat) (Jacquard tapestry) (2013)

James Turrell at Roden Crater, near Flagstaff, Arizona.

James Turrell at Roden Crater, near Flagstaff, Arizona.

James Turrell (US, 1943- ) mixed media artist
Afrum I (White) (1966-1967)
Ronin (1968)
Juke, Green (1968)
Mendota Stoppages (1969-1974)
Stuck Red/Stuck Blue (1970)
Acton (from the Space Division Constructions series) (1976)
Roden Crater (Arizona, work in progress) (1977-Present)
Meeting (skyspace, New York) (1986)
The Light Inside (installation, Houston) (1999)
One Accord (skyspace, Houston) (2000)
Bridget’s Bardo (installation, Wolfsburg, Germany) (2008-2009)
Bindu Shards (from Perceptual Cell series) (2010)
Twilight Epiphany (skyspace, Houston) (2012)
Aten Reign (installation, New York) (2013)

Hiroshi Sugimoto with a photograph from his Lightning Fields series.

Hiroshi Sugimoto with a photograph from his Lightning Fields series.

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, 1948- ) photographer, architect
Polar Bear (from Diorama series) (1976)
U.A. Walker, New York (from Theaters series) (1978)
Akron Civic, Ohio (from Theaters series) (1980)
Ohio Theater, Ohio (from Theaters series) (1980)
Time Exposed #345: Ionian Sea, Santa Cesarea 1990 (from Seascapes series) (1991)
Hi Way 39 Drive-In, Orange (from Theaters series) (1993)
Earliest Human Relatives (from Diorama series) (1994)
Lake Superior, Cascade River (from Seascapes series) (1995)
Architecture (series) (1997-2002)
Bay of Sagami, Atami (from Seascapes series) (1997)
Anne Boleyn (from Portraits series) (1999)
Lake Superior, Eagle River (from Seascapes series) (2003)
Conceptual Forms (Hypotrochoid) (2004)
Lightning Fields 225
(from Lightning Fields series) (2009)
The Glass House (2013)

Tony Cragg with 'I'm Alive' (2005). Photograph: Matt Faber/PA

Tony Cragg with ‘I’m Alive’ (2005). Photograph: Matt Faber/PA

Tony Cragg (UK, 1949- ) sculptor, painter, draughtsman, mixed media artist
Stack (1975)
Britain Seen from the North (1981)
Axehead (1982)
Six Bottles, Large, State 1 (1988)
Early Forms (St. Gallen) (1997)
it is, it isn’t (2010)
Mixed Feelings (2011)
Lost in Thought (2011)
Hardliner (2013)
Parts of Life (2014)
Tommy (2014)
Stroke (2014)
Willow II (2015)

Sally Mann with two photos from her 'Flesh and the Spirit' series.

Sally Mann with two photos from her ‘Flesh and the Spirit’ series (2010).

Sally Mann (US, 1951- ) photographer
Damaged Child (1984) (from Immediate Family)
Blowing Bubbles (1987) (from Immediate Family)
The Last Time Emmett Modeled Nude (1987) (from Immediate Family)
Virginia at Four (1989) (from Immediate Family)
Emmet, Jessie and Virginia (1989) (from Immediate Family)
Jessie in the Wind (1989) (from Immediate Family)
Candy Cigarette (1990) (from Immediate Family)
The Perfect Tomato (1990) (from Immediate Family)
At Warm Springs (1991) (from Immediate Family)
Black Eye (1991) (from Immediate Family)
Untitled (#1, “Scarred Tree”) (1998) (from Deep South)
Untitled (#30, “Swamp Bones”) (1998) (from Deep South)

Marlene Dumas with 'Self-Portrait at Noon' (2008) and other paintings.

Marlene Dumas with ‘Self-Portrait at Noon’ (2008) and other paintings.

Marlene Dumas (South Africa/Netherlands, 1953- ) painter, draughtswoman
Evil is Banal (1984)
The Image as Burden (1993)
The Painter (1994)
The Kiss (2003)
Moshekwa (2006)
Helena’s Dream (2008)
Dead Marilyn (2008)
Amy-Blue (2011)

Nan Goldin's 'Self-Portrait on the Train, Germany, 1992.

Nan Goldin’s ‘Self-Portrait on the Train, Germany, 1992.

Nan Goldin (US, 1953- ) photographer, filmmaker
The Hug, NYC (from The Ballad of Sexual Dependency) (1980)
Nan and Brian in Bed, NYC (from The Ballad of Sexual Dependency) (1983)
Nan, One Month After Being Battered (from The Ballad of Sexual Dependency) (1984)
Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC (from The Other Side) (1991)
Io in camouflage, NYC (from Eden and After) (1994)
Sisters, Saints and Sibyls (multimedia) (2004)
Ava Twirling, NYC (from Eden and After) (2007)

Mike Kelley in 'Ahh...Youth' (1991).

Mike Kelley in ‘Ahh…Youth’ (1991).

Mike Kelley (US, 1954-2012) mixed media artist, filmmaker
More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin (1987)
Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites (1991–1999)
John Glenn Memorial Detroit River Reclamation Project (Including the Local Culture Pictorial Guide, 1968-1972, Wayne Westland Eagle) 2001
Day is Done (Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction ## 2-32) (2004-2005)
Kandor 10A (Grotto) (2010)
Kandor 10B (Exploded Fortress of Solitude) (2011)
Mobile Homestead (2010)

Thomas Schutte with 'Model for a Hotel' (2007) in Trafalgar Square. Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images.

Thomas Schutte with ‘Model for a Hotel’ (2007) in Trafalgar Square. Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images.

Thomas Schütte (Germany, 1954- ) sculptor, draughtsman, mixed media artist
Mann im Matsch (Man in Mud) (series) (1982-2009)
Criminali (series) (1992)
United Enemies (A Play in Ten Scenes) (1993-1994)
Innocenti (series) (1994)
Luise (series of drawings) (1996)
Grosser Geist (Big Spirits) (series) (1997)
Mirror Drawings (series) (1998)
Frauen (Women) (series) (1998–2006)
Wichte (Imps) (series) (2006)
Model for a Hotel (2007)
Vater Staat (Father State) (2010)

Kiki Smith with Sirens.

Kiki Smith with ‘Sirens’ (2007).

Kiki Smith (US, 1954- ) sculptor, painter, draughtswoman, photographer, mixed media artist
Mary Magdalene (1994)
Lilith (1994)
My Blue Lake (print) (1994-1995)
Rapture (2001)
Lying with the Wolf (drawing) (2001)
Born (2002)
Born (painting) (2002)
Homespun Tales (installation) (2005)
Alice II (feet uncrossed) (2005)
Sirens (2007)
Girl (2014)

Ai Weiwei in the triptych 'Dropping a Han Dynasty Vase' (1995).

Ai Weiwei in the triptych ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’ (1995).

Ai Weiwei (China, 1957- ) sculptor, photographer, mixed media artist, performance artist
New York Photographs (1983-1993)
Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995)
Forever (series of bicycle sculptures) (2003)
Fairy Tale (installation) (2007)
Coca-Cola Vase (2007)
Template (2007)
Beijing National Stadium (with Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Stefan Marbach, Li Xinggang, CADG) (2008)
Moon Chests (2008)
Table with Two Legs on the Wall (2008)
Map of China (2008)
Cube Light (2008)
Snake Ceiling (2009)
Colored Vases (series) (2007-2010)
Sunflower Seeds (installation) (2010)

Keith Haring, c. 1978, with one of his chalk subway drawings.

Keith Haring, c. 1978, with one of his chalk subway drawings.

Keith Haring (US, 1958-1990) painter, draughtsman, filmmaker, sculptor
Radiant Baby (1978-1990)
Barking Dog (1978-1990)
Painting Myself Into a Corner (video) (1979)
Untitled (b&w, dog on pedestal with cheering crowd) (1980)
Flyer for Des Refusés at Westbeth Painters Space, New York City, February 10, 1981 (1981)
Untitled (notebook page, red doodle) (1981)
Untitled (b&w, many branched tree/dragon, with figure holding up a figure) (1982)
Mural, Houston and Bowery streets (1982)
Free South Africa (1985)
Crack Is Wack (mural, New York) (1986)
Berlin Wall Mural (1986)
Silence = Death (1988)
Once Upon A Time (Mural, LGBT Community Center, New York) (1989)
Tuttomundo (mural, Pisa, Italy) (1990)

Thomas Ruff stands in front of one of the images from his Photogram series.

Thomas Ruff stands in front of one of the images from his Photogram series.

Thomas Ruff (Germany 1958- ) photographer
Portrait (Stoya) (from the Portraits series) (1986)
Portrait (A. Kachold) (from the Portraits series) (1987)
Substrat 33 I (from the Substratum series) (2007)
jpeg ib02 (from the JPEGs series) (2007)
Cassini 01 (from the Cassini series) (2008)
Cassini 02 (from the Cassini series) (2008)
Cassini 16 (from the Cassini series) (2009)
Cassini 23 (from the Cassini series) (2009)
Zycles 3080 (from the Zycles series) (2009)
Ma.r.s. 05 III (from the Ma.r.s. series) (2010)
phg.10 I (from the Photograms series) (2012)
Ma.r.s. 09 II (from the Ma.r.s. series) (2013)
3D Ma.r.s. 10 (from the Ma.r.s. series) (2013)
phg.05 III (from the Photograms series) (2013)
r.phg.06 I (from the Photograms series) (2013)
em.phg.01 (from the Photograms series) (2013)

Zhang Xiaogang with one of his Family Portrait series paintings. Photo: GettyAFP.

Zhang Xiaogang with one of his Bloodlines: Big Family series paintings. Photo: GettyAFP.

Zhang Xiaogang (China, 1958- ) painter, sculptor
Tiananmen Square (yellow) (1993)
Three Comrades (three women) (1994)
My Dream: Little General (2005)
Comrade (diptych; woman, man with glasses) (2005)
Big Family: Girl (glasses, carrying book) (from Bloodlines series) (2006)
Big Family: Boy (hands behind back, striped shirt) (from Bloodlines series) (2006)
Big Family (mother, father, baby with red head, red pants) (from Bloodlines series) (2008)
Green Wall – Two Single Beds (2008)
Businessman, Student, Soldier, Farmer, Worker (copper figures) (2008)
Sleeping Boy on the Crate (sculpture) (2008)

Yoshitomo Nara with 'Life Is Only One' (2011).

Yoshitomo Nara with ‘Life Is Only One’ (2007).

Yoshitomo Nara (Japan, 1959- ) painter, sculptor
The Girl with the Knife in Her Hand (1991)
Pyromaniac Day/Pyromaniac Dead of Night (diptych) (1999)
Light My Fire (sculpture) (2001)
Princess of Snooze (2001)
Life is Only One (2007)
Cosmic Eyes (2007)
Doggy Radio (sculpture) (2011)
Mushroom House (2014)
Tell Me (2014)
Stay Good (2014)
Wounded (2014)

A Vic Muniz self-portrait made with pictures from magazines.

A 2003 Vic Muniz self-portrait made entirely from pictures cut out of magazines.

Vik Muniz (Brazil, 1961- ) painter, draughtsman, sculptor, photographer
Valentine, The Fastest (from The Sugar Children) (1996)
Action Photo, After Hans Namuth (from Pictures of Chocolate) (1997)
Medusa Marinara (1997)
Double Mona Lisa (Peanut Butter + Jelly) (from After Warhol Series) (1999)
Self-Portrait (from Pictures of Magazines) (2003)
Saturn Devouring One of His Sons (from Pictures of Garbage) (2005)
Woman Ironing (Isis) (from Pictures of Garbage) (2008)
Marat (from Pictures of Garbage) (2008)
Large Paper Crane (2011)
Scrap Metal: Seahorse (2012)
Album: New Car (2014)

Olafur Eliasson , with one of the 'New York Waterfalls' in the background.

Olafur Eliasson , with one of the ‘New York Waterfalls’ in the background.

Olafur Eliasson (Denmark/Iceland, 1967- ) sculptor, photographer, mixed media artist
Beauty (1993)
Room For One Color (1997-1998)
Reversed Waterfall (1998)
360 Degrees Room For All Colors (2002)
The Weather Project (2003)
Eye See You (Louis Vuitton lamp) (2006)
The New York City Waterfalls (2008)
Your Rainbow Panorama (2011)

The artist Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous.

The artist Banksy has chosen to remain anonymous.

Banksy (UK, 1974?) graffiti artist, painter, sculptor, mixed media artist
Balloon Girl (2002)
Flower Thrower (2003)
Girl Frisking Soldier (2007)
London Phone Box (with axe) (2006)
Sweep It Under the Carpet (2006)
Painted Elephant (2006)
One Nation Under CCTV (2008)
I Don’t Believe in Global Warming (2009)
Cardinal Sin (2011)
Spy Booth (2014)

If you’re looking for Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Arshille Gorky, Roy Lichtenstein, Henry Moore, Frida Kahlo, or Jean-Michel Basqiat, go to Best Visual Artists of All Time.

One thought on “Best Contemporary Visual Artists – The Critics’ Picks

  1. Pingback: Postcolonial Thoughts: Frida Kahlo’s Interrogation of Self, Part2 | Creative Thresholds

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