Art comes in different shapes and forms, influenced by cultural, social, and political contexts. Each artist represents a different aspect of a multifaceted and complicated reality using their style and technique, which give origin to very different and powerful works of art. Contemporary art includes the most classic techniques such as painting and sculpture, but also innovative techniques, thanks to digital media, photography, performance, displays, and so on. 

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It is fascinating to observe how artists from all over the world are diverse but have the same purpose to carry on a message, a provocation to society. Now, let’s look at some of the most amazing artists across the globe:

1. Banksy

Probably the most famous street artist of the century, very little is known about Banksy: he was born in Bristle around 1973-1974, and worked with different street-art techniques, affirming his art mainly through the method called “graffiti stencil”, which consists of the creation of an image by spraying the color or painting over a stencil mask. 

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His work surfaces are cities themselves: some real-life urban objects sometimes become part of his works. His pieces are worldwide popular, not only because of the mystery that surrounds him but also for the powerful satirical, ethical and political messages they transmit, sometimes with a hint of black humor. 

His works of art can be found in cities all over the world, such as London, New York, Venice, Bethlehem, Los Angeles, and others. Among his most famous works we find Girl with Balloon, Napalm Girl, Migrant Child, Love Is In The Air.

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Migrant Child, Photograph credits to Lapo Simeoni/Instagram_©https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/banksy-appears-to-have-painted-a-mural-of-a-migrant-child-wearing-a-lifejacket-in-venice
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Aachoo, Photograph credits to Claire Hayhurst/PA_©https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/dec/10/bansky-confirms-he-created-aachoo-artwork-in-bristol

2. Christoph Niemann

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Christoph Niemann, Photograph credits to Thomas Meyer_©https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/christoph-niemanns-illustration/

Christoph Niemann was born in Waiblingen, Germany, in 1970. He is an illustrator, graphic designer, and children’s books author, and the protagonist of an episode of the Netflix series Abstract. His illustrations are regularly used as covers of popular magazines, such as The New Yorker, National Geographic, and The New York Times Magazine. His works can have a very diverse style and mood: satirical, poignant, funny, and playful. 

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In his weekly drawing series Sunday Sketches, he takes everyday-life objects and turns them into humorous pieces of art, reinterpreting the elements of the world brilliantly and creatively, so that a hammer becomes the leg of a soccer player, a pair of socks becomes the head of a dinosaur, two bananas become a pair of horse legs and so on. 

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Sunday Sketsches Dinosaurs, Photopraph credits to Christoph Niemann_ ©https://www.christophniemann.com/detail/sunday-sketches-2/
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Sunday Sketsches Horse, Photopraph credits to Christoph Niemann_ ©https://www.christophniemann.com/detail/sunday-sketches-2/

3. Njideka Akunyili Crosby

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Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Photograph credits to Stefan Ruiz_©https://www.wmagazine.com/story/njideka-akunyili-crosby-artist-painter

Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a Nigerian artist born in 1983, who lived until 16 years old in her native town Enugu and then moved to the United States. Here she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the western approach to art and its expression. 

Her works are often contaminated by her biographic experience, representing daily life scenarios of her domestic reality both in Nigeria and in the USA and she uses a mixed technique that combines drawing, painting, collage, printmaking. Portraits, still nature, traditional religious art are re-interpreted to become a means to communicate something new. 

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Mother with Child Photograph credits to Robert Glowacki_©https://www.wmagazine.com/story/njideka-akunyili-crosby-artist-painter

4. JR

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JR, Photograph credits to Mike McGregor_©https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/oct/11/artist-jr-i-realised-i-was-giving-people-a-voice-les-bosquets-french-banksy

JR is the pseudonym and initial of the artist’s name Jean René. He was born in Paris but grew up in Montfermeil. The technique he uses is photo collage and he can be considered a street artist since his works are located in the urban environment, in different cities around the world. He invented the concept of “infiltrated art”: he desires his works to be free of charge and affordable for everyone, and this is the reason he works at pieces of art in public spaces and together with the communities. 

His art is thought-provoking, transmitting political, religious, moral messages and letting the observer reflect on the world’s injustices and inequalities. Among his photographic and artistic projects. Women are Heros (2008-2014), Face 2 Face (2007), The Wrinkles of the City (2008). 

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Giants, Kikito and the border patrol, Photograph credits JR_©http://www.jr-art.net/news/tecate

5. Yayoi Kusama

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Yayoi Kusama, Photograph credits to Yayoi Kusama Studio_©https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/sep/23/yayoi-kusama-infinity-film-victoria-miro-exhibition

She was born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, and started her artistic path at the age of ten. She only briefly studied at  Kyōto City Specialist School of Arts, but later moved to the United States, because of family conflictual relationships, going back to Japan in 1973. 

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She is very well known for the massive use of polka dots, which characterize her works, and which, she declares, come from hallucinations she experienced since a kid. The techniques she uses include painting, environmental installation, collage, and performance art. She nowadays lives in a mental health center and works in her nearby studio.

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Infinity Rooms, Photograph credits to Collection of Museum MACAN_©https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/yayoi-kusama-artist/index.html

6. Jenny Holzer

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Jenny Holzer, Photograph credits to Nanda Lanfranco_©https://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/qa/jenny_holzer_interview-54300

Jenny Holzer was born in 1950 in Gallipolis, Ohio. She is defined as a neo-conceptual artist, implementing wort art, which is an art form that includes both imagery and words in different forms. Holzer’s works are exhibited in public spaces, in the forms of advertising billboards, illuminated electronic displays, or projections on buildings walls, and usually carry political and social critiques. 

The artist declared that she uses light because it is a stimulus for people to gather and to reflect together. The work that made her popular is Truism of 1977, which consisted of a series of provocative aphorisms that she spread throughout Manhattan in the form of signs.

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You be my ally, Photograph credits Christopher Dilts_©https://www.designboom.com/art/jenny-holzer-you-be-my-ally-virtual-public-artwork-chicago-university-10-08-2020/
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Xenon for Berlin, Photograph credits to Attilio Maranzano_©https://aestheticamagazine.com/socialised-languages/

7. Serge Attukwei Clottey

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Serge Attukwei Clottey, Photograph credits to Nii Odzenma_©https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/oct/06/serge-attukwei-clottey-ghana-artist-dead-mothers-clothes

Serge Attukwei Clottey is a Ghanaian artist, born in 1985, working with installations, performances, sculpture, and photography, dealing with familiar and collective thematic such as trade and migration. Among his works we find Afrogallonism, a series of works with wasted material of the yellow plastic containers used to store cooking goods transported from the West to Ghana, impossible to recycle because of a lack of infrastructures. 

Through this project, he gives importance to topics of sustainability, migration, and consumption. Another work is called Beyond the Skin and consists of a series of portraits, made with very different objects and fabrics. His challenge was to take as a reference mid-century black and white photography, typical of the African west coast, and adapt the visual language of historical pictures to nowadays sensibility.

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Awake IV, Photograph credits to Nii Odzenma_©https://flaunt.com/content/serge-clottey

8. Maurizio Cattelan

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Maurizio Cattelan, Photograph credits to Pierpaolo Ferrari_©https://www.domusweb.it/en/art/2011/11/07/maurizio-cattelan-all-at-the-guggenheim.html

Maurizio Cattelan, in Padua, in Italy in 1960, is one of the most popular and controversial artists of the international contemporary panorama, well known for his prankish displays and provocative art. The work that made him famous in 1999 was entitled La Nona Ora, (the Ninth Hour), a wax statue representing Pope John II hit by a meteorite. 

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Among his work, we find also TOILETPAPER, from 2010 originated by the collaboration with the photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari, which is a magazine composed of images that try to create a relation among advertisement language, artistic language, and fashion. 

His most recent provocative performance dates to 2019, is called Comedian, and consists of a banana attached with duct tape to a wall, during an exhibition in Miami; the banana was then eaten by another artist, David Datuna, who by doing so created another artistic performance, called Hungry Artist.

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Casalinga/TOILETPAPER, Photograph credits to Pierpaolo Ferrari and Maurizio Cattelan_©https://www.designboom.com/art/toilet-paper-magazine-maurizio-cattelan-pierpaolo-ferrari/

9. Zhang Xiaogang

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Zhang Xiaogang, Photograph credits to Natalie Behering_©http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/67/WhereIWorkZhangXiaogang

Zhang Xiaogang was born in Kunming, China, in 1958 and is a symbolist, surrealist and painter. His popular series Bloodline consists of a series of paintings resembling family portraits of the Cultural Revolution period. His works address a reflection on Chinese collectivism, represented by the similar anatomic features that characterize all the people represented; the same facial expression alludes to disturbing mass psychology. 

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At the same time, each character presents a small detail that stands as a symbol of the individuality of humans. He has exhibited his works in Pace Gallery in New York, at the 1995 Venice Biennale, and in Daegu Art Museum; today he works and lives in Beijing.

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Bloodline series, Photograph credits to Sigg Collection_©https://www.artribune.com/arti-visive/arte-contemporanea/2020/03/mostra-collezione-uli-sigg-castello-rivoli-cina/attachment/zhang-xiaogang-bloodline-series-1997-courtesy-sigg-collection/

10. Vhils

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Vhils, Photograh credits to Nicola di Nunzio_ ©https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

Vhils is the pseudonym of the Portuguese street artist Alexandre Manuel Dias Farto. He was born in Lisbon in 1987 and attended the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. Today he works both in London and Lisbon. He uses a bas-relief carving technique that has been defined as one of the most compelling approaches to street art. 

Chisels and hammers are used instead of brushes to represent on walls and other urban elements sketchy faces, but very realistic and expressive, giving the impression that the artwork already existed inside the material. He believes in creating through the act of destruction.

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Seu Elias, morro da providência, Brazil, Photograph credits to Joan Pedro Moreira_©https://www.designboom.com/art/interview-with-artist-alexandre-farto-aka-vhils-06-25-2014/

Reference

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Author

Francesca Colombo is a Master Architecture student in Italy. She considers architecture as a tool to face social problems and create better cities, accepting and celebrating people’s diversity. She dreams of living and working in a European capital.

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