Here Are 12 Artists Poised to Break Out Big Time in 2021, According to Our Survey of Top Dealers, Advisors, and Curators
Keep your eyes on this group.
Everyone wants to know: who’s the next big thing?
We asked an impressive group of curators, writers, museum and gallery directors, and art advisors about what artists are on their radars for 2021 and why. Here’s what they had to tell us.
As the art market increasingly looks towards figuration, the London-based artist Jadé Fadojutimi is unapologetically making some of the most visceral and—to my mind—visionary abstract paintings of this century. She has yet to have a gallery show in New York, but in 2021 she will have her first solo institutional exhibitions at the Hepworth Wakefield in the U.K. and at the ICA Miami. Her first monograph, the brilliantly titled Jesture, featuring a text by Jennifer Higgie, has just been published by her London gallerist, Pippy Houldsworth, in collaboration with Anomie Publishing.
—Matthew Higgs, director, White Columns
I’ve followed Monsieur Zohore since 2010, when the artist was an undergrad at Cooper Union. Zohore recently graduated from the Maryland Institute of Art and is making new paintings with paper towels and puff paint. His work is all over the place—performance, sculpture, installation, and theater—and super queer. There’s a unique sense of humor to it and a delightful satire around means of production. He’s really found his voice and I am looking forward to seeing the direction he takes this year.
—Ellie Rines, founder, 56 Henry Gallery
I love Alison Blickle, who used to fly under the radar and now has such an extraordinary show at Kravets Wheby that it stopped me in my tracks. I think Blickle is one of the best figurative young female artists—which, as you know, there are hundreds! She paints like an Old Master but tackles contemporary topics. I love her references to Artemisia Gentileschi in her latest body of work. She’s phenomenal. Truly impressed with her work.
—Maria Brito, art advisor
Atta Kwami is an artist of huge stature, recognized as such in Ghana but awaiting the recognition he deserves in the UK, where he lives. Kwami’s work will be one of the stars of Folkestone Triennial this year, as well as the subject of a major solo London exhibition. His colorful abstract paintings and sculptures demonstrate a searchingly powerful aesthetic, and are eminently collectable despite the fact that figurative work is currently trending.
—Lewis Biggs, curator, 2021 Folkestone Triennial
Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.)
I was thrilled to read about the participation of the artist collective Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.) in the next edition of the Liverpool Biennial. Their radical aesthetic brings together an array of disciplines, from art to sound and activism, to rethink community and belonging through immersive experiences.
The London-based community of Queer, Trans, Black, and Intersex People of Color is made up of Kiera Coward-Deyell, Phoebe Collings-James, Evan Ifekoya, OnyekaIgwe, Shenece Liburd, Marcus Macdonald, Nadine Peters, and Shamaica Ruddock.
—Elvira Dyangani Ose, director and chief curator, the Showroom
I suggest that Marianna Simnett will be taking off in 2021. She already showed at the New Museum, Serpentine Gallery, but in an introductory manner. Her bold and brave approach to image-making and narration; her works challenging taboos, abridging medicine, art and folk tales; and the way she pushes boundaries will contribute towards the celebration of her practice.
—Fatos Ustek, curator
The Nigeria-born German-based artist Peter Uka creates mesmerizing tableaus about Africa that he constructs upon his childhood memories, old documents, while also referring the Western art-historical tradition.
His solo exhibition at Galerie Voss and a group presentation at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf last year showed his huge painterly skills and conceptual potential. I expect that his first solo show in the US at Mariane Ibrahim gallery, scheduled for this year, will earn him further recognition from international audiences.
—Marta Gnyp, art advisor
I am very excited to watch LA-based Lauren Halsey, an artist whose work Dave Kordansky introduced to me two years ago. Halsey focuses her practice on works that capture those left behind from gentrification and racial injustices with archaeological overtones. The imagery invokes my own childhood memories in a way that is both nostalgic and overtly political. Not only is she one of the most exciting emerging artists doing work today, but she is also very heavily involved in the South Central Los Angeles community, often the subject matter of her works, through her non-profit, Summaeverythang Community Center. How profound is it to see an artist engaging identity politics, but also making a direct impact on her community. I find it quite refreshing!
—George Wells, collector, former CFO of Lehmann Maupin
I have been following the work of Apolonia Sokol for a few years and I am impressed by the intellectual engagement as much as the aesthetic ingenuity of this young French figurative painter of Danish and Polish descent. At 32, she is among the youngest 2020–21 residents at the prestigious Medici Villa in Roma.
Known for her political stance on the art of portraiture, her latest large-format paintings delve into the history and representation of women and address issues such as feminisms, queerness, and body politics. Sokol populates her canvases with bodies—mostly female or trans or gender-fluid bodies—that dare to be timeless and spaceless and radiate a captivating strength and a sense of collective freedom.
—Marie-Ann Yemsi, curator
Claudia Pagès has a very personal and particular practice that addresses the effects of language, organization, and popular culture on social relationships and community structures.
Claudia is attending Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, and her projects will be shown in 2021, when circumstances allow, at W139, an artist-run space, and Rijksakademie Open Studios in Amsterdam. She will have her first solo show at Angels Barcelona gallery in June, and she will present a new performance work at La Casa Encendida Madrid in November.
–Juan Canela, artistic director, Zona Maco
I would bring attention to the Helsinki-based artist Anna Estarriola, whose work will be included in a group show at the Oulu Art Museum in Finland this spring, and who will also have a major exhibition at Amos Rex in 2024. Her installations fuse sculpture, movement, and sound, provoking, challenging, and precluding interpretation. At a time when we are all questioning our changing realities, the everydayness of our lives, seeking alternative existences and new meanings, the absurd, surreal quality of her work seems to resonate.
For the past 20 years, Deana Lawson’s gaze has intrepidly focused upon members of the pan-African diaspora while also crafting stunning formal compositions that hark back to classical painting. As she traveled across the United States, the Caribbean, West African nations, and other places where diasporic people have settled, Lawson uses her camera to construct her “chosen” family album—an implicit corrective to the lacunae of (legendary MoMA curator) Edward Steichen’s canonical photo endeavor Family of Man. No stranger to critical accolades—most recently as the recipient of the Hugo Boss Prize—Lawson is poised to garner a larger audience for her vital work in 2021 with her inclusion in Okwui Enwezor’s much anticipated “Grief and Grievance” exhibition at New York’s New Museum, and two solo museum shows, at the Guggenheim in New York and the ICA Boston. Lawson’s work never fails to profoundly move me.
—Alison M. Gingeras, curator
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