These Are the 25 Art Projects That Social Media Went Bananas Over in 2020
From focaccia bread art to homemade pet museums, the art world got crafty this year.
As the phrase “going viral” took on a new, far more literal definition this year, art that went viral on the internet evolved into a role more important than ever. While we were stuck at home, art shared online served variously as a public-health tool, an amplification of cries for social justice, and a much-needed means of escape.
Here are some of the most memorable artworks and at-home art trends that were widely shared in 2020.
Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, Safety Match
Artist couple Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre perfectly captured the need for social distancing with this short video of ignited matches.
Jose Manuel Ballester, “Concealed Spaces“
Jose Manuel Ballester began removing the figures from historical paintings in 2006, but the series caught on this year as crowded public spaces suddenly emptied out and citizens around the world were urged to stay home.
Data Illustrations by Mona Chalabi
Illustrator Mona Chalabi’s clear and direct drawings sharing facts and data offered easily digestible information throughout the year. The works variously addressed the global health crisis, the societal inequities fueling the Black Lives Matter movement, and the presidential election.
When Donald Trump took a trip to the golf course as the nation hit 100,000 deaths, artists including Marcel Dzama united to turn the front page of the New York Times into a critique of the president’s callousness.
White House Fence Art
Activists demonstrating on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement in June were unfazed when the president erected additional fences around the White House, turning the barricades into a billboard for messages in support of racial justice.
Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain, George Floyd Mural
Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain painted an instantly iconic portrait of George Floyd, later displayed at his funeral, on the side of the Minneapolis Cup Foods where police officers killed him. The site quickly became a memorial, and similar displays proliferated around the country, including a tribute wall in Harlem.
Ariel Sinha, Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor
Ariel Sinha’s moving image memorialized Breonna Taylor, an African American medical worker who police shot and killed while she slept in her own apartment in March.
Good Trubble and Bria Goeller, That Little Girl Was Me
Following the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, you might have spotted this striking image of the vice president-elect shared on social media. It combines a photograph of Harris with the shadow of Ruby Bridges from Norman Rockwell’s famous painting The Problem We All Live With.
In 2017, Edel Rodriguez illustrated the start of the Trump era with a brutally effective Der Spiegel cover of the new president chopping off the Statue of Liberty’s head. The weekly paper commissioned the artist to do a followup image after Trump’s defeat, showing a masked Biden carefully putting the statue back together again.
Nikkolas Smith, Ahmaud Arbery
Nikkolas Smith paid tribute to Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot and killed by two white men while he went for a jog in February, with this emotional portrait.
Jon Henry, “Stranger Fruit“
Named after the Billie Holiday song and created in response to police killings of Black men, Jon Henry’s mournfully beautiful “Stranger Fruit” series of photographs poses Black mothers and their sons as the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Pietà.
Black Lives Matter Street Paintings
City governments across the US turned their streets into canvases to display the message that Black Lives Matter—including one strategically placed outside of Trump Tower in New York City.
Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask
In a reminder of the importance of wearing face coverings, Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi each created a couture look from 150 masks and wore them around the city for a day-long performance art piece in September.
Sara Shakeel, “Wash Your Hands”
As hand-washing became a sudden obsession in the early days of the pandemic, Pakastani artist Sara Shakeel injected some glamour into the fearful moment in time with her glittery digital collages of sinks spouting sparking water.
Alessandra Lontra, PPE Rosie
Artist Alessandra Lontra illustrated the parallels between today’s women healthcare workers on the frontlines fighting the pandemic and the women factory and shipyard workers of World War II with this drawing inspired by J. Howard Miller’s seminal We Can Do It poster, often identified as Rosie the Riveter.
Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins, Coronavirus Illustration
Today, the CDC image of the virus’s morphology is instantly recognizable. That’s thanks in no small part to CDC medical illustrators and “biomedical artists” Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins, who created this widely disseminated image for official government use.
Stefanie Trilling, “Children’s Books for Pandemics“
In March, Stefanie Trilling, a mother of two, began painting quarantine-themed versions of popular children’s books. She ended up making 114 in total, featuring 2020 takes on beloved classics, such as Harold and the Purple Corona, Where the Viruses Are, and Cloudy With a Chance of Panic Hoarding.
Casey Drake, Side Walk Drawings
Stuck at home, Florida mother Casey Drake began drawing quarantine-inspired artwork featuring characters from Disney and other popular properties on the sidewalk in front of her home.
Timo Helgert, “The Return of Nature“
During the early days of isolation, Timo Helgert offered an escapist fantasy in his digital reimaginings of urban spaces overrun with wildflowers, butterflies, and tall grasses.
Animal Art Museums
Curator Filippo Lorenzin and artist Marianna Benetti struck a chord with art lovers missing their favorite institutions when they built a tiny art museum for their gerbils, Pandoro and Tiramisu. It started a micro-trend that quickly expanded, with other pet owners making versions for their gekkos, birds, and box turtles.
Focaccia Bread Art
As more and more people turned to baking to pass the time at home, Teri Culletto helped popularize her “Garden Focaccia,” putting lively decorations on the Italian bread.
Seamus Wray, “A Self Portrait Painting Myself”
Painter Seamus Wray delighted Redditors with a series of five paintings of himself painting himself, in a take on the already popular Droste effect of paintings within paintings.
Pierce and Stacy Thior, “Will It Beard“
Photographer Pierce and Stacy Thiot’s 2014 “Will It Beard” series, depicting various objects stuck in Pierce’s thick brown beard, took on new relevance as men working from home chose to eschew their regular shaving habits.
The Getty Challenge
One of the most delightful art trends of quarantine was people recreating famous paintings with whatever objects they had lying around their homes as part of the #GettyChallenge.
Still Life Challenge
Photographers in lockdown eager for new subjects began staging elegant still-life arrangements and sharing them on social media under the hashtag #quarantinestilllife.
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