These 5 Artists Are Redefining New York’s Art Scene

From Sable Elyse Smith to Jamian Juliano-Villani, these artists are shaping the cultural future of New York.

Kennedy Yanko, 2021. Photograph by Mike Vitelli.

Though the art world is decidedly international, the New York City art scene holds a special place in its orbit, with a long and storied history of major art moments and avant-garde movements. New York City also maintains a status as a hub where artists live, work, and build community.

It would be impossible to chart everything currently taking place or all the major players at a given moment, but there is, undoubtedly, a class of artists whose works and practices, as well as recent accomplishments, make them ones to watch when considering the forward direction of New York’s art scene.

Below, we’ve brought together five sought-after artists who are contributing to the city’s artistic present and future—and lett you know where and when you can experience their work.

Kennedy Yanko

Kennedy Yanko. Photo: Celeste Sloman.

Sculptor and installation artist Kennedy Yanko is recognized for her work with found mental and paint skin, the latter of which she crafts through a process of pouring out paint and letting it dry until it is akin to a pliable, sheet-like material. Personally referring to her practice as painting, the sculptural quality of the paint and heft of the metal simultaneously evokes the work of John Chamberlain and Lynda Benglis, and the works defy easy categorization.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and currently based in Brooklyn, Yanko arrived on the New York art scene when she was 19, and her career began gaining significant momentum in the 2010s; in 2017 she was included in a group exhibition curated by Derrick Adams at Jenkins Johnson gallery and part of “The Aesthetics of Matter,” co-curated by Mickalene Thomas at Volta New York. In 2021, she was named the Rubel Museum’s Artist-in-Residence—the first sculptor to receive the position. Her work returned to Miami in late 2023 with the installation of Soul Talk, a monumental sculpture installed in the Stardust Pavilion, the result of a collaboration between Salon94 and the Miami Design District. Currently, you can see her work in the city at the Brooklyn Museum in “Brooklyn Abstraction: Four Artists, Four Walls,” which is on view through July 28, 2024.

Kennedy Yanko, Soul Talk (2023). Courtesy of Salon94.

Kennedy Yanko, Soul Talk (2023). Courtesy of Salon94.


Sable Elyse Smith

Sable Elyse Smith. Photo: Tommy Kha.

Sable Elyse Smith. Photo: Tommy Kha.

Sable Elyse Smith’s contribution to the New York cultural landscape has been extraordinarily multifaceted. A curator and educator as well as an artist, Smith works across a diverse range of mediums in her practice, engaging with conceptual ideas around power, culture, and lived experience as well as concrete themes dealing with the prison industrial complex. She was an Artist in Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2018 and was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship last year.

Outside of artmaking, Smith has been an assistant professor of visual arts since 2020 at Columbia University and curated an increasing number of significant exhibitions—including “Beneath Tongues”, part of the Swiss Institute’s annual Architecture and Design Series 2022. Also in 2022, her work was featured in the Central Pavilion of the 59th Venice Biennale, “The Milk of Dreams.”

Following on the heels of Smith’s 2023 solo exhibition with Regen Projects, Los Angeles, “FAIR GROUNDS,” her work was included in the Solomon R. Guggenheim’s group exhibition “Going Dark: The Contemporary Figure at the Edge of Visibility,” which is on view through April 27, 2024. And for those seeking out her work again this year, she will be participating in the second annual staging of the Museum of Modern Art’s Studio Sound series, which focuses on artists exploring sound and music, and will see Smith unveil a new musical composition and video installation opera.

Installation view of “Sable Elyse Smith: FAIR GROUNDS” (2023). Photo: Paul Salveson. Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Elaine Cameron Weir

Elaine Cameron-Weir. Photo: Ben Clement.

Elaine Cameron-Weir. Photo: Ben Clement.

Originally from Canada and now based in New York City, artist Elaine Cameron-Weir largely focuses her practice on sculpture and installation. These works are primarily made up of parts from objects—objects common to scientific, military, or medical settings, or even related to religious purposes—that are repurposed and arranged into sculptural amalgamations that touch on ideas around man-made structures, both metaphoric and literal.

In 2018, Cameron-Weir was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, the same year she was made the subject of a solo show at Storm King Art Center, “Outlooks,” curated by Nora Lawrence. The year 2022 was also marked by two significant exhibitions, including a solo exhibition at SCAD Museum of Art, Georgia, and inclusion in the 59th Venice Biennale.

Formerly represented by JTT Gallery, last month, Lisson Gallery announced it was now representing Cameron-Weir. On view March 7–April 13, 2024, the artist’s solo show “A WAY OF LIFE” will be her debut with the gallery. Here, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, harbingers of end times, will serve as a central motif and touchstone of her debut show, alluding to political extremes and underlying societal structures that propel us.

Elaine Cameron-Weir, pupil of couture / 4horsemen hairshirt (SS 2024 apocalypse collection) (2023). © Elaine Cameron-Weir. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

sonia louise davis

sonia louise davis. Photo: Ivan Forde.

A native New Yorker, artist and writer sonia louise davis is currently an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, as well as the subject of her debut institutional solo at the Queens Museum, “to reverberate tenderly,” on view through April 7, 2024. With a creative philosophy centered on the body, and “improvisation as an embodied research practice,” her museum solo mirrors this ethos by offering visitors a multi-sensory experience, replete with “sounders” (with the next accompanying performance happening on April 6) neon lights, and textural paintings.

davis is a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program, which culminated in a performance created in collaboration with Tamara Renée, “shake the stars with your song.” Writing is also a key component of davis’s practice, and her most recent book was published in 2021 by Co-Conspirator Press, slow and soft and righteous, improvising at the end of the world (and how we make a new one).

Through text, performance, and visual artwork, davis is forging a distinct path that opens new possibilities to how the body—both the artist’s and the viewers—can influence or inform considerations of contemporary artmaking.

Instalation view of "sonia louise davis: to reverberate tenderly" (2023/24). Photo: Hai Zhang. Courtesy of the artist and the Queens Museum.

Installation view of “sonia louise davis: to reverberate tenderly” (2023—24). Photo: Hai Zhang. Courtesy of the artist and the Queens Museum.

Jamian Juliano-Villani

Jamian Juliano-Villani, Spaghettios (2023). Photo: Rob McKeever. Courtesy of Gagosian.

Drawing from myriad sources of inspiration—such as art history, commercial imagery, memes, and fashion, to name just a few, Jamian Juliano-Villani paints bold and at times irreverent compositions depicting scenes, objects, and people from everyday life, but with a twist. Full of saturated color and recognizable brand labels, foodstuffs, and locations such as a locker room, Juliano-Villani’s work invites viewers to enter and explore her unique creative world.

In 2021, the artist opened her own gallery in lower Manhattan, O’Flaherty’s, in collaboration with artist Billy Grant and musician Ruby Zarsky. Part traditional gallery part project space, O’Flaherty’s, in line with Juliano-Villani’s approach to artmaking, offers artists the ability to work beyond the traditional confines of exhibition, and frequently sees the space totally transformed into an immersive, vision-driven experience. The artist and O’Flaherty’s drew widespread attention this past year when it was transformed into a short-lived eatery of sorts, serving cheap food and cocktails, an avant-garde performance meets exhibition opening.

On March 16, the artist’s much anticipated solo exhibition “It” will premiere at Gagosian, coinciding with the release of the first major publication of her work, featuring paintings made between 2013 and 2024. Centered around a large-scale painting featuring a bowl and a can of Spaghettios, the show promises to offer a glimpse into Juliano-Villani’s evolving artistic lexicon.

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