The Class of 2021: Meet 6 Fast-Rising Artists Having Star Turns at This Year’s Art Basel Miami Beach

From a legendary choreographer finally gaining recognition in the mainstream art world to a young tapestry phenom, here's who to watch.

Kennedy Yanko's installation Feel For. Photo: Jordan Rathkopf.

Sure, art fairs have their faults—but they also have their benefits. Chief among the latter is the ability to get to know a bevy of new-to-you artists from galleries across the country and around the world in the space of one afternoon. There are plenty such artists who deserve your attention at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. But we’ve narrowed it down to six figures who happen to be reaching new heights in their careers right now and who create work that specifically benefits from an in-person encounter. Get a primer on these talented creators below.


Qualeasha Wood

Qualeasha Wood, <i>Heart of Glass</i> (2021). Courtesy Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick.

Qualeasha Wood, Heart of Glass (2021). Courtesy Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick.

Who: Wood investigates the complex realities and possibilities of Blackness, femininity, and queerness by channeling traditional craft techniques and new-media savvy into striking works across a variety of media. She is best known for her tuftings and tapestries (the latter of which seem to answer the question, “What if you could take the aesthetic and tone of Tumblr in its heyday and feed them into a loom?”), but her practice contains multitudes.

Based in: Brooklyn, New York

Notable Resume Lines: Standouts on her artistic C.V. include recent group exhibitions at buzzy London gallery Pippy Houldsworth, New York’s star-minting CANADA, Los Angeles’s rising New Image Art, and the Trout Museum of Art in Wisconsin. The itinerant New York gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick also included Wood’s work in the collaborative project she curated for Metro Pictures in 2020.

Where to See It: Wood will be the featured artist in Patrick’s booth in ABMB’s Nova section.

Prices: Works range from $15,000 to $23,000 each.

Fun Fact: She has a past as a video game designer.

Up Next: Wood was recently named one of the 2021–22 residents at the Studio Museum in Harlem, one of the most sought-after residencies in the art world. She also appears in the just-opened group show “Alter Egos/Projected Selves” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (through May 2022); the piece included there graced the May–June 2021 issue of Art in America, guest edited by Antwaun Sargent.


Cheyenne Julien

Cheyenne Julien Untitled, 2021 Acrylic on canvas 66 × 70 inches (167.64 × 177.80 cm) Courtesy of the artist and Chapter NY, New York Photo by Charles Benton.

Cheyenne Julien, Shoe Collector (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Chapter NY, New York. Photo by Charles Benton.

Who: Born in the Bronx in 1994, Cheyenne Julien creates paintings and drawings that offer snapshots of life in the city and community she calls home. Her intimate portraits are inspired by family and friends while her no-less-full-of-personality still lives reflect traces of human presence.

Based in: Bronx, New York

Notable Resume Lines: Julien graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in painting in 2016. Within a matter of just five years, her work has already found its way into the public collections of such august institutions as the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art in New YOrk, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

Where to See It: Julien’s work is featured in Chapter NY’s booth in ABMB’s Nova section.

Prices: Works are priced around $3,500 to $40,000.

Fun Fact: The artist recently collaborated with the Berlin-based fashion label Ottolinger for its fall/winter 2021 collection.

Up Next: Julien will be featured in a solo exhibition at Chapter NY in 2022.


Caitlin Lonegan

Caitlin Lonegan, Untitled (Rainbow Painting, 2018-2021, 2020.09). Photo by Markus Wörgötter. Courtesy Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder.

Caitlin Lonegan, Untitled (Rainbow Painting) (2018–21). Photo by Markus Wörgötter. Courtesy Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder.

Who: Lonegan paints colorful, gestural abstractions informed both by her interest in color theory and the close attention she pays to changes in light in her studio. She created her newest series of “Rainbow Paintings” over the course of months and sometimes years by overlapping fields of color and incorporating metallic and iridescent oil paint. In Miami, her gallery will present a suite of colored pencil drawings hung on drywall panels and flanked by small paintings. Each drawing captures a “moment” from one of the paintings that the artist noticed in the process of creation.

“Drawing plays an essential role in her oeuvre and so we wanted to show the relationship between it and painting,” gallery director Deniz Pekerman told Artnet News. “It is not a ‘preparation’ or a sketch for a specific painting. It is more like a going back and forth and each drawing can relate to different paintings at different moments.”

Based in: Los Angeles, California

Notable Resume Lines: Lonegan went to Yale before getting her MFA from UCLA in 2010. 

Where to See It: Galerie Nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder’s Kabinett presentation at ABMB 

Prices: Paintings on offer at the fair range from $9,000 to $25,000; drawings, of which the gallery is bringing more than two dozen, are around $2,400.

Fun fact: Lonegan studied applied physics alongside art at Yale.

Up Next: Her New York solo debut at Vito Schnabel Gallery, “Interiors,” is on view through December 18.


Ambera Wellmann

Ambera Wellmann, Strobe, (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and Company Gallery, New York

Ambera Wellmann, Strobe, (2021). Image courtesy of the artist and Company Gallery, New York.

Who: Born in 1982 in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Wellmann is an inventive painter whose work takes inspiration from Surrealism and Romanticism—only to give it a slightly perverted twist. Her work walks the line between beautiful and grotesque—and that seems to be just where she likes it. Wellmann has said that she has had an interest in the “uncanny” for her entire life. “The uncanny is all about sex and death,” she said in a 2017 interview. “I just love that stuff.”

Based in: New York, New York

Notable Resume Lines: Wellman, who is represented by Company Gallery in New York and K-T-Z (Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler) in Berlin, is represented in the collections of the Columbus Museum of Art and the X Museum in Beijing. Her work was also recently the subject of a solo show at Shanghai’s Pond Society. Her monumental painting—full of amorphous bodies, collage-like cut-outs, and an El Greco-esque landscape backdrop—is in the latest edition of the New Museum Triennial, “Soft Water Hard Stone” (through January 23).

Where to See It: Company Gallery’s booth at Art Basel Miami Beach

Prices: The gallery declined to comment, but her work was on offer at the Independent art fair in 2020 for around $13,500.

Fun Fact: After winning the Joseph Plaskett Award, which pays for an artist to relocate to Europe for one year, Wellmann moved to Berlin. She explained that she chose the city because of its proximity to Meissen, a town known for producing some of the world’s best porcelain. Wellmann had explored porcelain as a subject in her paintings for years. 

Up Next: Her work will be included in a 2022 group exhibition at ICA Boston entitled “A Place For Me: Figurative Painting Now”


Julie Tolentino

Julie Tolentino, FOREVER YOUNG, 2021. Courtesy Commonwealth & Council.

Who: Julie Tolentino has been a cult figure in the art and dance worlds for decades. Now, the broader culture may be finally catching up to the Filipino-Salvadorean artist, who uses she and they pronouns interchangeably. An original member of ACT UP New York and the founder of a number of queer clubs in the city, Tolentino is dedicated to building radial spaces of care in both their activism and art. For a 2013 exhibition at Commonwealth & Council, for example, the artist invited visitors to pull a card from a deck that had been designed by Tolentino’s many talented friends; each card prompted a musical program and movement that Tolentino would adapt into a personalized performance.

Based in: Joshua Tree, California

Notable Resume Lines: Tolentino recently won three prestigious awards: the Herb Alpert UCROSS Residency Prize, which awards risk-taking mid-career artists $75,000; the Queer|Art|Prize for sustained achievement; and the Anonymous Was a Woman Prize, awarded to pathbreaking artists over the age of 40.

Where to See It: Commonwealth & Council’s booth at ABMB

Fun Fact: Tolentino posed with Madonna for a series of photos in the music icon’s 1992 tome Sex.

Up Next: Tolentino will be the 2022 Alma Hawkins Visiting Chair of World Arts and Cultures at University of California Los Angeles. This March, they are also creating a new site-specific work for homeLA, a nomadic performance project, supported by the Mike Kelley Foundation.


Kennedy Yanko

Kennedy Yanko, Subsection (2020). Photograph by Martin Parsekian. Courtesy of the artist.

Kennedy Yanko, Subsection (2020). Photograph by Martin Parsekian. Courtesy of the artist.

Who: Born in 1988 in St. Louis, Missouri, Kennedy Yanko makes large-scale abstract works using scrap metal and acrylic paint skins. Sensual and muscular, her work brings together action painting, sculpture, and performance.

Based in: Bushwick, Brooklyn

Notable Resume Lines: Earlier this year, Yanko became the first resident sculptor at the Rubell Museum, taking over the the family’s former 36,000-square-foot space in Wynwood to create monumental sculptures that wrap scrap metal in solidified acrylic paint to look like undulating pieces of fabric. The largest work is almost 20 feet tall and was made with compressed shipping containers. In July, Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys bought a Yanko sculpture for $415,000 at the amfAR charity gala. Around the same time, she collaborated with musician Masego on an NFT project.

Where to See It: The Rubell Museum as well as Salon 94 and Kavi Gupta galleries at ABMB.

Prices: $75,000 to $175,000

Fun Fact: Before becoming a working artist, Yanko was a bodybuilder, yoga instructor, and a member of the Living Theatre, New York’s oldest experimental theater group.

Up Next: Her sculpture, created as part of a new collaboration with rapper NAS and commissioned by BMW, will also be unveiled during Miami Art Week.

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