Year in Review: Standout Artists of 2013

Read about Yayoi Kusama and other artists who had exceptional shows this year.

Yayoi Kusama, Flowers that Bloom Tomorrow, metal, urethane paint, 2010, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, UK
Raemar Pink White by James Turrell

James Turrell, Raemar Pink White, shallow space construction, 1969, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles, CA

Untitled by Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi, Untitled, oil on canvas, 2005, Fabien Fryns Fine Art, Beijing, China

At the top of the list of standout artists of 2013 is Californian native James Turrell (American, b.1943), who was undoubtedly the most talked-about artist this summer. With three major retrospectives at three major institutions—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston—Turrell has cemented himself as one of the greatest artists of his time.

Flowers that Bloom Tomorrow by Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, Flowers that Bloom Tomorrow, metal, urethane paint, 2010, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, UK

The year 2013 has proven itself as the year of installation, and if the summer belongs to Turrell, then this fall and winter belong to Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (b.1929). Kusama’s solo exhibition, I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, which opened in November at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, had viewers waiting up to six hours in line to spend only 45 seconds in the Mirrored Infinity Room, which The New York Times described as a “reflection on death and the afterlife.”1 From an art market perspective, 84-year-old Kusama shows no signs of slowing down, with an 88% sell-through rate, and an average sale price of US$91,189 in 2013. To read more about Kusama’s interactive show at the David Zwirner Gallery, check out New York City’s Top 5 Immersive Shows of 2013, also on artnet Insights.

Jonas Wood—Anton Kern Gallery Installation View by Jonas Wood

Jonas Wood, Jonas Wood—Anton Kern Gallery Installation View, 2013, Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY

This list would not be complete without Boston-born artist Jonas Wood (American, b.1977), whose playful yet complex interiors, basketballs, and plants have found themselves popping up all around the art world. In 2013, Wood had solo exhibitions at Anton Kern Gallery in New York, Lever House in New York, and Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago. With three highly praised solo exhibitions, 2013 saw a huge increase in demand for Wood’s work. Every piece of Wood’s that went to auction sold above its high estimate, with Special Cactus selling for US$36,250 at Sotheby’s Fall Contemporary Day Sale, a whopping four times higher than the US$7,000–9,000 estimate.

Upstairs 1 by Jonas Wood

Jonas Wood, Upstairs 1, gouache and colored pencil on paper, 2007, Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY

There is no doubt that Nairobi-born, Brooklyn-based artist Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, b.1972) had a great 2013. Her fantastical collages primarily address race and gender issues. In March, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University premiered Mutu’s first survey in the United States, Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey. The highly revered show is currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum, where it will be until March 9, 2014. The show will then travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, where it will be on view from April 18 to July 6, 2014. Mutu is represented by Gladstone Gallery in New York, Victoria Miro Gallery in London, and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. To learn more about the artist, check out this interview with Mutu by artnet Auctions senior specialist Heather Russell.

Manny by Jonas Wood

Jonas Wood, Manny, oil on linen, 2011, TAG ARTS, Los Angeles, CA

Rounding out the list of stand-out artists of 2013 is Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964), who made headlines this fall for The Last Supper, the artist’s rendition of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece,which sold for a staggering US$23,269,069 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Evening Sale, setting a new world record for the highest price paid at auction for a Chinese Contemporary painting. Zeng had a great year, not just for setting record prices at auction, but also for his major retrospective at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which was critically acclaimed by art critics.

Before Punk Came Funk by Wangechi Mutu

Wangechi Mutu, Before Punk Came Funk, mixed media, ink, paint, collage, on Mylar, 2010, Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY

1 William Grimes, “Lights, Mirrors, Instagram! #ArtSensation,” The New York Times, December 1, 2013. Accessed January, 6 2014,

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