30 Contemporary Artists Who Are Changing the Way We Think About Art

Contemporary art draws upon many facets of current events and societal concerns. It also explores the biographies of its artists. In grasping the human reality and the differences as well as embracing creativity when it comes to contemporary art, we are served with various imaginations of different aspects of people’s lives. It provokes our thought process, induces probing queries, and reformation in most cases.

Now this is the list of 30 contemporary artists and their artworks that changed and are still changing the very notion of the field in question.

30 contemporary artists
June 11, 2024
Daryna Markova
contributor DOM Art Residence

Liu Xiaodong

Liu Xiaodong is a Chinese painter who calls himself a ''hound'' when it comes to painting contemporary life in China and the world. He has frequently depicted scenes of social turmoil, personal suffering, and transformation, as well as the alteration of the environment, whereas the coexistence of realistic aesthetics and the expression of sentiment is another notable characteristic of his art.
Liu’s art on the "Three Gorges Dam" project and a series on migrant labor illustrates Liu’s mission to record the socio-political realities of contemporary China.

Miquel Barcelo

Miquel Barcelo is part of the Spanish new contemporary painting that developed in the nineties and is known to make textured works about death and transformation and the permanence of the natural world. Barcelo’s work has those aspects that can be associated with art of the 20th century: organic shapes of the objects presented, and the richness of the sides. Barcelo uses sand, ash, and clay in his paintings, sculptures, and ceramics.
His large-scale art installation in the UN’s Palace of Nations in Geneva, the multi-colored impression of a pallet in the ceiling, is a great example of proactivity.

Luo Zhongli

Luo Zhongli is one of the most significant contemporary artists, who became famous after the creation of his work referred to as ''Father''. They tried to depict the dignity of peasants along with the reality of rural life in China. Luo is adored for his realistic approach as well as his ability to identify and capture the gentleness and humanity in his subjects.
It is worth noting that he captures the traditional Chinese culture and also portrays the new age in China and the lives of the people in this new socially constructed world.

Thomas Schütte

The German artist Thomas Schütte is a sculpture artist but also an installation and drawing artist, who sometimes works with the topics of powerlessness, power, and loneliness. His productions encompass both large-scale models of architectural structures and miniature individual representations of humans merely possessing elements of an existentialist endeavor.
Such as the ''United Enemies'' series, through which Schütte captures scenes of bound and distorted figures, evoking political and social anxieties.


JR is a French artist who uses large photographs that are pasted on walls as his medium of expression, changing the contours of city buildings. His art uses real people’s portraits, presenting them on façades and in other public contexts, and speaks of social outcasts on one side and the observer on the other.
In the course of this work, the artist focuses on such projects as ''Women Are Heroes'' and ''Inside Out'' to draw attention to various problems and raise a call for people’s strength. JR’s project deals with the integration of public spaces and art, as well as making art more available to the general public.

Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford is an American artist who works with endpapers, maps, and fragments of billboards and with social and political topics in the USA. In his works, he uses themes like cities, civilizations, economics, and ethical issues.
Bradford’s ''Pickett’s Charge'', the massive sculpture located in the Hirshhorn Museum, deconstructs history from the periphery of the present. His work influences the listener to re-evaluate the way they think about history, self, and people.

Olafur Eliasson

The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson uses elements of media and art to design exhibitions involving installations that lead to direct interaction with the audience and elicit a response to reflect on such themes as environmental conservation and injustice. Through ''The Weather Project'' installation in Tate Modern with a large artificial sun, Eliasson encouraged the viewers to focus on the reflection about the position of people in the context of nature and with one another.

Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat is an Iranian-born artist who highlighted such issues as gender, political authority, and identity in her works within the scopes of photography, video, and film. Other works by Neshat, such as the arresting ''Women of Allah'' series, where veiled women are depicted with arresting calligraphy posed across their bodies, offer viewers a rich engagement experience involving iconoclasm and the contextualization of female identity in Iran.

Sean Scully

Sean Scully is an Irish-American painter whose works are abstract in form and often based on conceptions of geometric and colored forms that are changeless and full of feeling. His works express his ideas through imposing stripes and rich textures, which can be attributed to the interrelated qualities of rhythm and movement.
The series of paintings that Scully employs manifests the particularities of her subjective experience of existence while offering the spectators a way to grasp it cinematically. Through abstract works his ''Wall of Light'' series which was inspired by the light reflected on walls of the ancient forms reflects his skills in the representation of emotions.

Maurizio Cattelan

One of the contemporary artists who questioned the status quo with his uproarious and provocative works is Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian artist. It is impossible to ignore the art of the unusual and thought-provoking iconoclast, whose bronze sculptures and installations, painted to resemble realistic people, make society reflect on contemporary culture.
His ''Comedian'' which entailed a banana taped to a wall set social media abuzz talking about contemporary art and it's worth it because the artwork is a simple folk art yet catapulted into stardom by the artist.

Alia Ahmad

Alia Ahmad being a Pakistani artist addresses issues like Identity, Migration, and Culture. Her work in installation and sculpture uses stitch and fabric and, less commonly, found objects and discarded items to narrate her identity politics as well as current context and politics. Yassin Darwish’s contemporary art encourages the audience to contemplate cultural disorientation and the effects of global processes on personalities as well as communities.

Frederic Anderson

Swedish-born and based artist Frederic Anderson’s work is related to abstract paintings and focuses on colors, light, and form. The romantic works of the painter are quite symbolized by the paintings featuring a good sense of brushwork, and richness in colors displaying a certain degree of energy.
Anderson frequently paints realistic work where she is inspired by the scenery, the sea, and the beaches.

Özgür Kar

Turkish industrial designer and digital artist Özgür Kar is best known for his contemporary work in animations. His contemporary art is mainly focused on such topics as technology, individuality, and the world of the Internet bringing exceptional performances to the audience.
Kar’s works involve installation art and digital sculpting, which employs the use of the arts and technology to bring out exceptional creations. His work raises questions about the effects that such media have on society and the kind of social relationships that are allowed in the digital era as a result.

Diane Severin Nguyen

Diane Severin Nguyen works in photography, sculpture, and performance, designing her compelling stories of transformation, identity, and desire in America. She regularly practices formal concepts and paints seemingly realistic scenes that contain surreal and abstract elements.
By denying viewers the opportunity to appreciate clean skin or exotic features Nguyen’s work undercuts expectations of conventional beauty standards. This type of imagery makes her a voice in contemporary art due to her uniqueness in her work.

Laurent Proux

Laurent Proux, a sculpture artist of French origin, explores themes of space, form, and materiality in his sculptures and installations that are characterized by minimalism. His works are created from industrial materials such as metal and concrete. This puts into question their positions with other objects.
The stylistics of Proux’s art are minimalist and mechanistic yet contain geometric elegance, which results in harmonized compositions. This way, he effectively transforms mundane materials into objects of contemplation where the aesthetics of space and form are masterfully arranged.

Mark Grotjahn

Mark Grotjahn is an American painter who is highly regarded for his abstract works that depict color, shape, and the throw. Grotjahn’s ''Butterfly'' series are perfect examples of his desire to design aesthetically interesting experiences. He has been one of the most celebrated artists in contemporary art due to his creativity which was depicted by the use of color and form in his work.

Yoshitomo Nara

Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara works in neo-pop art, depicting children and animals with deep, almost tragic emotions on their faces. His work includes specific features of pop art, manga, and Japanese classic art, which allow people from all over the world to understand his imagery.
Nara’s contemporary art is often cute and provocative with views referencing personal childhood memories, teenage rebellion, and loneliness. His attainment of arousing complex story arcs of human emotions and feelings using basic, playful modes makes him well-known.

Peter Doig

Peter Doig is a Scottish artist who is known for fine compositions of paintings that feature characteristics of both figuration and abstraction. By going through the gallery, one realizes that Doig’s use of color and texture makes the viewers experience the past and yearn for more time in his quiet reflection. The talent to depict a typical scene that captures a certain mood and does so through brushwork places him as one of the best contemporary painters.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama is a contemporary artist associated with installations, contemporary art that emphasizes the subject’s environment, the large-scale repetition of an image, and often dots that depict the idea of infinity that encompasses ideas like cosmos and repetition.
Engaging with the level of spirituality, her "Infinity Mirror Rooms" and large-scale sculptures present the illusion of spaces in which one can become immersed. The main themes of Kusama’s works are mental illness as she suffers from it and the fascination with infinity that always accompanies the author.

Wanda Koop

An esteemed Canadian painter and multimedia artist, Wanda Koop has become famed for her extensive works that focus on concepts like landscape, individuality, and vision. Some of her works depict abstracted dream-like scenes and the idea of confronting the viewer with a new way of observing and engaging with nature.
Koop’s choice of color and form gives the impression of a gentle and continuous cyclic flow of something emotionally and aesthetically suggestive of nature.

Ken Nwadiogbu

This Nigerian artist has gained a lot of exposure and fame for creating hyper-realistic selfies that deal with issues related to ethnicity, authority, and injustice. His works depict real active people who are often characterized by a variety of fates and situations. The artist’s work discusses topics like enslavement and colonization, male/female relations, and origins, which makes the audience question what they know or believe.

Andrey Remnev

Contemporary Russian artist Andrey Remnev follows historical painting techniques to embody the modern world and his paintings contain elements of history, myths, and people. Some of his paintings which are highly detailed with a strong inclination toward depicting events, seem to contain hidden, much like parables that encourage the audience to ponder.
The representations of the past by Remnev through artistic features such as symbolism and rich color palettes help to create that timeless essence that fits the past and the contemporary times in equal measure.

Colleen Barry

American painter Colleen Barry works in the same tradition as the classical European masters of contemporary art with her style being based on figurative painting and portraiture and the themes being modern. A common element in her creations is realism where she depicts individuals as if they are real people and gets to the core of their character stunningly.
Barry’s efforts to depict facial expressions and personalities in her contemporary art pieces through precise work have placed her on the modern art map.

Loie Hollowell

Loie Hollowell is an American artist who is best known for her paintings that depict realms of sensuality, motherhood, and the human body in their abstract form. The subject has made vivid and colorful paintings with geometric shapes that express depth and direction. Hollowell continues to foreground issues of gender and sexuality in her work, especially about womanhood.

Toyin Ojih Odutola

Toyin Ojih Odutola is a Nigerian-American artist who primarily uses drawing and painting techniques focusing on identity, race, and culture. Many of them are historical characters portrayed realistically with emphasis on elaborate, inventive stories. The conveying of texture and pattern by Odutola makes it possible for audiences to have depth in the subject’s images and stories or experiences. Her art portrays dark people in a way that makes a shift from the stereotypical and presents a different aspect of contemporary portraits.

Richard Prince

Richard Prince is an American famous contemporary artist for what is known as appropriation art or postmodern tactics where the artist manipulates or recontextualizes existing images or texts to create new meanings. One of his most notorious artworks is the series ''Cowboy'', where Prince photographed the advertisements of Marlboro Red for which he was paid.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat is an African-American artist, who started on the streets of New York City as a graffiti artist and is famous for his bold art pieces depicting issues of race, otherness, and marginalization. He is particularly famous and his paintings bear colorful images, unsorted forms, and his experiences in his works.

Takashi Murakami

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is probably best known for his artistic movement entitled ''Superflat'', which synthesizes Japanese calligraphy and graphic art with media pop art. His pieces are full of bright, vivid shades and both his human representations and his motorcycles resemble anime and manga.
The works by Murakami also focus on issues of consumerism, globalization, and identification of culture through the representation and powerful and comprehensible artistic language. The uniqueness of referencing both the best and the lowest art has placed him among the most celebrated contemporary artists.


Banksy is a highly skilled British street artist who uses graffiti art to raise awareness of social, political, and economic issues with a tinge of humorism. His graffiti artwork, which features stenciled images, has been seen globally. Walls depict society's most significant themes, such as war, consumerism, and authority.
Pieces such as ''Girl with a Balloon'' and ''Love is in the Bin'' have drawn millions of fans around the world, as well as thrown topics of contemporary art in society. His ability to maintain his identity incognito and the fact that he practiced graffiti art without being formal still put pressure on the formal contemporary art world.

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, one of the most prominent figures of American contemporary art, is known for the adoption of popular culture objects and refined banality. Using popular materials and vulgar kitsch motifs, Koons produced his “5-meter Rabbit” and other iconic productions such as ''Balloon Dog" or "Michael Jackson and Bubbles".
Although his work has been met with fairly polarizing responses from critics and viewers, his work now resonates with the commercial audience and is used to start a debate on issues like consumerism and pop culture.

The World Through Art

A lot of these contemporary artists have work rooted in their culture, where they retain the traditions of a certain era and or a certain region, but they apply these traditions to new vehicles.
The piece by Banksy known as “Girl with a Balloon” depicts a tender and cheerful subject. When it was partially shredded, it was an installation into the world of the inability of art to last forever and a critique of the art world. Visitors to Tate Modern's Turbine Hall were presented with a naturalistic sun and sky in The Weather Project.
This is an installation by Olafur Eliasson that makes people think about their existence, their connection to the natural world, sensations and how they affect the environment. In learning about their work, one not only gets to know more about these individual contemporary artists and their artistic sensibilities but also about the global society that we all participate in.