Much like dropping a pebble into the still waters of a pond, an innovative artist can have a monumental ripple effect within the art world. However, unlike the transcendental disturbance of a pond, making waves in the art world has a long-lasting effect.
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp transformed the definition of modern art forever with his use of ready-made materials. In the 1960s, Andy Warhol shook the art world with his concept of Pop Art and the radical notion that art is not simply reserved for the elite. More recently, over the past ten years, the eponymous street artist, Banksy, has reversed the negative reputation of graffiti amongst critics and has established street art as one of the most popular artistic styles of our time.
Artistic revolutionaries like these are ever-present in historical narratives and without them the very advancement of art is in jeopardy. Therefore, we consider some contemporary creatives who are carrying the flame of artistic revolution forward and are changing the notion of what it means to be an artist in the 21st century.
ANDY WARHOL, INGRID THE NUN, 1983
Damien Hirst is prime example of an artist who has always worked at the frontier of innovation. The British artist uses avant-garde mediums, which philosophically push the limits of contemporary art. In 2001, Hirst created his radical series of formaldehyde faunae, suspending whole animals in the protective liquid. From sharks to sheep, Hirst preserved a menagerie of creatures, immersed in the blue-tinged formaldehyde solution. It was the first time something of its kind had ever been attempted in the name of art and it has stood the test of time, with The New Yorker describing the work as ‘infamous’. Hirst’s ground-breaking sculptures seemed to be a harbinger for works to come, as Hirst continues to push the perimeters of contemporary art to dizzying new heights.
DAMIEN HIRST, NEW RELIGION - JUDAS ISCARIOT, 2005
The American graffiti artist and designer KAWS, has transformed the meaning of art through his collaborations and commercially accessible works. Cleverly embracing the on-going commercialisation of art, KAWS’ iconic toys blur the line between commercial and fine art, in a pioneering move that has irrevocably altered the art world. Straddling both genres, KAWS has exhibited globally in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries, whilst collaborating with the most successful brands in the world. From Nike to Dior, KAWS has taught the art world that you truly can have it all.
British contemporary artist Lauren Baker is continually challenging the traditional definition of contemporary art. Embracing spirituality, Baker’s work explores the metaphysical as well as the mystical. Many of Baker’s canvases are inspired by the Chakra system, a complex network of energy channels rooted in ancient meditation. From the Saatchi Gallery to the Tate Modern, Baker’s spiritual works have graced the walls of many highly esteemed institutions, proving that contemporary art can bridge the boundary between the aesthetic and the spiritual.
LAUREN BAKER, TO THE MOON AND BACK INFINITY, 2017
Nick Veasey creates art at the intersection of technology and fine art. Creating x-ray images of everyday objects, his monochrome masterpieces are a dynamic fusion of science and aesthetics. The creation of such artwork is dangerous, as with time it can lead to radiation exposure. As a result, Veasey has taken to producing his works within a concrete chamber, designed especially to enable his innovative method of creating artwork. X-raying everything from humans to Ferraris, Veasey’s art helps us see the beauty within.
NICK VEASEY, EXAMINATION OF BATMAN, 2020