16 Emerging Artists to Watch in 2016

Artsy Editorial
Dec 16, 2015 4:12AM

Pulling from a year’s worth of travel, insight from some of the world’s most influential curators and collectors, and early intel on upcoming exhibitions, we’ve skimmed the top of emerging art to bring you the 16 artists to look out for in 2016.

Dora Budor

B. 1984, Zagreb, Croatia. Lives and works in New York.

One Million Years of Feeling Nothing, 2015
"Spring" at Swiss Institute, New York

The granddaughter of a television and theater actor and one of the first-ever female television directors, Budor was a child of the silver screen who spent her days holed up in cinemas. Upon moving to the United States, she became fascinated with the anthropology of American cinema as a means to understand her new culture. Today, that means incorporating the film detritus she scores from movie auctions—like rubber frogs from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia and chest prosthetics worn by cyborg Bruce Willis in Surrogates—as raw material for her sculpture.

For an art-world audience, these objects are even more beloved offscreen. In 2014, the same year Budor took home the Rema Hort Mann Foundation New York Emerging Artist Grant, the artist exhibited her “Action Paintings” at 247365, videos (and accompanying prop paintings produced through the films), which pulled their stunts and scenography from films like Mission: Impossible and The Hunger Games. It’s also the year she—with artists Alex Mackin Dolan and Olivia Erlanger—opened Grand Century, their artist studio-turned-project space on New York’s Lower East Side.

In 2015, she’s seen even greater momentum. Following a solo show with New Galerie in Paris, Budor mounted her first solo institutional exhibition at the Swiss Institute, where original props and miniatures from ’90s blockbuster films (a rooftop from Batman Returns; three garage doors from The Fifth Element), after being dusted with artificial dirt and grime, are wreathed in twisted steel sculptures akin to both arteries and heaters, bringing new life to old relics.

Villa Design Group


Last March, the artist collective comprised of artists Than Hussein Clark, James Connick, and William Joys (they formed the group as students at Goldsmith’s College in 2011), presented their first works at Mathew Gallery’s Berlin space. Their debut show, “Blue Moon,” addressed the group’s transition from performance into other mediums through a boardroom-like installation of neon lights, sculpture, and photography. A subsequent show at Mathew’s New York space—in which the trio presented a murderous allegory of themselves—won them a near-cult following overnight. Things have only improved. Their spring 2016 schedule includes a solo show at MIT List Visual Arts Center, inclusion in the Liverpool Biennial, and a group show at Museum Ludwig. “They told me they are working with MIT to create a tragedy machine,” says Mathew’s David Lieske, who recently let the group take over his Art Basel in Miami Beach booth with a gruesome series of neon-lit security doors. “I don’t think they even know what it will look like yet, but like with everything they do, I am excited to find out.”

Yngve Holen

b. 1982, Braunschweig, Germany. Lives and works in Berlin.

Works by Yngve Holen’s work at Stuart Shave/Modern Art’s booth at Frieze London, 2015. Photo by Benjamin Westoby for Artsy.


After rounding out 2015 with a solo exhibition at Stuart Shave/Modern Art (and following his showstopping presentation at Frieze London in the gallery’s booth, awarded best in fair), 2016 will see the Norwegian-German sculptor cresting to new heights with a spring exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel—his largest institutional show to date. “His presentations are unique and edgy, sometimes embracing new technologies or found objects,” says collector and art philanthropist Anita Zabludowicz, who began acquiring Holen’s work a couple of years ago.

The work that caught Zabludowicz’s eye at Frieze London—model aircrafts resting on washing-machine plinths—pulled from the new materials and progressive technologies of the aviation industry. Shortly thereafter, his solo exhibition at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, “Earthlings,” was equipped with glowing, wall-mounted lamps fashioned from the headlights of scooters. “I connect with the way he looks at the world,” Zabludowicz says of Holen, whose materials are often sourced from his surroundings. “He is voyeuristic and picks up on contemporary cultural anthropology.”

Tschabalala Self

b. 1990, Harlem, New York. Lives and works in New York and New Haven.

After receiving her painting and printmaking MFA from Yale this past spring, Harlem-born Self traveled to Los Angeles for the La Brea Studio Residency, before returning to settle in New York. While on the West Coast, she created a new body of work that was shown this past summer at L.A. gallery, The Cabin; “Tropicana” continued Self’s investigation of the black female body through figurative collages composed of paint, fabric, and dry leaf. The exhibition opened on the heels of her solo New York debut at Thierry Goldberg Gallery in May, and was followed by inclusion in “A Constellation,” a group exhibition up now at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where her canvases hang amongst work by peers like Andrew Ross and Cameron Rowland. Feminine and strong, Self’s bold compositions have made her a standout amongst curators and collectors alike. “I liked the complex sexiness of the work, it’s kind of an anti-Picasso,” says L.A. collector Dean Valentine of Self’s work.

Cornelia Baltes

b. 1978, Mönchengladbach, Germany. Lives and works in Berlin and London.

Installation view of “Cornelia Baltes: Turner,” 2015, at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland, UK.

With her formal command of painting and cheeky sense of humor, Baltes has a knack for making the familiar feel new again. After graduating from the U.K’s Slade School of Fine Art in London in 2011, she found an eager audience for her painting-meets-sculpture environments, which often feature traditional canvases hung at unusual angles like her solo show, “Turner,” at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland, where most of the works adorned the floor of the Pepto-pink colored gallery.

Placed on castors, her rollable paintings invited gallery visitors to participate in the arrangement of the exhibition—breaking down the barriers between curator and viewer, two-dimensional art and installation. “Turner” wasn’t her only solo show in 2015. The Kunstverein Ulm also gave the up-and-comer a chance to transform their space with one of her multi-layered displays. Her stick-figure-like abstractions, which feel reminiscent of Rob Pruitt drawings, dangled from the ceiling as well as the walls—creating a heightened sense of drama. With this momentum behind her, Baltes has a stellar 2016 ahead, beginning with her second solo show at Limoncello gallery in London. The doors open this January.

Julian Charrière

b. 1987, Morges, Switzerland. Lives and works in Berlin.

The Blue Fossil Entropic Stories (3), 2013

This Switzerland-born, Berlin-based artist explores the relationship between the artificial and natural worlds. He first broke through with the 2012 work Some Pigeons Are More Equal than Others, created with Julius von Bismarck for the Venice Architecture Biennale, a device that attracted pigeons, then  spray-painted them in colorful hues. Since then, Charrière has developed a reputation for tackling big themes, global warming among them. In 2013, he embarked on an expedition to scale an iceberg in the midst of the Arctic Ocean. The resulting photographs capture his silhouette at the top, where he spent eight hours melting the ice with a gas blow torch. In other projects, he’s conquered themes from nuclear testing to the extinction of plant species, and has traveled from the salt flats of Bolivia to a former Soviet nuclear weapons test site in Kazakhstan.

In January 2016, he’ll open his first British solo exhibition at London’s Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art. “Charrière’s work is a kind of reality check on what is happening to our planet,” says Ziba Ardalan, founder-director of the foundation, who has also curated the upcoming show. It features work made over the course of his career, including Tropisme (2015), a work in which plant species that existed during the Cretaceous period were flash-frozen and sealed in a glass vitrine, preserving 65 million years of plant life for a future that might not support it.

Kapwani Kiwanga

B. 1978, Hamilton, Ontario. Lives and works in Paris.

Kapwani Kiwanga, AFROGALACTICA: A brief history of the future. 2012–ongoing. Photo courtesy the artist.

If you haven’t heard of United States of Africa Space Agency, you’re likely not familiar with the world as told through the Afrogalactica trilogy—a captivating performance in which Kiwanga plays an anthropologist who narrates an afrofuturist reality. Also working in sculpture and installation, Kapwani’s work “greatly and intentionally confuses truth and fiction in order to unsettle hegemonic narratives” such that they “let a marginal discourse flourish,” in the words of curatorial duo Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba, who named her the commissioned artist of the 2016 Armory Show Focus. Though this is her first solo commission in America, Kiwanga has been garnering buzz in Europe following a performance of the aforementioned work at the Tate Modern in 2014. In 2015, her work has emerged at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London, FIAC in Paris, and an exhibition at Tanja Wagner Galerie in Berlin, and in 2016 she’ll headline solo shows at La Ferme du Buisson and Le Granit, both in France.


Lindsay Lawson 

b. 1982, Biloxi, Mississippi. Lives and works in Berlin.

Film still from Lindsay Lawson, The Smiling Rock, premiering in 2016. Image courtesy of the artist and Gillmeier Rech.

It was a fortuitous moment three years ago, while scouring, in her words, “the creme of the dregs of online auctions,” when Lawson first encountered a million-dollar geode listed on eBay, embedded with a smiley face. Taken by the rock’s bizarre and unattainable online persona, Lawson began creating a feature-length film, The Smiling Rock—a semi-fictional tale of a girl who is infatuated with the rock after finding it on eBay and OkCupid—which will see its completion and premiere in 2016. Complementary works include The Real Smiling Rock (2015), a performance-text-video piece documenting her real-life encounters with the rock and its seller (an Arkansas man who she emails and chats with on Facebook).

The American UCLA grad found her footing in Berlin through her individual practice as well as collaborations. She cofounded the former bar, Times, and the video collective Baby Darwin. Lawson’s recent approach has been somewhat anthropological, keenly observing the ways we attribute value and agency to inanimate objects, in real and online spaces. For the Berlin group show “Home Work,” curated by Carson Chan and Clara Meister at Berlin project space Open Forum (located in the home of Nick Koenigsknecht and Hannes Schroeder-Finckh), Lawson chose to list the couple’s prized possessions on eBay. Her summer solo show, “The Inner Lives of Objects,” at Gillmeier Rech featured absorbing plaster-casts of panels and vases embedded with a melange of objects from pantyhose to an iPod (new works from this series go on view at Art Los Angeles Contemporary this January). And during the summer of 2016, the artist will debut fresh sculptures from her “Hypothetical Lamp Collection,” playful, functional objects that seem to repel their utilitarian wiring.

Pia Camil

b. 1980, Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City. 

Exhibition view Espectacular Telon at Sultana, 2013
For Sale, 2010
Instituto de Visión

Using a mixture of found and manufactured items, Camil’s work reflects on the urban decay that proliferates throughout her native Mexico City, where the Rhode Island School of Design graduate lives and works. Having shown internationally since 2001, Camil had a breakthrough moment in the summer of 2014 with a solo exhibition at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, which was informed by the abandoned billboards that populate Mexico’s highways. Bright and subversive, the show left a lasting impression. This past spring, Camil grabbed headlines at Frieze New York by handing out 800 free ponchos patched together from factory leftovers as part of Frieze Projects.

“Camil has been creating an impressive body of work for many years now that is rooted in an interest in architecture, economy, and performance,” says curator Justine Ludwig, who unveiled Camil’s first institutional survey in the U.S. at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in early November. “Her work is unexpected and subverts the expectations of contemporary art viewing. She empowers the viewer, making them an integral part of the work.” On the heels of her museum debut, Camil will travel to New York, where she will have a solo show in New Museum’s lab-like lobby space, opening in January 2016.

Torey Thornton

b. 1990, Macon, Georgia. Lives and works in Brooklyn. 

In 25-year-old Thornton’s buoyant paintings, abstracted forms resembling parking lots, amoebas, globes, and gigantic flowers float amongst each other and flatten onto the same plane. This year—following a breakout show at Moran Bondaroff in late 2014—Thornton’s deft experiments with pictorial space filled Stuart Shave/Modern Art’s London gallery in a celebrated solo show and punctuated group exhibitions at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, CANADA, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Now, from his big, light-filled studio in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy, Thornton readies for his first institutional solo exhibition at Albright-Knox Art Gallery, slated to open in February 2016. “What makes Torey’s work so appealing is his employment of purposely ambiguous imagery, which challenges viewers to approach his paintings from a very personal point of view,” explains Holly Hughes, Albright-Knox’s curator for the collection. “Thornton’s seemingly impulsive combinations of forms and colors, scale and perspective, are always surprising, and call into question how the viewer deals with processing visual information. I find myself returning to Thornton’s paintings and encountering myriad subtleties that I did not see before.”

Christine Sun Kim

b. 1980, Orange County, California. Lives and works in Berlin and New York.

Installation view of “Christine Sun Kim: Rustle Tustle” at Carroll / Fletcher, 2015–2016. Photo courtesy of Carroll / Fletcher.

Deaf since birth, 35-year-old Kim started her career as a painter, but a 2008 residency in Berlin exposed the artist to what was, at the time, a wealth of sound art being exhibited in the city. She had found her medium. In the time since, Kim’s work has been shown in MoMA’s 2013 exhibition, “Soundings,” and at the New Museum. This fall, two versions of her piece, Game of Skill, are on view in both “Greater New York” and an inaugural exhibition with London gallery Carroll / Fletcher. The piece involves walking while holding a specially conceived device up to a strip of velcro suspended from the ceiling. When moving at just the right pace, the device plays a recording of Kim’s voice; otherwise, abstract noise is emitted.

Much of Kim’s work centers on the social currency ascribed to sound—how creating sound allows us to make our presence felt in both positive and negative ways. In works on paper, Kim has made hierarchies of softness (Pianoiss . . . issmo (Worse Finish), 2012) and schematics of good and bad noise (How to Measure Quietness, 2014). Other gestural works trace the American Sign Language (ASL) motions for phrases like “all day” and “all night long.” Her performances break these norms altogether. In Fingertap Quartet (2014), she borrows the voice of friend and collaborator Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange), using his voice’s high social value to offset her position; in Face Opera ii (2013), she choreographs fellow members of the deaf community’s faces according to different emotions, and at the end, has them break the single greatest taboo for that community—using one’s voice—for one unified scream.

Marguerite Humeau

b. 1986, France. Lives and works in London.

Cleopatra, Synthetic Voice and Incantation, 2015
DUVE Berlin

A graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven and the Royal College of Art, Humeau’s work bridges technology, science, design, and art with the deftness of a true polymath. Already in the collection of MoMA, Humeau’s strength is her ability to bring conceptual ideas to life—as in her best-known work, a project involving recreating the vocal tracts of dinosaurs in order to hear the sound of their voices. This past spring, Humeau wowed visitors to DUVE Berlin with “*Echoes*,” a hypnotic show where electric lemon walls came laced with deadly, Black Mamba venom. This lethal backdrop played nice with her series of self-remedying sculptures predicated on extensive research into nature’s most sinister poisons (alligator blood, hippopotamus milk) and their antidotes. Up next, Humeau will be at the Palais de Tokyo in June, with a solo show curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel.

Melike Kara

b. 1985, Bensberg, Germany. Lives and works in Cologne.

Left: Melike Kara, The smell of possibilities, (of the buzzing dialogues), you do not hear what they see., Take a breath of the fumes, that result from your silence., 2015. Right: To be titled, 2015. © Melike Kara, photos courtesy of Peres Projects, Berlin.

A German artist schooled at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, Kara joins a long line of celebrated painters who have settled in Cologne. The multi-media artist creates both sculpture and painting, and her strength across mediums lies in an ability to visualize form and formlessness at the same time. This past July for “Lunch,” her solo show at Cultural Avenue’s space Salon Kennedy in Frankfurt, Kara paired putty-like sculptures dangling from a taut zipline with oversized canvases that depict groups of figures rendered in a handful of colors (peaches, blues, and greens) and frenetic linework. With an upcoming 2016 solo show at Berlin’s Peres Projects (her work generated buzz at the gallery’s booths this fall at Frieze London, FIAC, and Artissima), Kara is already on the radar of Germany’s contemporary tastemakers, as well as that of the international art market. Our guess is that more widespread international acclaim won’t be far behind.

Fritzia Irizar

b. 1977, Culiacán, Mexico. Lives and works in Culiacán, Mexico.

Works by Fritzia Irizar installed in Arredondo \ Arozarena’s booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach, 2015. Photo by Oriol Tarridas for Artsy.

To say Irizar’s work unravels isn’t a conceptual critique so much as a literal truth. At Art Basel in Miami Beach earlier this month, the Mexican artist’s work at the booth of Arredondo \ Arozarena featured a system of pulleys, powered by a motor, that tugged at the gold thread of a woven hat until it disappeared—a highlight of the fair, according to New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni. Irizar wasn’t performing the art-world equivalent of a parlor trick—rather, by unfurling the gold hat, once a potent symbol of democratic values in Latin America that has increasingly been forgotten, she was restaging an otherwise intangible development.

“What is particularly impressive about Fritzia Irízar’s artwork is that she accomplishes so much through such precise and elegant means,” says curator Betti-Sue Hertz, who until recently served as Director of Visual Arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and is a supporter of the artist. “Her thought-provoking conceptual works render materials that signal luxury—gold, diamonds, coins, and paper money—null and void by reversing their exchange value, unraveling our obsession with wealth.” After years of extensive showing across Mexico, Irizar enters the coming year fresh off a nomination for the BMW Art Journey prize, and with a solo exhibition at Arredondo \ Arozarena during Gallery Weekend México to look forward to.

Cameron Rowland

b. 1988, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lives and works in New York.

Pass-Thru, 2013
The Studio Museum in Harlem

Rowland first gained traction with his 2014 show at ESSEX STREET gallery, “Bait, Inc,” where the New York-based artist showed a series of found and made objects that illuminate some of the social injustices embedded in everyday tools. His Pass-Thru (2014), a studio-made version of the plastic payment channel employed by liquor stores and banks, brings attention to the logic gap inherent in the production of these security objects, which are only protective when fabricated with bullet-proof glass.

This fall, the conceptually driven artist made his two-part institutional debut at MoMA PS1’s “Greater New York” show and “A Constellation,” a group show at the Studio Museum in Harlem focused on the work of 26 artists of African descent. “Cameron forces us, especially in the black community, to look more closely at infrastructures of division that affect whole populations,” says Studio Museum assistant curator Amanda Hunt. “He creates in order to reveal common truths. Interaction with his work entails learning something that from that moment forward will be impossible to overlook.” Rowland’s work will travel internationally in 2016, with a show at the Kunsthalle Freiburg in Switzerland, but New Yorkers can look forward to his upcoming 2016 exhibition at Artists Space.

Sophia Al-Maria 

b. 1983, Tacoma, Washington. Lives and works in London.

Sophia Al Maria, Evil Eye, 2014. Single channel digital video with audio, Still. Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line. 

A writer, filmmaker, and visual artist, Al-Maria blends genres to produce work that meditates on contemporary culture and on her identity as a Qatari-American. “She is a magical storyteller unfolding hidden narratives, whether it be the interior worlds and lives of Gulf teenagers or women’s rights struggles in Egypt,” says Omar Kholeif, a senior curator at the MCA Chicago who also curated Al-Maria’s solo show at Cornerhouse gallery in 2014. That exhibition consisted of what she describes as “DVD-extras” from her yet unrealized rape-revenge film, Beretta, set in contemporary Cairo. Indeed, her practice is commonly associated with “Gulf Futurism,” a term that she coined with fellow Arab-American artist and musician Fatima Al Qadiri, which describes the consumerist, luxury-driven culture and aesthetic of the Arabian Gulf nations, post-oil boom. Visitors to 2014’s Frieze London will likely recall her guided tours that lambasted art consumption. Next year holds the promise of a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum, curated by Christopher Y. Lew, who was recently tapped to curate that institution’s upcoming 2017 biennial.

Cover photos: Portrait of Pia Camil courtesy of the artist. Portrait of Kapwani Kiwanga by Vicente Munoz. Courtesy of The Armory Show; Portrait of Marguerite Humeau by Maike Wagner and Berlin Art Link. Courtesy DUVE Berlin; Portrait of Lindsay Lawson by Alexander Coggin. Courtesy of the artist.

Artsy Editorial