17 Emerging Artists to Watch in 2017

Artsy Editorial
Dec 14, 2016 1:00AM

Among the more important lessons learned by the art world in 2016: An emerging artist’s career isn’t cemented in one night, with one breakout show, or with one collector’s token of approval. Artists who matter long-term have careers that build over time, show upon show, collection upon collection. In looking ahead to 2017, Artsy’s editors consulted a number of data sources, including UBS’s art news app Planet Art, as well as prominent artists, curators, writers, and collectors, to determine who among the many artists deserving of greater attention in the new year are particularly well positioned to rise to new heights. Here, in no specific order, are 17 to keep your eye on.

Genevieve Gaignard

b. 1981, Orange, Massachusetts • Lives and works in Los Angeles

Portrait of Genevieve Gaignard in her Los Angeles studio by Emily Berl for Artsy.


Originally inspired by Diane Arbus and the characters she captured on the fringes of society, Los Angeles-based artist Gaignard photographs herself as heavily costumed alter egos: a cat lady selfie-ing on Muscle Beach, a woman clad head-to-toe in purple posing before her single-story magenta manse. The artist was raised in a Massachusetts mill town by a black father and a white mother. Today, her photographs and installations collide these intersecting identities—and span race, gender, class, and body type—particularly timely subject matter following the U.S. presidential election. In her first solo museum show, on through February 19th at Los Angeles’s California African American Museum, Gaignard combines a cast of characters from a blonde brown-bagging Budweisers on the hood of an old car to brunette in a “Thug Life” t-shirt wielding a McDonald’s big-gulp. Additionally, the artist has a solo show at Shulamit Nazarian slated for 2017.

Max Hooper Schneider

B. 1982, Los Angeles • Lives and works in Los Angeles

Installation view of work by Max Hooper Schneider at High Art’s booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach, 2016. Photo by Alain Almiñana for Artsy.


A standalone room in the Rubell Family Collection’s new exhibition, “High Anxiety,” and a standout solo booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach—where he was shortlisted for the next BMW Art Journey—made Schneider the talk of fair week in Miami. The 34-year-old artist was schooled in biology and urban design at NYU and in landscape architecture at Harvard. In recent years, he has been turning heads for what he calls “Trans-Habitats,” otherworldly live ecosystems housed in unlikely vessels: A ’50s-era vertical-load Kenmore dishwasher, piled high with glassware, becomes a black-lit aquatic reef; a VHS player sheathed in moss plays a bootleg concert tape inside an acrylic vitrine; a terrarium is home to a landscape joining car parts, animal matter, plastic plants, and glowing neon signs. 2017 looks bright for Schneider, who will appear in a group show at Antenna Space, Shanghai in March, a sculpture commission for High Line Art in April, The Garden Triennial at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum in June, and a solo show at Jenny’s in Los Angeles in November.

Aaron Fowler

B. 1988, St. Louis, Missouri. Lives and works in New York

Installation view of work by Aaron Fowler at Diane Rosenstein Gallery’s booth at UNTITLED, Miami Beach, 2016. Photo courtesy of Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Los Angeles.

Saint Louis native and Yale MFA grad Fowler set up a studio last year in an East Harlem basement after his landlords fell in love with his work. To create his massive assemblages, the 28-year-old artist gathers discarded materials from his local surroundings; think window shutters or a pair of Nike Air Force 1s. The resulting sculptural works, made using oils, acrylic, and collage, reflect his own human experience—and those of important figures in his community. One of his most striking works to date, He Was (2015), is an altar-like installation created in homage to Ferguson police shooting victim Michael Brown and his mother, Lesley McSpadden. Fowler’s solo booth with Diane Rosenstein was a showstopper at UNTITLED, Miami Beach, as was his work at the Rubell Family Collection. In 2017, Fowler will be immersing himself in a new body of work from his studios in Los Angeles and Harlem.

Ivana Bašić

B. 1986, Belgrade, Serbia • Lives and works in New York

2016 was a decisive year for Bašić. In the past four months alone, the Serbian, New York-based artist has mounted both her first gallery solo show, at London’s Annka Kultys, and her first installation at a world-renowned museum, in the Whitney’s much-anticipated group exhibition of innovative film and video, “Dreamlands.” The Whitney presentation puts Bašić’s work alongside the likes of Trisha Baga, Ian Cheng, Joseph Cornell, Pierre Huyghe, and Hito Steyerl. Recently, Bašić’s work has caught the art world’s eye for its visceral depictions and dissections of the human body. Corporeal sculptures that suspend fleshy wax masses from ribbon or prop them up with steel bars address both the vulnerability and resilience of the human form. Meanwhile, her videos isolate forms that resemble pulsing, regenerating organs. Bašić was raised in Belgrade during a period of violent conflict, and is deeply engaged with the cultural and technological innovation brought about by the internet. She is interested in the body as a malleable vessel—one that can be simultaneously fragile, political, cloned, and digitized. Kicking things off in 2017, she will be included in a group exhibition at New York’s Andrea Rosen Gallery.

Hiwa K

B. 1975, Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, Iraq • Lives and works in Berlin

Installation view of work by Hiwa K at “All the World’s Futures,” the 56th Venice Biennale. Photo by Alex John Beck for Artsy.

In 2015, K placed a large bell in the Arsenale for “All the World’s Futures,” the Okwui Enwezor-curated exhibition at the 56th Venice Biennale. In fabricating the bell, the 41-year-old Iraqi musician and artist asked an Italian foundry to decorate it with depictions of Assyrian gods, a response to the destruction of countless antiquities by ISIS. The metal poured into the bell’s mold? Melted down cast-off weapons straight from Iraq’s front lines. In 2016, K mounted a solo show at prescient Berlin gallery KOW, restaging his installation It’s Spring and the Weather is Great so let’s close all object matters (2012), for which he created seven step ladders with microphones and instruments attached for a performance initially meant to take place at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park that was eventually mounted in 2010 at the Serpentine Galleries. And in June, he was named recipient of the Schering Stiftung award (following past winners like Renata Lucas, Wael Shawky, and Kate Cooper). It will afford K a solo show at Berlin’s KW Institute of Contemporary Art opening in June of next year. He has also been selected for inclusion in Adam Szymczyk’s Documenta 14, which takes place in Athens, Greece, in addition to its traditional home of Kassel, Germany, in 2017.

John Edmonds

B. 1989 • Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

Portrait of John Edmonds in his Brooklyn studio by Alex John Beck for Artsy.

Just several months after graduating with his MFA from Yale, 27-year-old photographer Edmonds was cited by two behemoth contemporary artists—Carrie Mae Weems and Mickalene Thomas—as a powerful creative to watch. Weems noted Edmonds’s towering billboard, covering a 29th-Street wall in Manhattan, as an example of an artist successfully tackling black stereotypes. The piece is an an extension of Edmonds’s MFA work and shows the back of a hooded figure, presumably a young black man. It addresses the racial profiling that has stoked the Black Lives Matter movement. With group exhibitions at Danziger Gallery and Printed Matter, a solo show at Long Island City’s Deli Gallery, and a debut at NADA Miami under his belt, Edmonds is poised to have a big year in 2017. It begins with “tête-á-tête,” a group show curated by Thomas that is up through late January at Miami’s David Castillo Gallery. Though Thomas thought she’d finalized the list for the show, upon seeing Edmonds’s photographs at an exhibition in Bushwick, she carved a space for his work.

Takahiro Iwasaki

B. 1975, Hiroshima, Japan • Lives and works in Hiroshima

Everyday objects like toothbrushes, duct tape, and kimonos serve as the foundation of Japanese artist Iwasaki’s miniature sculptures. Exquisitely detailed, these architectural works are sometimes replicas of historic sites such as Hiroshima’s Itsukushima Shrine. Other sculptures reflect the skyline of modern-day Japan, with delicate Ferris wheels crafted from thread or electrical towers composed of strands of hair. Since graduating from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2005, Iwasaki’s career has steadily built up steam: In 2012, his work appeared in the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, and in 2013 in the Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan. In 2015 he held a solo show at New York’s Asia Society. But 2017 is set to be a defining year for the 41-year-old sculptor, who will represent Japan at the 57th Venice Biennale. He will show a work titled Upside-Down Forest, which will touch upon the architectural histories of both his home country and the floating city of Venice.

Zohra Opoku

B. 1976, Altdöbern, Germany • Lives and works in Accra, Ghana

Zohra Opoku, Sanne, 2014. Courtesy of Gallery 1957, Accra, Ghana.

German-Ghanaian artist Opoku drew attention at several fairs around the globe this year, showing with her gallery Mariane Ibrahim at the Cape Town Art Fair and 1:54 in New York, among other venues. Her sumptuous photographic portraits and self-portraits on textile drapes explore her layered identity through the use of African and German materials or motifs. This year, they featured in group shows at Kunsthal Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) in Spain, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in the U.S., and Gallery MOMO in Cape Town; and in solo shows at Gallery 1957 in her hometown of Accra, Ghana, as well as Kruger Gallery in Chicago. Much more is in store for Opoku in 2017. She’ll show at ANO, a new cultural research center founded by Nana Oforiatta Ayim in the Jamestown neighborhood of Accra, and at The Armory Show in New York. She’s set to guest curate a show, “PERFORMEUM,” at the Temporäres Museum für performative Künste in Vienna, Austria, as part of the summer’s Wiener Festwochen. And in November, she’ll round out the year with a solo show at Mariane Ibrahim.

Rhys Coren

B. 1983, Plymouth, United Kingdom • Lives and works in London 

Installation view of Rhys Coren, “click, click, click-clap-click,” 2016. Courtesy of galeriepcp, Paris.

Jazz rhythms and EDM beats inspire the London-based Coren’s buoyant, pleasure-filled visual language, expressed through digital animations and finely painted marquetry—inlaid works made from many small pieces of wood. His works are primarily abstract, with crisp grids, whimsical clouds, and spaghetti-like swirls of line play in soft, muted colors and sprays of spattered texture. The works also often include playful allusions to human figures, be it a small pointy nose or a hovering hand. Fresh from a post-grad program at the Royal Academy Schools, in 2017 Coren will wrap his current solo show at Paris’s galeriepcp, then open a solo at Seventeen’s freshly minted New York space in February. He’ll also feature in Seventeen’s Frieze New York booth, have a group show at Z2O Sara Zanin Gallery in Rome, and is working on a video commission with Random Acts for March.

Claire Tabouret

B. 1981, Pertuis, France • Lives and works in Paris and Los Angeles 

The contemporary art landscape has become crowded with figurative painting. But the French, L.A.-based artist Tabouret holds her own with penetrating visions of girls and young women. Her subjects appear elegant and poised, but upon closer inspection, a darkness reveals itself, be it in the girls’ solemn expressions and searing gazes, or the mussed-up lipstick smeared across their delicate faces. In addition to a string of solo shows this year—at Bugada & Cargnel, Museo Pietro Canonica a Villa Borghese, SADE Gallery, and a two-person show at Lyles & King—she earned representation from L.A. tastemaker Night Gallery in August. Tabouret will have her first solo show there this January, the first in a flurry of 2017 shows including solos at YUZ Museum in Shanghai and Friche la Belle de Mai in Marseille.

Yan Xing

B. 1986, Chongqing, China • Lives and works in Beijing and Los Angeles

Installation view of “Yan Xing” at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, 2016. Photo: Eat Pomegranate Photography, courtesy of Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

The Kunsthalle Basel tapped Yan for its prized summer slot in 2017,  affording the young Chinese artist particular visibility thanks to the once-a-decade confluence of the Venice Biennale, Documenta, and Art Basel next summer. Yan’s interdisciplinary video, photography, installation, and performance works received global recognition in 2016, with solo shows at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and Galerie Urs Meile in Lucerne, plus a performance at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and various group shows from New York to Beijing. Increasingly key among the generation of Chinese artists born after the Cultural Revolution, Yan approaches his works as if writing a novel. Recent pieces include a performance created with seven art students during a weeklong stay in an Italian villa, and a 2015 installation that recreated the headquarters of a mysterious Soviet-era spy agency. In addition to the Basel show, Yan’s 2017 also includes a group show at Guangzhou’s Times Museum, and a residency as part of the Davidoff Art Initiative.

Luiz Roque

B. 1979, Cachoeira do Sul, Brazil • Lives and works in São Paulo

Luiz Roque, film still of Heaven, 2016. commissioned by the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo for the 32nd Bienal. Photo: Fundação Bienal de São Paulo.

From Brexit to the impeachment of Brazil’s president, the 32nd São Paulo Biennial couldn’t have picked a more appropriate year for its theme of “Live Uncertainty”—and Roque’s film Heaven (2016), commissioned for the exhibition, itself offers a disquieting narrative for how this uncertainty might play out in the future. His work imagines the spread of a mysterious virus in the late 21st century, one that is prematurely pinned on transsexuals by health agencies in a narrative that parallels the anti-AIDs campaigns of the 1980s. Like Heaven, Roque’s practice often explores themes of gender and the cyclical nature of cultural prejudice through video, sculpture, and photography. In 2016, the artist made inroads internationally with a PIPA Prize nomination, an appearance at FIAC with Mendes Wood DM, and a place in Mark Leckey’s MoMA PS1 show. Looking forward to 2017, Roque will be the focus of a fall solo show at Mendes Wood DM.

Zadie Xa

B. 1983, Vancouver, Canada • Lives and works in London 

Portrait of Zadie Xa in her London studio by Kate Berry for Artsy.

The Korean-Canadian, London-based Xa’s works span electric pink varsity jackets, embroidered tapestries edged with fringe, small figurative sculptures, and spirited performances. They bring together personal narratives and fantasy, with hints of both the ’90s and Korean traditions. Identity is a driving force across her practice, inspired by her place among the Korean diaspora, and a commitment to representing people of color. She earned her MA in painting at the Royal College of Art, but Xa is now focused on textile works and performances. They have been shown across London this year—from performances at Whitechapel Gallery and Serpentine Galleries (where she put on a work inspired by Talchum, the traditional Korean mask dance dramas) to group shows at Assembly Point Gallery, Division of Labour, Carl Freedman, among others. Xa carries this momentum into 2017 with a new performance of live storytelling, sound, and projection with PS/Y, group shows at Manchester’s Castlefield Gallery and Rome’s Sara Zanin Gallery, and solos at London galleries Rowing and Pump House Gallery.

Rachel Maclean

B. 1987, Edinburgh • Lives and works in Glasgow

Rachel Maclean, Feed Me, Scene 8, video still, 2015. Courtesy of the British Art Show.

Momentum behind Glasgow-based Maclean’s surrealistic videos and paintings has been mounting in recent years. In 2014, her work was featured in a solo presentation at the Zabludowicz Collection. This past year, she was included in the influential British Art Show. But the biggest coup for Maclean’s budding practice comes in May, when she will represent Scotland in the 2017 Venice Biennale. For the Biennale, she will expand her growing oeuvre of dreamy, dystopian films. In each narrative, Maclean herself plays a shape-shifting, tragicomic protagonist—a vulnerable Pollyanna, a motherly Cyborg, a grotesque troll—whose experiences reflect the underbelly of internet culture and consumerism. The darkly humorous scenarios she creates critique the commercialization and homogenization of contemporary society at the hands of social media and its neverending filter bubble of news and curated personas.

Cui Jie

B. 1983, Shanghai • Lives and works in Beijing

Cui Jie, House of Dove #3, 2015. Courtesy of Leo Xu Projects.

Cui has quickly asserted herself as one of the most exciting new voices of contemporary art in China thanks to her beautifully layered architectural paintings and sculptures. The works reflect her home country’s rise and rapid urbanization and intertwine organic elements like birds and human forms into futuristic structures, prefacing a more conscientious trajectory of growth in years to come. In 2016, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Amira Gad tapped her as part of “Hack Space,” an exhibition that traveled to the K11 Art Foundation’s spaces in both Hong Kong and Shanghai; her first-ever large-scale sculpture featured in “A Beautiful Disorder” at the U.K.’s Cass Sculpture Foundation; she had a solo show at mother’s tankstation in Dublin; and her paintings featured prominently in Shanghai gallery Leo Xu Projects’s booths at both West Bund Art & Design and Art Basel in Miami Beach. 2017 proves to be a further defining year for the 33-year-old artist. Among other shows, she will feature in “The New Normal,” a major survey of Chinese contemporary art at the Ullens Center of Contemporary Art this coming spring. Cui will also have solo show at Leo Xu Projects in winter 2017.

Tabita Rezaire

B. 1989, Paris • Lives and works in Johannesburg

Tabita Rezaire, SENEB, 2016. Courtesy of Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg - Cape Town.

For French-Guyanese and Danish artist Rezaire, the internet is a colonialized space. Her practice is aimed at calling out and resisting the online world’s tendency towards racism, bigotry, and oppression—a form of digital activism that has manifested in neon-hued videos, ranging from self-care tutorials to explorations of homosexuality in Mozambique. Razaire’s work was featured in a slew of shows in 2016, notably the 9th Berlin Biennale and “Sorry For Real” at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts in Brooklyn. (In the latter, she imagined a series of texts from the Western world apologizing to those affected by, among other things, slavery, apartheid, and capitalism.) Next year sees the new media artist’s first solo show at Goodman Gallery, and the conclusion of her current residency in the Netherlands with a commissioned work for the Impakt Festival in Utrecht.

Celia Hempton

B. 1981, Stroud, United Kingdom • Lives and works in London

Over the past couple of years, British artist Hempton’s close-up paintings of nude body parts in unexpected shades of canary yellow or navy blue have dotted the art world with increasing frequency. For Hempton’s series “Chat Random” (2014–ongoing), she paints anonymous models that she finds in online video chat rooms. Works from the series featured prominently at fall fairs this year, from Frieze London to Paris Internationale, as well as at Cheim & Read gallery in New York and Whitechapel Gallery in London. The coming years look equally busy for Hempton. She will show with the artist Prem Sahib at Southard Reid in 2017 and at ICA Boston in 2018, for a group exhibition curated by Eva Respini, “Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today”—positioning her among the most prominent artists to have employed and reflected the online spaces and technologies that now dominate our lives.

Artsy Editorial