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7 Leading Curators Predict the Defining Art Trends of 2023

Ayanna Dozier
Jan 30, 2023 11:57PM

In 2022, we witnessed a rise in neo-surrealist art, NFTs, and textile-based art practices. These were trends that were bubbling to the surface by the end of 2021, but weren’t fully realized until the spring of the following year. Now, many other styles are emerging as key genres that may have their moment this year.

Artsy spoke to seven leading curators who lent their expertise and shared their insights on which styles and themes may newly emerge or continue to garner attention in 2023. Many anticipate that the sociopolitical climate will continue to inform artists’ practices, with some predicting a rise in more provocative art that critiques religion and systemic oppression.

Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro
Corpo-flor I, 2020
HOA
Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro
Corpo-flor IV, 2020
HOA
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Other curators are looking to Latin American new media practices, and are excited by how artists like Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro and Xandra Ibarra use video and installation to create immersive environments that challenge the separation between the screen and the body. Meanwhile, others are intrigued by the possibilities and questions that AI will continue to raise in relation to authorship in the art world.

All the curators expressed an overall interest in artists who push the limits of their given medium, and continue to expand upon their practices in innovative ways. Overall, there is excitement and hopeful promise that 2023 will bring about a year of artistic risks.


Larry Ossei-Mensah

Independent Curator; Co-Founder, Artnoir

New York

Portrait of Larry Ossei-Mensah by Aaron Ramsey. Courtesy of Larry Ossei-Mensah.

Larry Ossei-Mensah predicts that abstraction by artists of color will become even more prominent in 2023. The genre, Ossei-Mensah believes, is essential to shifting the public’s belief that artists of color should only make representational work that is immediately legible. As an example, he pointed to the divisive reaction towards Hank Willis Thomas’s recently unveiled public sculpture The Embrace (2022). Ossei-Mensah also expects that abstract masters like Mo Booker, Raymond Saunders, Howardena Pindell, Emma Amos, Atta Kwami, and Barbara Chase Riboud will receive overdue recognition in 2023 as more institutions reexamine their bodies of work in relation to the younger generation they’ve inspired.

Ossei-Mensah anticipates that criticism by writers of color, specifically those who engage with abstract art’s relationship to cultural practice, will be particularly impactful on the art world. He cited the work of Hilton Als, Robin Givhan, Folasade Ologundudu, and Doreen St. Felix as ones to watch. Additionally, he listed the 2023 solo exhibitions of artists Chase Hall, Guadalupe Maravilla, Ming Smith, Tomashi Jackson, Frank Stewart, Amoako Boafo, Kennedy Yanko, and Anoushka Mirchandani as indicative of what’s to come this year.


Hans Ulrich Obrist

Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries

London

Portrait of Hans Ulrich Obrist by Andrew Quinn. © Andrew Quinn.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is looking towards the work of artists who are rethinking notions of ownership, land, and the body in relation to futurity. He is particularly excited by video games. As he explained, “Video games are to the 21st century what movies were to the 20th century, and novels to the 19th century. Today, it’s much easier for artists to develop their gaming environments.”

Obrist referenced the work of Gabriel Massan at the Serpentine as a key example of an artist who is “uncovering new meanings on video games and phenomenology…that invites players to activate a fantastical and disorienting world populated with Massan’s digital sculptures, bespoke animation, films, camerawork, and sound developed by his collaborators,” he said. Obrist situates Massan within an incredible generation of artists from Brazil, including, Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, Jota Mombaça, and Ventura Profana.

Adrián Villa Rojas, Yinka Shonibare, and Otobong Nkanga, as Obrist noted, are continuing the legacy of the great Gianfranco Baruchello, who founded of Agricola Cornelia (Agricultural Society) in 1973. “[Baruchello’s] oeuvre and life resonate greatly today as we face the climate crisis and many emerging artists continue to be inspired by his projects for their own legacy and future,” Obrist explained. “For example, rather than producing exhibitions, Precious Okoyomon considers temporalities, including ideas that relate to gardens and nature; Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg takes a similar approach through her Pollinator Pathmaker—her garden near Serpentine was one of our highlights last year. Ginsberg’s custom-built computer algorithm created a planting design to support the maximum number of pollinator species possible and took the pollinator’s point of view, not the human’s.”

Obrist continued, “As artist Ian Cheng often told me, at the heart of his art is a desire to understand what a world is. Now more than ever, the dream is to be able to possess the agency to create new worlds.”


Vivian Crockett

Curator, New Museum

New York

Portrait of Vivian Crockett by Ciara Elle Bryant. Courtesy of the New Museum.

Ja'Tovia Gary
Citational Ethics (Saidiya Hartman, 2017), 2020
Paula Cooper Gallery

Vivian Crockett is fascinated by what will emerge in the fields of new media art, film, and photography, particularly by artists of color from Latin America. When approaching Latin American art, Crockett emphasized that an understanding of the continent’s political landscapes is crucial. “There is an increased acknowledgement of white supremacist logic affecting Latin American countries, both historically and in the present moment, resulting in more explicit conversations around race, class, and Indigenous struggles for autonomy,” she said.

In terms of the media art that is attracting her interest, Crockett is looking forward to the transnational conversations that the Sharjah Biennial and São Paulo Bienal will provoke. Stateside, she is excited by the major video and media exhibitions taking place at MoMA and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth later this year, as well as Isaac Julien’s survey at Tate Britain and Ja’Tovia Gary’s solo show at Paula Cooper Gallery.


Eileen Jeng Lynch

Curator, The Bronx Museum

New York

Portrait of Eileen Jeng Lynch. Courtesy of The Bronx Museum.

Anina Major
Triple Threat, 2022
Shoshana Wayne Gallery

Eileen Jeng Lynch predicts that land art, Indigeneity, and immersive art practices will take center stage in 2023. In particular, she pointed to artists who use conceptual art to navigate history and memory, including Firelei Báez, Chloë Bass, Maria Berrio, Andrea Chung, Joana Choumali, Sean Desiree, Abigail DeVille, Anaïs Duplan, Scherezade García, Guadalupe Maravilla, Daniel Lie, and Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow. Jeng Lynch added, “Each of these artists have unique perspectives and contributions, and through their work, they’ve introduced a level of newness and depth to the overall artistic zeitgeist.”

Jeng Lynch further elaborated that artists who provide counternarratives to the dominant historical record, and push the boundaries of their medium across abstract and figurative painting as well as sculpture, will continue to set the trends. She specifically noted the practices of Derek Fordjour, Tomashi Jackson, Sara Jimenez, Anina Major, Natalia Nakazawa, Angel Otero, Kevin Quiles Bonilla, Amina Ross, Tariku Shiferaw, Jean Shin, and Saya Woolfalk. Jeng Lynch added that the critical scholarship of Lisa Lowe, Anna L. Tsing, and Saidiya Hartman will continue to inform artistic pulses.

She remains excited for new rediscoveries in 2023, like how ceramics has been in recent years. “Another area that is often overlooked are those artists who are self-taught, often labeled as ‘outsider artists’ (e.g., those whose work does not reflect an overt influence from the mainstream art world), and are bringing a new energy to the field,” Jeng Lynch wrote to Artsy.


Jesse Firestone

Curator, Montclair State Galleries

Montclair, New Jersey

Portrait of Jesse Firestone by Jenna Bascom Photography, LLC’s Associate Photographer Nelson. Courtesy of Montclair State Galleries.

Jesse Firestone is on the lookout for more genre-breaking art in 2023. In particular, they point to outsider art practices—like using humor or making provocative works with unconventional material and subject matter—as big trends for the year. “I think performance artists who embrace failure while taking their work seriously, but aren’t self-serious, will receive a lot more attention,” they said. “There is a lot to learn from this type of work and I think people are hungry to see how we can work with imperfection, messiness, and unpredictability. 2023 is a year of embracing risk.”

Firestone’s attention to risk comes out of crypto art’s tumultuous year in 2022. The incredibly rapid rise and subsequent fall of NFTs have demonstrated that, while artists will continue to innovate art with new technology, some trends might crash as fast and they rose. Firestone believes that artists will continue to learn from the market and reflect upon the failures of these experiences in their work. Because of the NFT crash, Firestone sees physical media art, or art that embraces the body, as major for 2023. This is work they actively support as a curator: “Ultimately I like being able to provide artists with the space to stretch, take risks, and succeed in those efforts,” Firestone said.


Rachel Vera Steinberg

Curator, Smack Mellon

New York

Portrait of Rachel Vera Steinberg by Inna Svyatsky. Courtesy of Smack Mellon.

Tammy Nguyen
Deep Time, the Hours, and Trajectories: Evergovern, 2021
Lehmann Maupin

Rachel Vera Steinberg is excited for a greater number of artists to further deepen the mystery of art production across sculpture and computer-generated art. She is inspired by artists who push the boundaries of the medium they are working in, as well as the space in which they exhibit. She cited the work of Emily Clayton, Tomi Faison, and Charisse Pearlina Weston as key examples. Steinberg also anticipates more conceptually driven work in relation to text- and discourse-based art, like K Allado-McDowell’s recent book Amor Cringe (2022), which was co-written with AI software.

Additionally, Steinberg predicts that last year’s challenges around systemic injustice will usher in artists addressing class and social equity in the art world. “One of the most impactful trends from this past year was the proliferation of AI image generators,” she said. “It’s hard to forecast this as a direction, but it has the potential to further call into question images as receptacles of meaning.”

Separately, Steinberg believes that more artworks inspired by religion will reach the fore in 2023. “I feel like we are entering a moment of reconsidering religion, inclusive of, but also beyond, its relationship to spirituality,” she explained. “I see this formally in visual symbols and materiality: For example, in the way an artist like Tammy Nguyen incorporates metal leaf to reference illuminated manuscripts, but also in other modes of production that are trending, such as a heightened interest in metal work.”


Zoé Whitley

Director, Chisenhale Gallery

London

Portrait of Zoé Whitley by James Gifford-Mead. Courtesy of Zoé Whitley.

Zoé Whitley is looking to artists who are pushing the limits of traditional art practices. “The artists who currently inspire me defy genre expectations,” she said. “A painter like Ravelle Pillay conjures magic from the stubborn liquidity of oil paints as if they were watercolours; photography-trained Laurie Kang applies the material lessons of photosensitivity to breathe new life into architectural atmospheres and multi-hyphenate Benoît Piéron teases poetry and tenderness from illness, without pathos but with beauty and softness.” Pillay, Kang, and Piéron will have dedicated solo exhibitions at Chisenhale Gallery later this year.

Furthermore, Whitley is looking forward to institutions collaborating more with one another. She hopes that these partnerships, and their accompanying resources, will support ambitious art practices and culminate into long-running exhibitions that a greater number of viewers will be able to see and experience. These later points are greatly influenced by Tricia Hersey’s manifesto Rest is Resistance (2022) and Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (1997).

Ayanna Dozier
Ayanna Dozier is Artsy’s Staff Writer.

Correction: This article has been modified to more accurately describe the responses of Hans Ulrich Obrist, Zoé Whitley, and Vivian Crockett.