The Artists We Lost in 2016

Artsy Editors
Dec 21, 2016 1:00AM

As the year comes to a close, we remember some of the most notable artists and creatives who passed away in 2016. They brought to the world pioneering paintings, innovative design, unprecedented architectural feats, and photographs that captured the struggles, fashions, and cultural obsessions of the last century.

Among them: Thornton Dial, a self-taught artist from Alabama, made intricate, bold assemblages that powerfully channeled the African-American experience. Marisol and Shirley Jaffe, pioneers of Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism, respectively, helped forge a place for women in both male-dominated movements.

Malick Sidibé harnessed the exuberance of post-colonial Mali in his photographic portraits, while Marc Riboud created an international anti-war icon in his image of a Vietnam war protester holding a flower while facing a line of bayonets, and Bill Cunningham chronicled the ever-changing sartorial trappings of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Premature passings included that of Zaha Hadid, the boundary-pushing, Iraqi-British architect, and Leila Alaoui, a documentary photographer who focused on migration and displacement and died in a terrorist attack, while on assignment for UN Women and Amnesty International in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

While these trailblazing artists are no longer with us, their creative spirits live on in the work they left behind, which, collectively, will continue to inspire generations of artists after them.

Leila Alaoui

B. 1982, Paris • Lived and worked between Beirut, Lebanon, and Marrakech, Morocco

Thornton Dial

B. 1928, Emelle, Alabama • Lived and worked in McCalla, Alabama


Zaha Hadid

B. 1950, Baghdad • Lived and worked in London

Vladimir Kagan

B. 1927, Worms, Germany • Lived and worked in New York

Malick Sidibe

B. 1936, Soloba, Mali • Lived and worked in Bamako, Mali

Richard Smith

B. 1931, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, England •  Lived and worked in Long Island, New York


B. 1930, Paris • Lived and worked in New York

Louisa Chase

B. 1951, Panama City, Panama • Lived and worked in East Hampton, New York

Francois Morellet

B. 1926, Cholet, France • Lived and worked in Cholet, France


B. 1952, Palmares, Pernambuco, Brazil • Lived and worked in Rio de Janeiro

Fan Ho

B. 1931, Shanghai • Lived and worked in Hong Kong and San Jose, California

Bill Cunningham

B. 1929, Boston • Lived and worked in New York

Alan Vega

B. 1938, New York • Lived and worked in New York

Billy Name

B. 1940, Poughkeepsie, New York • Lived and worked in New York

Jaime Davidovich

B. 1936, Buenos Aires • Lived and worked in New York

Marc Riboud

B. 1923, Saint-Genis-Laval, France • Lived and worked in Paris

Shirley Jaffe

B. 1923, Elizabeth, New Jersey • Lived and worked in Paris

George Barris

B. 1928, New York • Lived and worked in Thousand Oaks, California

Darby Bannard

B. 1934, New Haven, Connecticut • Lived and worked in Miami

Elaine Lustig Cohen

B. 1927, Jersey City, New Jersey • Lived and worked in New York

Louis Stettner

B. 1922, Brooklyn, New York • Lived and worked in Saint-Ouen, France

Arnold Mesches

B. 1923, The Bronx, New York • Lived and worked in Gainesville, Florida

Rodney Smith

B. 1947, New York • Lived and worked in Snedens Landing, New York

Artsy Editors