From CoBrA and the Cluj School to Imaginary Creatures and Institutional Critique, Artsy’s Art Genome Project categorizes artworks across almost 800 categories—or “genes” as we like to call them. Find below the 10 most popular ones from the past year (based on pageviews), a range of accessible subject matter and mediums.
10. Love: Love in its many forms has captivated artists throughout history, and is often cited as a reason for making art in the first place. Divine love might be most iconically manifest in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, while Robert Indiana’s Pop sculptures and prints of the word itself bear few rivals in the category.
9. Emerging Art: A general category for artworks created since 2000, by artists under the age of 40. While characteristically championed by smaller galleries and art fairs focused on younger artists—see our recent partnership with NADA—larger institutions regularly focus their energy on so-called emerging artists to define new styles and careers.
8. Erotic: Works related to, or meant to arouse, sexual desire. From Titian’s Venus of Urbino to John Currin’s hyper-sexual nudes (not to mention a host of provocative fashion photographers), it’s no wonder the category figures among the most popular.
7. Contemporary Portrait Photography: The countless approaches practiced in portrait photography today reveal a desire to push the limitations of both the medium of photography and the genre of portraiture. Some artists re-appropriate outmoded practices (see contemporary vintage photography) while others boldly embrace new ones.
6. Abstract Sculpture: Originating in the early 1900s with artists like Constantin Brancusi and Alexander Calder, non-figurative sculpture today accounts for some of our most recognizable public art—like works by Henry Moore, Mark di Suvero, and Anish Kapoor.
5. Animals: Dating back to Paleolithic cave paintings in France and ancient Egyptian reliefs and artifacts, animals have been depicted by artists throughout history, variously as friends, allegories, muses, and reflections on human nature. See our post on the 10 most popular animals on Artsy here.
4. Contemporary Conceptualism: A broad label for contemporary artists in whose work the ideas surrounding its making or meaning are equally as important as the object itself, if not more so. These artists (as well as the term) owe a debt to Sol LeWitt, who defined the genre when he published “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” in 1967.
3. Abstract Expressionism: Though never a formal movement or school in its time, Abstract Expressionism grouped together post-war American painters, like Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline, who shared an interest in spontaneity, monumental size, the individual psyche, and universal expressions of feeling. See the ten most popular AbEx painters here.
2. Contemporary Figurative Painting: Although the rise of abstraction dominated much of the 20th century, the oft-cited contemporary “rebirth” of painting has seen a renewed interest in figurative painting, returning to the origins of the medium. As one of its prime practitioners John Currin so deftly put it, “The idea that there is progress in the arts in the same way that there is progress in science is absurd … Art is evolutionary, in that it responds to the times, but it doesn’t improve.”
1. Photography: Whether because it’s so easily relatable (how many of us can actually imagine sculpting in marble or making a lithograph?) or because it captures the world around us like no other medium can, photography resonates with everyone. As Ansel Adams once said, “Not everybody trusts paintings, but people believe photographs.”