The 10 Most Popular Works in 2013

Artsy Editorial
Dec 19, 2013 9:25PM

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10. Rudolf Bonvie, Dialog, 1973. An exhibition at Priska Pasquer in Cologne juxtaposed this 13-image suite of prints from the early ’70s with Bonvie’s recent, related digital works made on his prolific Tumblr, uniting his creative output from the past four decades.

9. Edward Burtynsky, Thjorsa River #1, Iceland, 2012. This fall, seven galleries in six cities mounted exhibitions devoted to Burtynsky’s latest project, “Water”. For the series of immense, sumptuously printed photographs, the artist shot aerial views of bodies of water (and man’s incursion on them) around the globe. “Water is intermittently introduced as a victim, a partner, a protagonist, a lure, a source, an end, a threat and a pleasure,” he described.

8. Clive van den Berg, Occular Ghost, 2013. Though abstract at first glance, this painting figures in van den Berg’s new body of work that explores and translates the South African landscape using the mapping techniques of prospectors and archaeologists. “I have made paintings that explore the underneath as a place where an archive of our distempers resides,” he said.

7. Simen Johan, Untitled #172, 2013. To create this photograph, part of his ongoing “Until the Kingdom Comes” series, Johan combined traditional photographic techniques with deft digital manipulation. In this case, he photographed giraffes in various U.S. zoos, then situated them in an imagined landscape stitched from photographs shot in Turkey, Indonesia, and Iceland.

6. Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave, 1829-33. One of the most reproduced artworks of all time, Hokusai’s print figures in such prominent collections as The British Museum and The Met. The latter offered a subtle detail of the work as a possible explanation for its enduring influence and popularity: “The turbulent wave seems to tower above the viewer, whereas the tiny stable pyramid of Mount Fuji sits in the distance. The eternal mountain is envisioned in a single moment frozen in time.”

5. Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889. Arguably van Gogh’s most famous painting, Starry Night was painted at Saint-Remy, France, where the artist was spending time in an asylum. Van Gogh was a religious man, particularly in his younger years, and it has been argued that the 11 stars in the sky refer to a passage from Genesis: “Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.”

4. Olivo Barbieri, Alps, Geographies and People 2, 2013. This image featured prominently in Barbieri’s “Alps” exhibition at Yancey Richardson, as well as in The New York Timesreview thereof. The photographs were shot from a helicopter hovering high above Europe’s highest peak, Mt. Blanc. “Like everybody, I am attracted to danger,” he said of the project. “All the difficulties you try to overcome have the same value of those you can discover.”

3. Zhang Huan, Poppy Field_No. 11, 2011. One of 14 “Poppy Field” works that Zhang debuted at Pace Gallery in mid 2013, this painting is a subtle counterpoint to the artist’s bold, interdisciplinary practice. At far glance the work appears as a rich, abstract monochrome, but closer inspection of the heavily impastoed surface reveals hundreds of tiny faces with wide eyes and manic grins—a reference to Tibetan dance masks.

2. Gustav Klimt, Der Kuss (The Kiss), 1907-08. One of the most recognizable paintings ever made, Klimt’s Kiss has come to be seen as an icon of romantic love and opulent decorative art. Arguing that it even surpasses the Mona Lisa, journalist Adrian Brijbassi once wrote: “Unlike the Mona Lisa, which disappoints when you confront it, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt surpasses expectations … It does what a great piece of art is supposed to do: Hold your gaze, make you admire its aesthetic qualities, while trying to discern what’s beyond its superficial aspects.”

1. Lucien Smith, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, 2013. Smith has become a darling of the art world in his brief two years since graduating from Cooper Union, so it’s no surprise he’s come in at the top spot. The title of this painting, featured in his “Nature is my Church” exhibition at Salon 94, is the famous Biblical phrase that translates as “the writing on the wall”—fitting words for an artist whose future couldn’t appear more blessed.

Explore the rest of our 2013 highlights and discover artists to watch in 2014!

Artsy Editorial