The meaning of “emerging artist” has become ever broader in recent years. But these 15 members of The Artsy Vanguard—a new, annual list of the 50 most influential talents shaping the future of contemporary art practice—are notable for hitting certain key milestones in their careers. For some, that means being spotlighted in a major institutional survey dedicated to their chosen medium. For others, it might be a succession of buzzy solo exhibitions that have helped them make the dramatic jump from regional popularity to worldwide recognition.
Diamond Stingily by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
Diamond Stingily’s contribution to this year’s New Museum Triennial is a heart-stopper. E.L.G. (2018) is a sculpture composed of a single brick balanced on the crossbar of a swing-set, a troubling scene that suggests a child in jeopardy, alluding to state-sponsored violence and its impact on black children. The Triennial capped a series of shows that have spotlighted this burgeoning talent over the last year, among them the group exhibition “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” (also at the New Museum) and “Surveillance,” a solo show at Ramiken Crucible in Los Angeles. Stingily has said that she wants to create work for people who grew up in socioeconomic environments similar to hers, subverting the idea that contemporary art is restricted to the privileged.
“She has a very personal take on the political, drawing attention to things like technological surveillance and issues around race and urban space,” says independent curator Francesca Gavin. “Her sculptural installations are powerful, emotive, and quite unlike anything else at this moment.”
The artist continues to hit milestones in 2018; an upcoming show at ICA Miami, opening May 17th, will mark her first solo museum exhibition. The show—which, according to ICA deputy director and chief curator Alex Gartenfeld, explores “the cultural and social forces that inform childhood and memory”—will feature a new installation that riffs on the motif of a labyrinth.
Most contemporary artists angle for MFAs at schools like Yale or Columbia. Not Max Hooper Schneider. After studying biology and urban design at NYU, he got a master’s in landscape architecture from Harvard. And yet this course of study seems entirely necessary for the artist’s brilliantly unclassifiable work: aquariums and terrariums that contain meticulously assembled environments where natural and artificial elements combine to create objects of startling, strange beauty.
Since his breakout show in 2014 at the Los Angeles gallery Jenny’s, Schneider has shown at venues such as fellow L.A. space Kayne Griffin Corcoran and cutting-edge Paris gallery High Art. He’s also been steadily notching prestigious commissions, including projects for the High Line (which, over the last year, had shown a tank Schneider installed and filled with crystals, razor blades, and synthetic hair) and the BMW Art Journey (for which he explored coral reefs around the world).
Owning and maintaining one of Schneider’s works, which are miniature ecosystems of sorts, can be a challenge: Imagine if, like one collector, you had to continually source square watermelons for the sculpture Genus Watermeloncholia (2014), a bioengineered melon that is displayed in an aquarium. Nonetheless, Schneider’s work has still made it into a number of prestigious museum and private collections, including the Rubell Family Collection and that of the Hammer Museum, which acquired an old-fashioned popcorn machine that Schneider transformed into an aquatic habitat for snails.
Hayden Dunham by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
Hayden Dunham traffics in the ephemeral, with colorful sculptures that appear to melt and ooze or release clouds of steam. For past exhibitions at Red Bull Arts New York and Andrea Rosen Gallery, she’s even created bespoke chemical compounds and had them pumped through the spaces’ ventilation systems.
“Dunham is an extraordinary artist,” says David Gryn, founder of Daata Editions and curator of film and sound for Art Basel in Miami Beach. “She pushes boundaries, explores unfathomable ideas, and creates poetic magic in both digital media and object-based artworks.”
The Los Angeles-based sculptor was briefly represented by Rosen until the Chelsea powerhouse abruptly stopped representing living artists just over a year ago—but losing her gallery hasn’t interrupted Dunham’s momentum. She’s had recent work showcased at Club Pro in Los Angeles, as well as in “Stray,” a refreshingly offbeat pop-up exhibition curated by Tiffany Zabludowicz and staged in vacant office space in a Times Square high-rise. A 2017 Fountainhead Residency doubtless gave Dunham the opportunity to push her practice forward even further; the fruits of those explorations will likely be evidenced at a solo show at Signal Gallery in Brooklyn this September.
Liu Shiyuan conjures a slipstream in digital space. Words and images fly past—a tender endearment, a dinner table debate, a photograph of a croissant—and we’re left to extrapolate their hidden meanings and connections. Represented by prescient Shanghai dealer Leo Xu until he closed his gallery at the end of last year to head up David Zwirner’s new Hong Kong location, Liu quickly found a new home.
“Isolated Above, Connected Down,” her recent exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and her first solo outing at a major U.S. gallery, was a tripartite viewing experience, demonstrating her facility in photography, film, and room-filling installation. It’s a key moment of visibility for the artist, who recently joined the gallery’s ranks, a heavyweight roster that includes Sarah Sze, Olafur Eliasson, and Phil Collins. Xiaoyu Weng, associate curator of Chinese art at the Guggenheim, points to that exhibition as a milestone, as it introduces her “very personal and intimate aesthetic language” to an institutional audience in New York.
Liu was also included in last year’s “.com/.cn,” an important group show that looked at the internet cultures of China and the West in various ways. This exhibition—which was co-presented by the K11 Art Foundation and MoMA PS1, and co-curated by the latter’s Klaus Biesenbach and Peter Eleey—placed her work in conversation with Anicka Yi, Cao Fei, DIS, and others who have already received a surfeit of international attention. And, through May 21st, Liu’s work is on view as part of the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf’s 50th anniversary exhibition, “Welcome to the Jungle.”
Paul Mpagi Sepuya by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s images are slippery and elusive, offering a new way to look at both eroticism and photography itself. The artist uses his L.A. studio as a place to tease the boundaries of the medium, including the potent interplay between photographer and subject. By mirroring, fracturing, and juxtaposing the body, he suggests how strange and mutable this relationship can be.
“In the past, such relationships might have been hidden or ignored,” says Lucy Gallun, curator of “Being: New Photography 2018” at the Museum of Modern Art. “In Sepuya’s work, they are underscored, bringing forward lost histories, as well as the influences and agency of both the pictured and the picturer.”
Sepuya is one of the standouts of Gallun’s MoMA show, and he was also a highlight of “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” at the New Museum, where one of his more indelibly explicit images tested the boundaries of many an Instagram feed. The artist was recently picked up by Team Gallery (the longtime home of star photographer Ryan McGinley), and had an inaugural show at its Los Angeles outpost last September, which is now on view at Chicago’s Document Gallery through May 26th. Sepuya is also represented by Yancey Richardson Gallery, with whom he had his first solo show last February.
Marianna Simnett’s work can be difficult to watch, even for those with strong stomachs. (Two audience members reportedly fainted during her showcase at the Serpentine Pavilion in 2015.) Her films and installations explore control and bodily integrity through storylines and images familiar to horror fans—a syringe slowly approaching a throat, or a worm emerging from between a woman’s lips.
“Marianna’s work is very much a part of the current conversations around the body and identity,” says Anita Zabludowicz, co-founder of London’s Zabludowicz Collection, which is currently hosting a solo exhibition of Simnett’s work. “She subjects her body to medical procedures to create dark fairytale films that are equally innocent and cruel.” Simnett’s film The Needle and the Larynx (2016), for example, centers around a real medical procedure meant to lower a patient’s vocal register by injecting their larynx with Botox.
Following the Zabludowicz Collection show and solo outings at Matt’s Gallery in London and Seventeen in New York, Simnett is experiencing a groundswell in institutional support, with forthcoming solo exhibitions at the New Museum in New York and at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art. Simnett was also recently shortlisted for the 2017 Film London Jarman Award, an accolade she shares with the artists Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Elizabeth Price, and Laure Prouvost—each of whom went on to be shortlisted for (or win) the Turner Prize.
Entering a Lu Yang exhibition is akin to being thrown into a busy arcade, barraged by electronic music, quick cuts, and flashing lights. The new-media artist is known for her frenetic video games, films, and installations that look to both science and religion to make sense of the world.
Lu’s recent solo show at M Woods, a private museum in Beijing, combined three new commissions with existing works, including ghostly sculptures made from artificial crystals; an arcade game featuring Uterus Man, a superhero of Lu’s invention; and an interactive installation using augmented reality. Notably, it was the first solo presentation by a Chinese artist to take place at the museum since it was founded in 2014. (She’s in good company, with other M Woods shows having spotlighted Paul McCarthy and Andy Warhol.)
Lu is represented by Société, the Berlin gallery home of new-media whizzes Petra Cortright and Bunny Rogers. She’s shown widely throughout greater China, and was included in the country’s pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale. She grabbed the coveted Gallery Weekend Berlin slot for a solo exhibition at Société last year, as well as a solo show at MOCA Cleveland, titled “Delusional Mandala.” A 2017 group show at Sadie Coles in London, “Zhongguo 2185,” put Lu forward as one in a new crop of artists redefining the lexicon of Chinese contemporary art; she’ll also be included in the 12th Shanghai Biennale, opening this November.
Loie Hollowell by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
Loie Hollowell is a painter, but one who isn’t afraid to get dimensional. Her brightly colored oils of abstract forms suggest both undulating bodies and lush landscapes; they include curved extrusions crafted from high density foam and sawdust, inviting comparisons to the suggestive geometries of Georgia O’Keeffe.
“No one is making work like hers,” says Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. (Hollowell’s paintings are included in “The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art,” which opens at the Arkansas institution on May 26th.) “Images of her paintings are deceiving because you can’t see all the depth of the work.”
Hollowell was previously represented by Lower East Side gallery Feuer/Mesler, before its owners shuttered the space in early 2017 to pursue ventures further afield. She landed well, officially joining the roster of blue-chip Pace Gallery two days before Feuer/Mesler’s closure was announced—a major coup for an emerging artist. Hollowell is, along with Adam Pendleton, one of the youngest artists represented by Pace, which hosted its first solo show with her this past fall in Palo Alto. That was followed by a further vote of continuing confidence in Hollowell’s maturity and market appeal, courtesy of a solo show in Hong Kong at Pace Gallery’s Entertainment Building location, which opened during the week of Art Basel in Hong Kong this March.
In our time of high-tech drones and sex dolls that can smile (or even sing), it can be hard to know when to gently caress a new gadget, and when to run for your life. Through films, sculptures, and immersive installations, Raphaela Vogel’s work explores this 21st-century dilemma, probing our increasingly intimate and fraught relationship with machines.
Raphael Gygax, curator of Zurich’s Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, likens Vogel to “the heavy metal version” of acclaimed multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist. It’s an apt comparison: Vogel’s immersive installations trade Rist’s vibrant and sensual videos for loud music and films projected onto bulky readymades. The Berlin-based artist often makes her own body the focal point of her films, sharing the starring role with cameras, projectors, and drones.
Vogel, who is represented by BQ Berlin, has had an impressive streak of solo shows in Germany since 2016, including outings at the Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster and at Berlin’s Volksbühne. She was also commissioned to create a work for Frieze Projects 2017, a short film that ends with a drone flying low over what appears to be the artist, lying broken in the wake of a bombing. Her forthcoming solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel, opens this summer.
Sable Elyse Smith by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
For the past 19 years, Sable Elyse Smith has been visiting her father in prison, and the impact of having an incarcerated family member—a trauma shared by so many in the U.S.—suffuses her work. It was the focal point of her recent solo exhibition at the Queens Museum, and it persists in Smith’s recently unveiled commission for New York’s High Line, on view until March 2019. Titled C.R.E.A.M. (2018), the sculpture plays on the familiar Hollywood sign, modified to read “Ironwoodland.” It refers both to Ironwood (a California state prison just east of Joshua Tree) and to the segregated housing development Hollywoodland from 1923—once advertised by the original Hollywood sign—connecting two expressions of institutional racism, past and present.
Curators and institutions have started to take note of both Smith’s prolific energy and her work’s engagement with urgent political subjects. “Sable is emerging as one of the most interesting voices out of a young generation of artists whose work tackles complex issues, such as mass imprisonment and how the incarceration system affects our lives,” says Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of High Line Art.
Smith’s work has been impossible to miss for those in the New York art world, with inclusions in group shows at the New Museum, Rachel Uffner Gallery, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Signal Gallery; she’s also had solo exhibitions at museums in other cities, such as Atlanta Contemporary. That’s an imposingly prolific résumé—particularly considering that every one of those shows took place in 2017. The artist is a new addition to the roster of JTT, an ascendant powerhouse on New York’s Lower East Side, which will organize her upcoming solo in their gallery space later this year. Smith was also named a 2018 artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum.
At this year’s New Museum Triennial, visitors could sit between two competing video screens—one playing Youtube videos of people describing their reactions to their Ancestry.com DNA test results, and the other showing a scripted conversation between two female lovers (a Buddhist teacher and her student, the manager of a commercial DNA company). That piece, Provocation of the Nightingale (2017–18) by Shen Xin, provides an apt entryway into a practice that explores the parallels between the power dynamics of personal relationships, and those built into the structures of society.
“Shen’s practice focuses on individual stories as starting points for exploring wider issues,” says Giles Maffett, a curator at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), where the artist has an ongoing solo show through June 3rd. “She is also at the forefront of experimental approaches to film, combining recorded staged performance, documentary footage, and found archival material, which she overlays with narration ranging in tone from poetic to political.”
Shen’s career has reached a critical temperature over the past year. In 2017, she was chosen by the artist Mike Nelson to be one of four recipients (alongside Toni Schmale, Jose Dávila, and Eric N. Mack) of the inaugural BALTIC Artists’ Award, and she performed a live interpretation of Provocation of the Nightingale before its screening at the Serpentine Pavilion. MIMA and the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester have together commissioned Shen to make a new film, which will debut in her solo show opening at the CFCCA in May.
Christina Quarles by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy.
The figures in Los Angeles-based Christina Quarles’s paintings often look as if they’re on the verge of motion. She’s part of a broader groundswell of artists who are inventively rejuvenating the possibilities of figuration. “In a just a few wide strokes, Quarles disavows the rabid misogyny of Willem de Kooning and restores the powerfully erotic dignity of being neither/nor,” says Dena Beard, director of The Lab, an experimental art and performance space in San Francisco. “I often look for movement, improvisation, and the trace of breath in object-based practices,” Beard says. “Quarles’s paintings move even beyond the breath.”
Quarles is represented by David Castillo Gallery in Miami Beach, and is also a recent addition to the roster of London’s Pilar Corrias Gallery, which has bolstered the careers of artists like Keren Cytter and Ian Cheng. In 2017, Quarles had solo shows at David Castillo and at L.A.’s Skibum MacArthur, and was included in group shows at the New Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles.
During Art Basel in Miami Beach last December, the Rubell Family Collection spotlighted Quarles in its insightful survey show, “Still Human,” alongside the likes of Ryan Trecartin and Anicka Yi (the show is on view until August 25th). The artist was also included in a group exhibition, “Abstract/Not Abstract,” co-presented by Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch during the fair. Her streak continues this year with an upcoming exhibition at Pilar Corrias and inclusion in the Hammer Museum’s influential snapshot of contemporary practice, “Made in L.A.”
The darkness of history crashes into the absurd in Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa’s performances. Consider A Brief History of Architecture in Guatemala (2010), in which three performers—wearing white foamboard costumes of a Mayan pyramid, a colonial church, and an International Style modernist bank—dance to a Guatemalan folk tune played on the marimba. The dancers’ movements become faster and more convulsive until the costumes tear and fall from their bodies, leaving them standing naked, except for their socks.
“Naufus’s performative practice is anchored in the legacy of Latin American experimental theater,” explains Luís Silva who, along with João Mourão, is co-director of Portugal’s Kunsthalle Lissabon, which recently held a solo show of the artist’s work. “He mixes the personal and subjective with larger historical narratives using a very idiosyncratic, often surreal approach.”
Although Ramírez-Figueroa has worked diligently in this manner for many years, 2017 proved to be a watershed moment in his career. His installation of gourd-shaped sculptures, some of which could be played like flutes, appeared in Christine Macel’s Venice Biennale exhibition “Viva Arte Viva,” and he’s slated for an upcoming show at the New Museum, opening June 6th—his first solo exhibition in the US.
Luke Willis Thompson’s autoportrait (2017) shows a woman, filmed in black and white in strikingly high contrast, against a blank backdrop—reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s “Screen Tests.” Shot without sound, the film is freighted with political urgency: Its subject is Diamond Reynolds, who broadcast the dying moments of her partner, Philando Castile, on Facebook Live after he was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop.
Commissioned by London’s Chisenhale Gallery, autoportrait was the lone work in Thompson’s solo exhibition there, his first in the U.K. It belongs within a body of work in which the artist uses film, installation, and performance to explore the concepts of trauma, violence, and race. Thompson’s Chisenhale exhibition recently earned one of the top honors for a contemporary artist, landing him on the shortlist for the 2018 Turner Prize.
The artist has also received recognition for performances that expand beyond the boundaries of the white cube. In Eventually they introduced me to the people i immediately recognised as those who would take me out anyway (2015), which was commissioned for the 2015 New Museum Triennial, viewers followed performers as they left the museum itself—tracing choreographed routes to places in the city that were sites of historical or present-day racial tension.
This June, autoportrait will be on view again in Thompson’s solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel. His Swiss debut follows his 2016 inclusions in the Montreal Biennale, the São Paulo Bienial, and the Asia-Pacific Triennial, providing an increasingly global audience with access to the artist’s nuanced explorations of social justice.
At Ad Minoliti’s recent show at Cherry and Martin—her first in Los Angeles—cyborgs, animals, and geometric shapes converged in the form of wall murals topped by painted canvases. The artist uses these motifs to explore queer and feminist theory, creating a colorful world where binaries between people and machines are joyfully blurred.
“There is a very particular way in which Minoliti thinks about reality, the future, utopia, and dreamspaces, addressing issues of gender and working to challenge fixed ideas around it,” says Pablo León de la Barra, curator-at-large of Latin American art for the Guggenheim.
Based in Buenos Aires, the Argentine-born painter is represented by Galerie Crevecoeur in Paris and Galería Agustina Ferreyra in Mexico City. And, with upcoming solo shows at Peres Projects in Berlin, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, and Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, the artist is gaining further momentum. “Minoliti is now entering a more institutional moment in her career,” adds de la Barra, pointing to the artist’s inclusion in last year’s Aichi Triennale in Japan and in the upcoming FRONT Triennial in Cleveland, Ohio.
A previous version of this article stated that the New York gallery JTT would be organizing a solo show for Sable Elyse Smith at Greengrassi Gallery in London later this year. That forthcoming show will actually occur at JTT’s space in New York.
Portraits photographed in Los Angeles at Studios 60 and in New York City at Milk Studios. Header image: Portrait of Hayden Dunham by Daniel Dorsa for Artsy. Produced with support from Sister Productions.