The Most Influential Young Artists Today

Top 7 of the Most Influential Contemporary Artists Born after 1970

Left image: Marcel Broodthaers, Armoire blanche et table blanche, 1965. Painted furniture with eggshells - 86 x 82 x 62 cm & 104 x 100 x 40 cm. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. / Right image: Michaël Borremans, The Egg IV, 2012. Oil on canvas - 42 x 36 cm. Courtesy of Zeno X Gallery.

Kader Attia, Untitled (Concrete Blocks), 2008. Cement blocks — variable dimensions. Courtesy of Galleria Continua (San Gimignano, Beijing, Les Moulins) / Photo: Oak Taylor-Smith.[1]



7. Ryan Gander

6. Laure Prouvost

5. Otobong Nkanga

4. Danh Vō

3. Alicja Kwade

2. Anri Sala

1. Kader Attia


The current top 100 of living artists by Artfacts[2] gives us a great insight in todays most influential artists. This analytical research tool enables us to gain insight by offering a relevant section on the top tier artists, ranking artists based on the latest trends, shows and sales in the art world. While scrolling through this extensive list of names one sees an amalgam of disciplines, nationalities and generations.

For this article, we will be focusing on the youngest artists of the Artfacts top 100 list, born after 1970. Arguably, the age of fifty may seem very respectable in a different context, however, in the art world, everything under fifty seems to be a rather youthful age.

Even more, artists under fifty are all artist whose career (mainly) takes place in the 21st century and is build upon their relevance in this day and age — unlike, for example, Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945, USA) who earned his place (no. 98) in this list due to his role and importance during the heyday of the historical period of Conceptual Art in the 1960s and 70s up to today. Therefore, this list is a sample of the most important contemporary art, hot off the press.

As the top hundred list of living artists consist of seven artists under fifty, this article discusses the top seven of the most influential contemporary artists, all born after 1970. Please note, this list is continuously subject to change as the art worlds never stands still, and new things happen every day as the next hundred artists who are up and coming are already knocking to replace their colleagues.

This being said, without further ado, here come the seven most influential artists today, under fifty.

7. Ryan Gander

Artist Ryan Gander at Lisson Gallery. / Photo: Linda Brownlee.

We find our first artist of our top 7 in the United Kingdom. Ryan Gander, (b. 1976, UK) has established an international reputation during the first two decades of the 21st century. His oeuvre, defying categorization, encompasses sculpture, installation, performance and public interventions, but also writing and graphic design.

This type of artist has become more and more frequent in 21st century art. Being born in Belgium, names as Francis Alÿs (b. 1959, BE), Hans Op De Beeck (b. 1969, BE) or Kris Martin (b. 1972, BE) come to my mind. For several years now, the British artist's prolific presence in the art world has made him one of the most important artists of today, and, definitely one to follow for the coming years. At the moment, he is ranked as number ninety-four in the top hundred living artists and number seven of our list.

For further reading on Ryan Gander, head over to our artist spotlight on Ryan Gander or consider the intriguing publication edited and written by Gander himself titled Artists' cocktails.

An anthology of Gander's oeuvre:

Ryan Gander, Bit Part Player (Balthazar, Merchant of Venice; Act 3, Scene 4), 2019-2020. Graphite, fibreglass, resin, cotton t-shirt and joggers — 183 x 65 x 47 cm / 72 x 25 1/2 x 18 1/2 in. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Ryan Gander, The End, 2020. Animatronics Room — variable dimensions. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Ryan Gander, Conditions that will reshape you (Because you bequeath yourself redundant to conditions that will reshape you), 2018. Acrylic, LED panels — 252.5 x 175 x 85 cm / 99 3/8 x 68 7/8 x 33 1/2 in. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Ryan Gander, I is...(v), 2013. Marble — 136 x 91 x 195.4 cm / 196. 53 1/2 x 77 in. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

6. Laure Prouvost

Artist Laure Prouvost during her show at M HKA, Museum for Contemporary Art, Antwerp. / Photo: Siska Vandecasteele.

The second name we encounter is the French artist – who resides and works in Antwerp and London, Laure Prouvost (b. 1978, FR).

Prouvost is a multidisciplinary artists well known for her films, installations and linguistic artworks. The Turner Prize-winning artist aims to create a dialogue between fiction and reality in which the viewer is directly involved.[3]

For further reading on Laure Prouvost, feel free to visit our artist spotlight on the French artist. We also recommend Laure Prouvost: Deep See Blue Surrounding You / Vois ce bleu profond te fondre. A monographic publication on the occasion of her show at the French Pavilion at the 58th Venice, a landmark in her already stunning career.

As a result, Prouvost sits in an eighty-ninth spot on the aforementioned Artfacts list of top hundred living artists, and a sixth spot in this article.

An anthology of Prouvost's oeuvre:

Laura Prouvost, THE PERSON BEHIND WANTS TO TALK TO YOU, 2019. Acrylic and varnish on board — 57.1 x 37.2 x 1.8 cm / 22 3/8 x 14 5/8 x 5/8 in. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Laure Prouvost, Deep See Blue Surrounding You, 2019. Installation view — variable dimensions (French Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019). Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

Laure Prouvost, Feu que, I was born to be here..., 2019. Tapestry, wool, sea weed, sea shells, metal, plastic, egg shells, aluminium foil, led lights, wood, resin, earth, dried grass, mirror and video projection — 250 x 945 cm, 98 3/8 x 372 in, ed. of 3 + 1 ap. Courtesy of Lisson Gallery.

5. Otobong Nkanga

Otobong Nkanga winning the Young Belgian Art Prize at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (BOZAR). / Photo: Flanders Today.

Next, we have Otobong Nkanga (b. 1974 NG/BE). The Nigerian-Belgian artist was born in Nigeria and currently resides and works in the city of Rubens, Antwerp, Belgium.

Nkanga has established an internationally established reputation with her installations, performances, sculptures, as well as her paintings, drawings and photography. The winner of the Young Belgian Art Prize (2017) examines and discusses the social and topographical relationship which is connected to our everyday environment. Hereby, "land" is the central concept throughout her oeuvre, engaging with topics such as colonialism, geographic, material culture, historical culture, cultural inheritance, identity, appropriation and politics.[4][5]

In my humble opinion, the approach towards identity politics and postcolonial debates has never before been this refined, subtle and powerful. My first encounter with Obotong Nkanga's work was in 2017, when Nkanga won the Young Belgian Art Prize at the Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels [see image above]. Before, I had never heard or seen her work. Yet ever since, today, she seems to be ubiquitously present in the art world.

Therefore it did not come as a surprise to find her name in the top hundred list by Artfacts, ranking as number eighty-six, and number five on this list one of the most important artists born since 1970.

For further reading and more artworks by Otobong Nkanga, have a look at our artist spotlight on the Nigerian-Belgian artist. Further, two monographic publications have been released recently. In 2017 her first monographic publication Otobong Nkanga: Luster and Lucre was published and a year later, Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole that Collapses Again followed.

An anthology of Nkanga's oeuvre:

Otobong Nkanga, Solid maneuvers, 2015. Various metals, Forex, acrylic, tar, salt, make-up, vermiculite — variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist. / Photo: M HKA Ensembles.

Otobong Nkanga, Alterscape Playground (E ) , 2005-2015. C -print on aluminium 50 × 67 cm / 19 7/10 × 26 2/5 in. Edition of 7 + 1AP. Courtesy of the artist and Lumen Travo, Amsterdam.

Otobong Nkanga, Currency Affair: Okpoho and King Manilla, 2011-2016. Lambda print 47 × 62 × 4 cm / 18 1/2 × 24 2/5 × 1 3/5 in. Edition 4/5 + 1AP. Courtesy of In Situ - Fabienne Leclerc.

4. Danh Vō

Danh Vō at South London Gallery. Film still from Danh Vo: untitled at the South London Gallery | Artist interview (2019). Filming and editing by Gordon Beswick.

Further, we have the performance-art-inspired conceptual artist Danh Vō (b. 1975, VN/DK). What a mouthful, but this is exactly what Vō's oeuvre is about.

His works emerge from his own personal history, relationships and encounters. He examines political, sociological and historical topics related to his own life, such as the Vietnam War and immigration. Marked by postmodernism, our collective and personal historical memory and appropriation, the eclectic oeuvre of the Vietnamese-Danish artist explores identity, authorship, ownership fragmentation, fiction, reality and memory as a concept.[6][7]

The Hugo Boss Prize winner (2012) is one of the art world's leading figures, resulting in a seventieth place in the top hundred list by Artfacts and a fourth spot in this article.

For further reading, we have an artist spotlight on Danh Vō including a listing of career facts and more artworks. We also recommend the monograph Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away.

An anthology on Danh Vō's oeuvre:

Dahn Vō, She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene, 2009. Variable objects on flag 96.5 × 54.5 cm / 38 × 21 1/2 in. Courtesy of Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Dahn Vō, Oma Totem, 2009. (Installation view: Last Fuck, 01 Milano, 2009). Courtesy of Punta della Dogana, Venice.

Dahn Vō, We The People (Detail), 2011. Hammered copper 202.5 × 234 × 137 cm / 79 7/10 × 92 1/10 × 53 9/10 in. Courtesy of Attika Fine Arts, London.

3. Alicja Kwade

Portrait of Alicja Kwade in her studio. / Photo: Olivier Mark / Kunstmagazin Parnass.

We enter the podium with Alicja Kwade (b. 1979, PL/DE). Polish born artist resides and works in Berlin, Germany, and is known for her characteristic sculptures and installations.

Kwade investigates structures of our society and reality. A pivotal notion throughout her oeuvre is space and time, and how the physical body experiences these concepts and its continuum. Intrigued by science and philosophy, her sculptures, videos, photographs and installations consist of found objects, mirrors and mathematical forms.[8][9]

Alicja Kwade is the youngest artist on our list, however, she is our first artist taking a spot in the top three of this article and ranking as number fifty one on the Artfacts list, surpassing names such as Anish Kapoor (b. 1954, IN) and Jeff Koons (b. 1955, US).

For further reading on Alicja Kwade, head over to our artist spotlight. For printed reading, we recommend Alicja Kwade (2014) by Sylvia Martin, Alicja Kwade (2015) by Donation Grau or her more recent monographs Alicja Kwade: LinienLand (2019) and Alicja Kwade: In Aporie (2019).

An anthology of Alicja Kwade's oeuvre:

Alicja Kwade, TrialTurn, 2019. Stainless steel, bricks 230 x 450 x 430 cm / 90 1/2 x 177 1/8 x 169 1/4 inches. Courtesy of 303 Gallery / Photo: Todora Photography LLC.

Alicja Kwade, Installation view: Trans-For-Men, EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki, 2018. Courtesy of 303 Gallery. / Photo: Ari Karttunen / EMMA.

Alicja Kwade, DrehMoment, 2018. Installation view: Out of Ousia, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, 2018. Courtesy of 303 Gallery. / Photo: Roman März.

2. Anri Sala

Portrait of Anri Sala. Photo: Marc Domage / The New York Times.

The silver medal goes to Anri Sala (b. 1974, AL). The Albanian artist resides and works in Berlin, Germany, and is primarily known for working in film.

Besides film, Sala also works with photography, installation and performance, engaging his viewer to take part in the artwork. The Mario Merz Prize (2014) winner is occupied with cultural observation, personal experiences and socio-political events or settings.[10]

On the Artfacts list, Sala ranks as number forty most influential living artist of the moment, resulting in a second place in this article.

For more artworks and a more comprehensive read on Anri Sala, we refer to our artist spotlight on the Albanian artist and his overview publication, Anri Sala: Answer Me.

An anthology of Anri Sala's oeuvre:

Anri Sala, As you go, 2019. 13-Channel HD video and 22-channel discrete sound installation — variable dimensions. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth. / Photo: Antonio Maniscalco.

Anri Sala, Light pushing #2, 2002. Black and white photograph on baryta paper 49.5 × 60.5 cm / 19 1/2 × 23 4/5 in. Courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.