An overview of some of the 21st century’s most notorious and influential artists – from A.I masterminds to the all-time classics.
The global arts community today is more diverse, innovative and dynamic than at any previous point in its history. The rise of the internet, and a host of new technologies, have enabled new artists and creative projects to get off the ground and join an international conversation of new and influential 21st century artists.
In this fast changing world, certain artists continue to, as ever, exert an outsized influence on the direction of art in our present time. Here we’re going to take a look at the most influential artists of the 21st century – each represents a significant component in the story of global arts today.
Leonardo Da Vinci
You may reasonably wonder why Leonardo Da Vinci, the chief figure of the Italian renaissance and a man that has been dead for 500 years, would feature in a list of the most influential artists of the 21st century.
However, there’s no denying that the painter and inventor continues to exert a phenomenal influence on the way people today think about and conceive of art. The Mona Lisa, which hangs in pride of place at The Louvre Museum in Paris, remains without a doubt the most famous, and instantly recognisable painting in the world.
The subject of this work has spawned hundreds of imitations, and has served as a muse for works of fiction across surprisingly diverse disciplines. From William Gibson’s speculative sci-fi masterpiece, Mona Lisa Overdrive, to Mona Lisa Jewels, a popular slots game furnished to UK gamers by Vegas Slots Online.
In their write-up of this compelling title, this platform, which not only hosts the widest selection of slots games available anywhere online, but ranks and provides competitive welcome bonuses to affiliated online casinos to its patrons, explores how this game uses its jeweled payline symbols as an allusion to the priceless value of the painting itself.
What’s more, Da Vinci can arguably claim to be the creator of not only the most famous painting in the world, but the most expensive. When the Salvator Mundi was sold in 2017 for the record breaking price of $450 million it became the most valuable painting ever sold.
The work, which has been the source of fierce debate in the art world as to its authenticity, depicts Jesus Christ, and employs many of the characteristic features of Da Vinci’s masterful style.
Yet following an in-depth analysis by Madrid’s prestigious Prado museum in 2021, a team of scholars and art historians has largely come down on the side of this work not having been painted by the Florentine.
No modern conceptual artist has had quite as significant an impact on the way people think about art – arguably for better or worse, than Damien Hirst. From his formaldehyde-encased shark to his diamond-encrusted skull, Hirst has made headlines for pushing the envelope and stamping his mark on contemporary art.
His latest piece, part of his Open Sea The Currency Collection project, explores transience through toying with notions of ownership. Having created 10,000 works of art, and minted a corresponding number of NFTs, he has offered patrons a choice between owning one of the physical paintings, or the corresponding NFTs.
For those pieces wherein the NFT was chosen, the physical painting is destroyed by burning.
Courting controversy while succeeding in making meaningful statements on the world around us, Hirst is without a doubt the most influential living artist working today, and with a net worth thought to be in excess of $1 billion, he may also be the richest.
Jason Allen and MidJourney
Few will have heard of MidJourney, and fewer still of artist Jason Allen. Yet back in September Allen made history when it won the Colorado State Fair’s fine arts competition with an artwork entirely developed by the AI art-generation software Mid Journey, and making him part of the influential 21st century artists.
This success caused huge controversy and sparked heavy debate among the art world as to the value and import of software like this. MidJourney, and other programs such as Dall-E, are an evolution of Google’s Deep Dream AI image generation software.
Through using machine learning and responding to prompts, these AI programs have become able to generate stunning works of art that appear, on the surface, to display all the inventiveness and emotion of a real artist.
The implications for Allen’s victory in this competition will undoubtedly set a precedent and will go on to define the way we think about in the coming century.