7 Leading Curators Predict the Defining Art Trends of 2023
In 2022, we witnessed a rise in neo-surrealist art, NFTs, and textile-based art practices. These were trends that were bubbling to the surface by the end of 2021, but weren’t fully realized until the spring of the following year. Now, many other styles are emerging as key genres that may have their moment this year.
Artsy spoke to seven leading curators who lent their expertise and shared their insights on which styles and themes may newly emerge or continue to garner attention in 2023. Many anticipate that the sociopolitical climate will continue to inform artists’ practices, with some predicting a rise in more provocative art that critiques religion and systemic oppression.
Other curators are looking to Latin American new media practices, and are excited by how artists like Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro and Xandra Ibarra use video and installation to create immersive environments that challenge the separation between the screen and the body. Meanwhile, others are intrigued by the possibilities and questions that AI will continue to raise in relation to authorship in the art world.
All the curators expressed an overall interest in artists who push the limits of their given medium, and continue to expand upon their practices in innovative ways. Overall, there is excitement and hopeful promise that 2023 will bring about a year of artistic risks.
Independent Curator; Co-Founder, Artnoir
Portrait of Larry Ossei-Mensah by Aaron Ramsey. Courtesy of Larry Ossei-Mensah.
Larry Ossei-Mensah predicts that abstraction by artists of color will become even more prominent in 2023. The genre, Ossei-Mensah believes, is essential to shifting the public’s belief that artists of color should only make representational work that is immediately legible. As an example, he pointed to the divisive reaction towards Hank Willis Thomas’s recently unveiled public sculpture The Embrace (2022). Ossei-Mensah also expects that abstract masters like Mo Booker, Raymond Saunders, Howardena Pindell, Emma Amos, Atta Kwami, and Barbara Chase Riboud will receive overdue recognition in 2023 as more institutions reexamine their bodies of work in relation to the younger generation they’ve inspired.
Ossei-Mensah anticipates that criticism by writers of color, specifically those who engage with abstract art’s relationship to cultural practice, will be particularly impactful on the art world. He cited the work of Hilton Als, Robin Givhan, Folsade Ologundudu, and Doreen St. Felix as ones to watch. Additionally, he listed the 2023 solo exhibitions of artists Chase Hall, Guadalupe Maravilla, Ming Smith, Tomashi Jackson, Frank Stewart, Amoako Boafo, Kennedy Yanko, and Anoushka Mirchandani as indicative of what’s to come this year.
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries
Portrait of Hans Ulrich Obrist by Andrew Quinn. © Andrew Quinn.
Hans Ulrich Obrist is looking towards the work of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx artists who are rethinking notions of ownership, land, and the body in relation to futurity. He is particularly excited by immersive and interactive new media art, like video games. As he explained, “Video games are to the 21st century what movies were to the 20th century, and novels to the 19th century. Today, it’s much easier for artists to develop their gaming environments.”
Obrist referenced the work of Gabriel Massan at the Serpentine Galleries as a key example of an artist who is “uncovering new meanings on video games and phenomenology…that invites players to activate a fantastical and disorienting world populated with Massan’s digital sculptures, bespoke animation, films, camerawork, and sound developed by his collaborators,” he said. Obrist situates Massan within an incredible generation of artists from Brazil, including Jota Mombaça and Ventura Profana, who use technology to reexamine futurity and a sense of place while in dialogue with decolonial thought and practice.
Adrián Villa Rojas, Yinka Shonibare, and Otobong Nkanga, as Obrist noted, are similarly starting transnational dialogues that imagine a new future for us all. “As artist Ian Cheng often told me, at the heart of his art is a desire to understand what a world is,” Obrist said. “Now more than ever, the dream is to be able to possess the agency to create new worlds.”
Curator, New Museum
Portrait of Vivian Crockett by Ciara Elle Bryant. Courtesy of the New Museum.
Vivian Crockett is fascinated by what will emerge in the fields of new media art, film, and photography, particularly by artists of color from Latin America. In 2022, more opportunities arose for critical reflection on Latin American art and artists, as evident at the Whitney Biennial “Quiet as It’s Kept,” and the Focus and Platform sections of The Armory Show. This will likely continue through 2024 as Adriano Pedrosa mounts the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale’s international exhibition, becoming the first Latin American curator in its 122-year history.
When approaching Latin American art, Crockett emphasized that an understanding of the continent’s political landscapes is crucial. “There is an increased acknowledgement of white supremacist logic affecting Latin American countries, both historically and in the present moment, resulting in more explicit conversations around race, class, and Indigenous struggles for autonomy,” she said.
In terms of the media art that is attracting her interest, Crockett is looking forward to the transnational conversations that the Sharjah Biennial and São Paulo Bienal will provoke. Stateside, she is excited by the major video and media exhibitions taking place at MoMA and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth later this year, as well as Isaac Julien’s survey at Tate Britain and Ja’Tovia Gary’s solo show at Paula Cooper Gallery.
Curator, Bronx Museum
Portrait of Eileen Jung. Courtesy of the Bronx Museum.
Eileen Jung predicts that land art, Indigeneity, and immersive art practices will take center stage in 2023. In particular, she pointed to artists who use conceptual art to navigate history and memory, including Firelei Báez, Chloë Bass, Maria Berrio, Andrea Chung, Joana Choumali, Sean Desiree, Abigail DeVille, Anaïs Duplan, Scherezade García, Guadalupe Maravilla, Daniel Lie, and Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow. Jung added, “Each of these artists have unique perspectives and contributions, and through their work, they’ve introduced a level of newness and depth to the overall artistic zeitgeist.”
Jung further elaborated that artists who provide counternarratives to the dominant historical record, and push the boundaries of their medium across abstract and figurative painting as well as sculpture, will continue to set the trends. She specifically noted the practices of Derek Fordjour, Tomashi Jackson, Sara Jimenez, Anina Major, Natalia Nakazawa, Angel Otero, Kevin Quiles Bonilla, Amina Ross, Tariku Shiferaw, Jean Shin, and Saya Woolfalk. Jung added that the critical scholarship of Lisa Lowe, Anna L. Tsing, and Saidiya Hartman will continue to inform artistic pulses.
She remains excited for new rediscoveries in 2023, like how ceramics has been in recent years. “Another area that is often overlooked are those artists who are self-taught, often labeled as ‘outsider artists’ (e.g., those whose work does not reflect an overt influence from the mainstream art world), and are bringing a new energy to the field,” Jung wrote to Artsy.
Curator, Montclair State Galleries
Montclair, New Jersey
Portrait of Jesse Firestone by Jenna Bascom Photography, LLC’s Associate Photographer Nelson. Courtesy of Montclair State Galleries.
Jesse Firestone is on the lookout for more genre-breaking art in 2023. In particular, they point to outsider art practices—like using humor or making provocative works with unconventional material and subject matter—as big trends for the year. “I think performance artists who embrace failure while taking their work seriously, but aren’t self-serious, will receive a lot more attention,” they said. “There is a lot to learn from this type of work and I think people are hungry to see how we can work with imperfection, messiness, and unpredictability. 2023 is a year of embracing risk.”
Firestone’s attention to risk comes out of crypto art’s tumultuous year in 2022. The incredibly rapid rise and subsequent fall of NFTs have demonstrated that, while artists will continue to innovate art with new technology, some trends might crash as fast and they rose. Firestone believes that artists will continue to learn from the market and reflect upon the failures of these experiences in their work. Because of the NFT crash, Firestone sees physical media art, or art that embraces the body, as major for 2023. This is work they actively support as a curator: “Ultimately I like being able to provide artists with the space to stretch, take risks, and succeed in those efforts,” Firestone said.
Rachel Vera Steinberg
Curator, Smack Mellon
Portrait of Rachel Vera Steinberg by Inna Svyatsky. Courtesy of Smack Mellon.
Rachel Vera Steinberg is excited for a greater number of artists to further deepen the mystery of art production across sculpture and computer-generated art. She is inspired by artists who push the boundaries of the medium they are working in, as well as the space in which they exhibit. She cited the work of Emily Clayton, Tomi Faison, and Charisse Pearlina Weston as key examples. Steinberg also anticipates more conceptually driven work in relation to text- and discourse-based art, like K Allado-McDowell’s recent book Amor Cringe (2022), which was co-written with AI software.
Additionally, Steinberg predicts that last year’s challenges around systemic injustice will usher in artists addressing class and social equity in the art world. “One of the most impactful trends from this past year was the proliferation of AI image generators,” she said. “It’s hard to forecast this as a direction, but it has the potential to further call into question images as receptacles of meaning.”
Separately, Steinberg believes that more artworks inspired by religion will reach the fore in 2023. “I feel like we are entering a moment of reconsidering religion, inclusive of, but also beyond, its relationship to spirituality,” she explained. “I see this formally in visual symbols and materiality: For example, in the way an artist like Tammy Nguyen incorporates metal leaf to reference illuminated manuscripts, but also in other modes of production that are trending, such as a heightened interest in metal work.”
Director, Chisenhale Gallery
Portrait of Zoé Whitley by James Gifford-Mead. Courtesy of Zoé Whitley.
Zoé Whitley is looking to painters who are embracing unconventional materials or pushing the limits of their painting practice to render something vibrantly different and new. “The artists who currently inspire me defy genre expectations,” she said.
Furthermore, Whitley is looking forward to artists collaborating more with nonprofit organizations. She hopes that these partnerships, and their accompanying resources, will support ambitious art practices and culminate into long-running exhibitions that a greater number of viewers will be able to see and experience.
These later points are greatly influenced by Tricia Hersey’s manifesto Rest is Resistance (2022) and Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (1997), which both argue for a process of slowing down with media materials to allow for their presence to be felt, haunting the audience.
Ayanna Dozier is Artsy’s Staff Writer.
Ann Wilson, Last Survivor of an Influential Art Scene, Dies at 91 – The New York Times
Working from a gritty loft in Lower Manhattan in the late 1950s, she made abstract paintings on quilts that brought a fine-art sensibility to a folk art.
Ann Wilson, a painter who rose to prominence among the art luminaries who clustered in an industrial stretch of Lower Manhattan in the late 1950s, creating an eruption of art between the peak of Abstract Expressionism and the burst of Pop Art, died on March 11 at her home in Valatie, N.Y., in Columbia County. She was 91.
Her death was confirmed by her daughter Ara Wilson.
Ms. Wilson was the last surviving member of the influential Coenties Slip group, which also included Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Robert Indiana. The group flourished in a bruised, brawny area near the East River in the days of decline after its industrial heyday a century before.
“During the 18th and 19th centuries, this was the heart of New York,” the New York Times art critic Holland Cotter wrote in a 1993 retrospective of the storied Coenties Slip art world. “The city’s earliest publishing houses were here, as were its theaters, and such writers as Melville, Whitman and Poe walked the streets.
“Although the neighborhood went on to become the financial district,” Mr. Cotter continued, “as recently as 30 years ago it was still making cultural history: It was home to some of America’s most distinguished and radical living artists.”
Ms. Wilson, a Pittsburgh native, landed on Coenties (pronounced coe-EN-teez) Slip in the mid-1950s. The youngest of the artists who thrived there, she drew influences from its established members, in particular Ms. Martin, a celebrated painter who blended the hues of nature with Abstract Expressionism, and Lenore Tawney, a fiber artist known for her monumental sculptural weaving.
Such earthy, elemental minimalism helped inspire Ms. Wilson’s primary medium at the time: quilts painted with abstract geometric patterns. Her best-known work, “Moby Dick,” a roughly 5-by-7-foot quilt painting from 1955, is in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s collection. She also has works in the collection of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
“I was interested in geometry,” she once said in an interview for the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. “And in the colors of nature. It was just gardening, making a quilt.”
In helping to establish the folk art of quilting as a fine-art medium, Ms. Wilson “became a beacon for women artists in the avant-garde who explored alternative mediums and avenues of the arts as they were forming in a momentous time, from the 1950s to 1970s, when New York was burgeoning with new ideas and means of expression that were far outside the mainstream,” William Niederkorn, an artist and writer who mounted “1 Saint in 3 Acts,” a 2018 retrospective of her work at the Emily Harvey Foundation in Manhattan, wrote in an email.
Ann Marie Ubinger was born on Oct. 14, 1931, in Pittsburgh, the only child of John and Helen (Foley) Ubinger. Her father, who worked in public relations for a steel company, was an intellectual omnivore and a voracious reader, as was her mother, who worked as a librarian but was also a skilled painter and had studied with the renowned artist Samuel Rosenberg at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh.
Fascinated by art from an early age, she eventually enrolled at Carnegie Tech, where her fellow Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol was also a student. She ultimately graduated from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia.
After college, she spent two years teaching art history at West Virginia University, where she read copies of ARTnews in the library and realized “there was something more brewing than I had been educated for,” she said in an interview with the art historian Jonathan Katz for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.
Those art ambitions led her to New York, where she fell in with her future art compatriots when they were running a paid workshop for hobbyists called the Coenties Slip Drawing School. Among the teachers were Jack Youngerman, who would become known for his exuberantly colorful abstract paintings, and Robert Indiana, who would find fame as the Pop artist who created the famous “love” image, consisting of the letters L-O-V-E stacked in a box.
Before long, Mr. Indiana suggested that she take an open loft in an old factory building at 3-5 Coenties Slip, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. The loft, which rented for $40 a month, had no electricity — power was wired in from a light fixture in the hall — and was heated with a potbelly stove.
“Not only were these artists drawn together through their ideas and their appreciation of the Slip area, but also through a continuous struggle to live there,” Art in America observed in a 2017 history of the scene. “Most of the lofts did not have hot water, heat or kitchens, and it was the Seamen’s Institute, then located on the Slip, that provided a much-needed cafeteria and warm showers.”
What the buildings lacked in creature comforts, they made up for in artistic significance. Mr. Kelly, a painter renowned for his bold, colorful abstract work, and Ms. Martin lived in the same building as Ms. Wilson. Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg lived nearby, on Pearl and Front Streets.
Soon after Ms. Wilson moved in, her art life “just mushroomed,” she told Mr. Katz. “I knew everybody in town in about five minutes.”
The scene began to splinter in the 1960s as the area faced the onslaught of urban renewal, and Ms. Wilson moved a few subway stops north, to a loft on Canal Street. She became enmeshed in the world of performance art, including the so-called Happenings, which combined dance, theater, poetry and visual art. She also collaborated on installations with the artist Paul Thek.
Ms. Wilson also became close with Robert Wilson (no relation), the groundbreaking experimental theater director and playwright. She worked with him into the mid- 1970s, performing and contributing visual art to “Deafman Glance” and other works of his.
In addition to her daughter Ara, Ms. Wilson is survived by another daughter, Katherine Wilson, and a son, Andrew, from her marriage to the writer William S. Wilson. She and Mr. Wilson separated in 1966, though they never divorced. Mr. Wilson died in 2016.
As the New York art world began to move in new directions in the 1980s and ’90s, Ms. Wilson moved upstate, where she explored new mediums like Eastern European icon paintings and taught art at Dutchess Community College.
Even so, she continued to paint, an obsession since early childhood. As her daughter noted, “She always said she had to repeat first grade because all she wanted to do was draw.”
The Thief Collector review – the ordinary married couple behind a massive art heist – The Guardian
It was a brazen case of daylight robbery. In 1985, a couple walked into an art gallery on the campus of the University of Arizona and left 15 minutes later with a rolled-up Willem de Kooning shoved up the man’s jacket. In 2017, the painting was finally recovered – not by the FBI, but by a trio of house clearance guys in New Mexico. It had been hanging for 30 years on the bedroom wall of retired teachers Rita and Jerry Alter.
How an ordinary couple like the Alters pulled off one of the biggest art heists of the 20th century is told in this mostly entertaining documentary. You can imagine the story being turned into a podcast and it’s perhaps stretched a little thin for a full-length documentary. (Did we really need an interview with the couple’s nephew’s son?) The weak link is the film’s dramatisation of the theft: a tongue-in-cheek pastiche that feels a bit glib as questions about the Alters’ motivations deepen and darken. Still, the film offers a fascinating glimpse into the mystery of other people, especially other people’s marriages. Friends and family still look dazed that the Alters – Rita and Jerry! – were behind the theft.
The unlikely heroes of the story are a trio of honest-as-they-come house clearance men who bought the De Kooning along with the contents of Jerry and Rita’s house after they died. When a customer offered them $200,000 for the painting, they did a bit of Googling; after realising it could be the missing artwork (Woman-Ochre, now worth around $160m), they were straight on the phone to the gallery in Arizona to return it, with no question of making a dime for themselves.
The three men are brilliant interviewees, warm and thoroughly decent; their experience in rooting through other people’s homes and lives has clearly given them the kind of insight that would make them great detectives, too. And if nothing else, this documentary ought to give someone working in television the idea of making a detective series about house clearance experts.
Art in spotlight as 9 countries’ Holocaust envoys hold 1st gathering on restitution – The Times of Israel
In 2018, a Dutch court issued a highly controversial ruling, allowing an Amsterdam museum to keep a Nazi-looted painting for free, saying this would serve the “public interest” better than returning the artwork to its rightful Jewish owners.
The decision was panned by Holocaust restitution activists as an outrageous miscarriage of justice, with the potential of undoing decades of progress.
Following an international outcry, the city last year disregarded the court ruling and made the Stedelijk Museum return the Wassily Kandinsky work to the heirs of the art dealer from whom the Nazis stole it, bringing the claim to a close.
On Tuesday, Ellen Germain, the US State Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, pointed to the case as offering a valuable lesson for other countries on “best practices for restitution of Nazi-looted art.”
Speaking in London at a first-of-its-kind summit with eight of her counterparts from around the world, Germain said the Dutch example “is a case where legal complications arose, and were solved in a satisfactory manner. That’s exactly the sort of cases we came here to examine and learn from so that governments can build on each other’s experience.”
In 1998, over 40 countries signed the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, which contains a roadmap for restitution. However, 25 years later, more than 100,000 paintings out of approximately 600,000 that the Nazis stole remain unreturned, according to German media outlet Deutsche Welle.
Mark Weitzman, chief operating officer of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, or WJRO, said during a press conference at the gathering that “whereas significant gaps in restitution remain, there are also positive developments and successes.”
He noted Latvia, whose parliament last year voted in favor of a long-awaited restitution plan in which authorities agreed to pay more than $40 million to the country’s Jewish community of about 10,000 people over the coming decade. Lithuania, meanwhile, allocated $38 million as compensation for private-owned property that Jews lost there in the Holocaust, when 90% of the community was murdered by the Nazis and local collaborators.
Croatia, Weitzman said, was in the process of advancing its own legislation seeking to resolve this issue.
But “some problems persist,” said Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, who hosted the meeting. Pickles said it would be “undiplomatic” to name problematic countries.
WJRO has long called on Poland to address private-owned, heirless property, which Polish officials say can be claimed through the civil court system but which restitution activists say requires special legislation. Estimates vary on the value of such property, with some saying it’s worth billions of dollars.
In addition to the United States and Britain, the meeting had representatives from Canada, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, France and Croatia, as well as Israel. The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany was also represented.
While this week’s conference focused mostly on art restitution, Germain invited the delegates to the United States for a follow-up meeting that would focus on other aspects.
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