Visitors encounter “The Golden Calf” by Damien Hirst, which at $18.6 million was the top seller of Sotheby’s two-day sale | Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The New Art Era: The Generation Defining Modern Artists

Think of famous artists and names like Pablo Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci and Claude Monet come to mind. While they all defined a generation of art, there’s a wave of modern artists who represent a new era of art. Some of the most famous artists today thrive on innovation, creativity, and pushing the boundaries of what is considered art. Here are the new generation-defining artists you need to know about.

Takashi Murakami 

From famous fashion brands to large scale paintings, Takashi Murakami is known to fuse traditional art with pop culture. The only visual artist to be named in Time magazine’s ‘100 most influential people’ in 2008, his art is known around the world. His 2003 painting, The World of Sphere, followed a collaboration with fashion brand Louis Vuitton, selling for A$2.8 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2013. From fashion items to sculptures, animations, and even music videos, his pieces feature stunningly colourful floral designs inspired by Japan’s vibrant manga scene.


Possibly the most intriguing figure in world art, Banksy, whose real identity is unknown, is easily one of the most famous modern artists. Previously the subject of academic papers and attention-grabbing headlines, his art is insanely popular and sells for staggering prices. While the Avant grade graffiti artist doesn’t conform to the rules, the worldwide phenomenon is well-known for his philanthropy efforts. His Game Changer sketch raised A$31.7 for the NHS when it was sold at Christie’s 20th Century Art Evening Sale in London on 23 March 2021. In typical Banksy fashion another Sotheby’s sold piece, Love is in the Bin, made headlines after it was shredded in front of a stunned auction crowd after selling for almost A$2 million in 2018.

Damien Hirst

With a net worth estimated at $384 million, according to the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List, Damien Hirst is reportedly the United Kingdom’s richest living artist. A leader of the Young British Artists movement who dominated the art scene in the UK during the 1990s, he’s well known for his widely conceptual pieces that routinely sell for millions of dollars. His two-day Sotheby’s auction, Beautiful Inside My Head Forever, in September 2008, set the record for a single-artist auction raising $198 million for 218 items. His works are notable for featuring the theme of death including The Golden Calf, an animal preserved in formaldehyde with 18-carat gold horns and hooves, selling for A$19.4 million at the auction.

Cecily Brown

If you put a new painting of mine on a wall in a very old stately home steeped in history, it’s going to be disruptive.

Cecily Brown

The British painter is known for her huge provocative canvases covered generously with paint often depicting sexually explicit themes. Similar to Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning, she gained prominence in 1994 in New York as a pioneer in the resurgence of figurative painting. Today, the modern artist remains a famous figure in the art world and a constant presence in the art market. The British painter sold her most expensive piece, Suddenly Last Summer (1999), at a Sotheby’s auction in May 2018 for over A$$9.2 million.

Jeff Koons

The American is a controversial figure in the art world, yet one of the most famous artists today. Defined by his pop culture-inspired sculptures, two of his pieces are on the list of highest record auction prices for a work by a living artist – A$79.89 million for Balloon Dog (Orange) in 2013 and A$124.63 million for Rabbit in 2019. While lauded by many as a pioneering artist, some critics dismiss his work because it’s produced by a studio and not Koons himself.

David Hockney

One of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, Hockney is a constant figure in contemporary art. The British painter is known for his landscapes and portraits featuring vibrant colours and more recently his modern iPad sketches. Hockney’s 1972 work, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) was formerly the most expensive artwork by a living artist selling for A$90 million in November 2018 at Christie’s New York City. His other notable works include A Bigger Splash, 1967, a large pop art painting measuring 242.5cm by 243.9cm.

Jenny Saville

A thoroughly contemporary artist, British painter Jenny Saville is known for her large-scale paintings of the nude female body. Credited with reinventing figure painting for modern art, her self portrait, Propped (1992) sold at Sotheby’s in London for over A$33 million, almost three times higher than its estimate. The painting, originally owned by Charles Saatchi, is the most expensive work by a living female artist ever sold. The famous self-portrait depicts a profoundly stylized Saville sitting on a stool.

Andy Warhol

The late icon simply defined the contemporary pop art movement. One of the most famous modern artists, the American work explores the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture. Among his most famous artworks are portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Campbell Soup Cans advertising silkscreens. His works also feature some of the most expensive paintings ever sold including. A price of A$143.6 million for Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) 1963 in November 2013. And A$136.8 million for Eight Elvises 1963 in October 2008.

If you enjoy reading about art, have a look at, ink art: the tattoo artists dominating art culture.

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