Where form meets function

What Rolling Stone’s rankings are to the music universe,’s Top100 is to every player in the art world. The list compiles, among other things, information on the number of exhibitions held by an artist in both prestigious and not so prestigious showrooms. Although Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter and some of their fellows reigned supreme for a long time, a growing crowd of talented and visionary painters and sculptors is preparing to climb to the top. Some are well within the range, while others are several hundred places away.

This year’s list was recently recalculated and we’re here to we give you an overview. Whom among these leaders from the art world you should watch and what’s so interesting about them that we expect them to climb further to the top. So without further ado, here are 10 of the world’s leading artists and why you should watch them.


1. Hans-Peter Feldmann

While the first half of the Top100 list didn’t see any major turbulences, place 51 introduces the kind of artistic energy we were looking for. Germany’s Hans-Peter Feldmann is one of the few artists who still makes you wonder and smile, one of the few gifted people who sees the world with childlike-wonder and discovers what most of us don’t see anymore. We imagine him constantly giggling while working in his small home-based studio or while approaching women on the street to buy their purses in an attempt to discover and later exhibit their wondrous contents. Feldmann is also known to adorning vintage portrait paintings, along with George Washington’s and the Queen’s appearance on banknotes, with clown noses. When he buys a basket of strawberries, he paints them one by one on a myriad of canvases, just because of how they looked to him, one like the other yet somehow different.

And the art world loves him. He just exhibited a grand show in Hamburg’s Deichtorhallen, participated in documenta, took part in Venice Biennale and was awarded the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize two years ago. But what did he do with the $100,000 that came with the prize? He covered an exhibition room with it and didn’t care about people walking away with a few bills. You’ve got to love this man.


2. Gabriel Orozco

The art world continues to discover strong Mexican artists. While this year’s Preis der Neuen Nationalgalerie – one of those awards all of Europe watches attentively – was given to two Mexican newcomers, others like Gabriel Orozco and Francis Alÿs have been around for some time. Orozco belongs to those rare artists, whose talent, just as Feldmann’s, is to open one’s eyes to the unseen. In one of his most famous and powerful artworks, he compared New York’s skyline with a desolate copy made of scrap wood found on a parking lot nearby. Guggenheim visitors still remember his large-scale piece of collected and neatly-ordered garbage, knocking those color-sorted Tumblr pages down a notch. As every other artist of such grandeur, Orozco has exhibited at the world’s most important events including an impressive count of three Venice Biennales and two shows each at documenta and the Whitney Biennale. His three-year long circulating exhibition at MoMA New York, Kunstmuseum Basel and Tate Modern is considered to be the point where Orozco became immortal in the books, to which we’re sure he’ll add a few more pages in the coming years.


3. Christian Jankowski

Last year when Christian Jankowski announced his video and performance project “Casting Jesus” – yes, that’s right, a casting for Jesus impersonators – we knew this guy was still in the game. After he broke through with a video performance featuring himself hunting for food with a bow in a supermarket, the German artist has continued to produce provocative performances. Jankowski had an infomercial salesman advertise pieces by Jeff Koons and Franz West in Kunstmarkt TV and, as his entry piece for an art prize, hired four speechwriters to contest against each other in praising him and the other participants, respectively. He didn’t win. For his recent solo exhibition in Warsaw, he addressed the troubled history of the country and hired the Polish national team of weightlifters to lift famous national monuments while sportscasters commented on their efforts.


4. Pierre Huyghe

While art is still considered to be a secluded part of contemporary culture, film is purported to be as public as it can get. Frenchman Pierre Huyghe is as much an artist as a director, someone who uses the media of film to highlight its role in our society and how it relates to our concept of reality and fiction. While this might sound like some art school hodgepodge, Huyghe doesn’t hesitate to prove his point such as in his now well-known work, for which he did not only reconstruct the set of a Hollywood movie, but also gave its central character the opportunity to speak for himself, rather than being followed by the invisible and omnipresent viewer.

In recent years, Huyghe has expanded his work with living installations. During the last documenta, his land-art piece consisting of poisonous plants, a bee hive surrounding a statue’s head and an oddly painted dog, gained the media’s attention. Keeping this momentum going, Paris’s prestigious Centre Pompidou got him to exhibit a retrospective show at the juvenile age of 51. While other artists finally begin to establish a steady income at this age, Huyghes did not only show a comprehensive body of work at one of the world’s most important institutions, they also had it tour around the globe. There’s only New York’s MoMA left for him but we’re sure he’ll have his videos shown in those holy halls in this decade.


5. Gregor Schneider

Gregor Schneider is one of those artists whose works no picture could do justice. Schneider is not just an average installation artist. He builds entire rooms, often exact replicas of other rooms, displaced into the white cube of museums and galleries. Fully accessible, but with windows that peer into the vague nothingness and doors that open into awkwardly uncomfortable rooms. Thus, he rebuilt several parts of his home and created the spooky Totes Haus u r, a house consisting of walls and floors that slowly move, extending and shrinking its rooms. Schneider also rebuilt the Kaaba in Hamburg and caused an outcry when he erected a room inside a museum intended to eventually become the last home of a dying person. However, Gregor Schneider is now considered as one of the most important contemporary installation artists, amassing plenty of awards such as Venice Bienniale’s Golden Lion and exhibiting throughout Europe and North America.


6. Alfredo Jaar

In these times, art couldn’t be more political. One of the leading figures of what could be the artistic branch of the Human Rights Watch is Chilean-born Alfredo Jaar, well known for his smart and dicey protest against the grim Pinochet regime. Making use of different kinds of public media, including billboard advertising, he was one of the louder voices against the dictatorship. But after the country was finally pacified in 1990, Jaar went on to apply his powerful artistic tools to other conflicts and atrocities. While the Rwandan civil war was neglected in Western media for several years, Jaar did not only address the killings, but also the role of the press in such conflicts, how pictures can only give a small insight and how power lies in deliberately not showing the full extent of cruelty and terror.

The Western world now applauds his fearless campaigns against atrocities politics can no longer resolve. Just as his fellow artists on this list, Jaar’s works were exhibited in the most influentials museums and biennials in the Western hemisphere. His participation at this year’s Venice Bienniale was his third appearance in The Floating City. For his piece, Jaar exhibited a delicate model of the neighborhood where the art festival was held, only to have it fully submerged in water and then resurfaced. While Jaar’s take on arctic ice melting was one of the most notorious artworks of 2013, his full-scale retrospective at three of Berlin’s most eminent exhibition spaces in mid-2012 did not attract a fraction of the media attention it deserved. His son Nicolas has been the family’s most prominent member over the past few years, but we hope this leads to more attention and accolade for Alfredo’s still-important voice for our time’s most pressing topics.


7. Michael Sailstorfer

Bavarian installation artist Michael Sailstorfer has a playful mind even if he doesn’t like to admit it outright. For example, when he recycles a police car into a drum set, an airplane into a tree house, the debris of a wrecked house into a couch (to be supplemented with a nice framed photograph of said house), or when he shoots trees into the air or uses them as oversized brooms to sweep the floor, or when he reattaches all their lost leaves in winter. With all of these pieces you can’t help but think that Sailstorfer is among the few who see things in a different, childlike way. Just as Hans-Peter Feldmann, he notices the small details in our surrounding and puts them on display. Sailstorfer is still young but since his notorious art dealer Johann König helped put things on the right track, we’re sure he’ll gain an even bigger audience in the next few years.


8. Jeppe Hein

Also one of König’s artists, Jeppe Hein’s works are more of the modest and sincere kind. The Danish native arranges mirrors into complex objects that serve as big-scale kaleidoscopes to reflect the rooms they’re placed in and the people who move within. Some of these often several-meter-wide installations slowly revolve around their own axis and produce an even more mesmerizing effect. Including mirror mobiles and tremendous spinning mirror planes, Jeppe Hein does not only intend to break the room’s architecture into small geometric pieces, but also to confront the viewer with a distorted perspective of himself and his presence in a room in tatters.


9. Katharina Grosse

As colorful as art can get, Katharina Grosse’s works constantly set a new standard. In fact, her installations consist of almost nothing much more than color. She seems to live every graffiti artist’s dream by spraying entire halls in the whole color spectrum and piling colored powder into dunes. Grosse covers every surface she can reach with her spray gun and the help of ladders, often creating overwhelming landscapes of psychedelic extent. Debris and rummage suddenly become the animate and interesting, simply due to a thick coat of pure paint. If words could describe the jaw-dropping beauty of Grosse’s works, we’d go on and describe it with the most vivid expressions known to man, but since that’s not the case, we’ll just leave you with the pictures. See for yourself.


10. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

If you haven’t figured it out by now, we’re particularly fond of installation art. But the list wouldn’t feel right if this artist couple wasn’t included. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller used to work as independent artists, but soon discovered that they would make the perfect team both as artists and as partners. Most believe they’ve gotten better since they decided to team up, but what’s certain is they haven’t worked on their own in many years. One can feel their close connection in many of their works, especially since they don’t seem to be made by two artists, but rather by a single artist.

Take their one-of-a-kind installation Storm Room as an example. Specially conceived and created for the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial 2009, they converted a deserted dentist’s office in rural Japan into the perfect deception. Preparing the windows and the lights for their purposes and installing some hidden speakers, they created the perfect illusion of a typhoon passing by, knocking the windows with heavy rain and thunder. On another occasion, they recorded a multi-piece opera along with a Russian choir and an underlying story narrated by Cardiff to be played through no less than a hundred loudspeakers arranged within the spacious main hall of Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof. What can be considered to be the most astonishing surround sound piece of the last decade was in fact a big success for both the artists and the museum’s coffers.

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