From the classics of Da Vinci to the social commentaries of a modern Banksy, art has always had a profound effect on culture and imagery associated with it. Although a subjective medium of expression, some artists manage to create a lasting impression on society and popular culture with their defining art styles. Here’s our list of 5 artists whose works completely altered the modern design aesthetic.
1. Andy Warhol:
In a world with photography apps full of Warhol style filters, it’s highly unlikely for you not to have seen his work. Born in the United States, Warhol defined advertising art in the 1950s. For him, it wasn’t about advertising products but ‘art as advertising’. Critics at the time were scandalized by Warhol's open embrace of market culture. Later in his career, he developed a generous and helpful view of society and stardom, especially celebrities. The artist reproduced many celebrity images from newspapers and magazines using popping colours and multiple instances of the image on a single piece. This was his way of social commentary depicting a celebrity as a commodity. Warhol had an affinity for automation and pioneered the art of silk screen print art. A celebrity in his own right he was also a photographer, cinematographer and film producer. The Campbell Soup cans and the Marilyn Monroe Diptych are easily some of Andy’s most well known paintings.
2. Keith Haring:
If you haven’t seen his work, you have probably seen his merchandise. Keith Haring is one of those rare artists that bridged the gap that expensive art created, being viewed as something only for the rich. He started in America in the 1980s as a street artist making empty advertising billboards at subway stations his personal canvas. Home to a thriving underground art scene at the time, New York was where Haring found his mojo. For him, run ins with the law weren’t uncommon. His style was simple, made up of clean lines and cartoonish figures. Yet Haring used his style to create social commentary and reflect on the times. His work can be found all over the world in forms of small painting all the way to large murals. One of Keith’s most famous paintings can still be found today on the Berlin wall depicting the unity of the German people in the colours of the German flag.
3. Zdzisław Beksiński:
Born in 1929 during the Holocaust in Poland, Beksiński started his career as a photographer documenting the aftermath of the World War. Like his father, Beksiński studied architecture which would play a major role in his art career later in life. Many believe that Beksiński emulated the horrors of his past in his art. His paintings were an amalgamation of spiritualism, architecture, eroticism, war and dream logic turned into eerie yet surreal pieces of art. His art defined the modern heavy metal aesthetic using skulls, death, religious symbolism in dark, almost hellish landscapes. His works can be found on album covers of many death metal bands including Wolok, Antestor and Decayor to name a few. Beksiński’s work put Polish art on the world map and is still regarded as some of the most aesthetic yet nightmarish art.
4. Jeff Koons:
Art being a medium of expression cannot simply be restricted to the canvases and in this case, translates into everyday objects coming to life as sculptures, models, blow-ups, and many other forms. Koons is most famous for his mirror finish stainless steel sculptures and blow up pieces of art. Critics however are divided in their opinion. Some believe his work to be of major historic importance while others dismiss it as crass self merchandising. Koons however says that he sees no meaning in his work. Irrespective of opinions, his work always seems to put audiences in awe of the craftsmanship and detail put into his sculptures, making them look almost unreal. The iconic balloon dogs are his most famous works along with his chrome rabbit sculpture which broke records selling for $91.1 million in 2019.
5. Shepard Fairey:
Considered the most influential living street artist of our time, Fairey’s art took the world by storm in the early 90s. Starting off in the skateboarding scene in 1984, Fairey gained recognition with his “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker campaign. His true claim to fame and arguably the most recognizable pop-culture artwork was his OBEY sticker campaign. Fairey’s art played an important role in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign with his iconic HOPE poster with the former president’s face. The artist from his early days made a particular hue of red his signature colour which appears in almost all of his art. Known for his art, philanthropy, run-ins with the law and political activism, Fairey truly defined a modern pop culture aesthetic and continues to inspire generations of new artists.