30 Great Living Artists

great living artists

We take a look at some of the world’s great living artists. Of course there are many great artists and so compiling a list was not easy but we attempted to give a selection of great international artists and from a variety of artistic disciplines. We hope you enjoy our list and maybe even discover the odd artist or two you may not be familiar with.

S H Raza

s h raza great living artistsImage S H Raza. Cea via Flickr

Although having lived in France for the majority of his life much of Indian artist S H Raza’s work has been shaped by the country of his birth. Raza’s work is intrinsically linked to Indian culture based on the theories of the Bindu, the significance of  the teachings and gives a spiritual meaning which manifests in the bold colours and shapes in his paintings. Many of Raza’s abstract paintings have a dark circular focal point termed the Bindu (Indian dot) which he has spoken of as the ‘fountain-head of both energy and creativity.’

s h raza great living artistsImage Syed Haider Raza – Untitled (1980). Cea via Flickr

Raza has spoken of how a chance meeting with French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and the advice he was given changed his approach to art and would lead him to go to France. Bresson met Raza, who was exhibiting in Kashmir with other artists in 1947, and told him that he liked his work but that his paintings were ‘rather fluid and lacked construction.’ Raza told Bresson that he ‘could not understand what was construction in painting.’  Bresson told him to study the paintings of Cezanne who was a master of construction. Raza has said he was self aware of some weaknesses in his work at the time and the suggestion to go to France by Bresson would see him move to Paris a few years later.

After 60 years living in France Raza has moved back to India. While he was in still in France he established The Raza Foundation, a trust created for assisting and supporting talented artists, and which he funds himself exclusively.

Damien Hirst

The_Future_of_Art_-_Damien_Hirst-1Image Damien Hirst. Wikipedia Creative Commons

Damien Hirst is one of best known contemporary artists in the world today. His work has been highly sought after by art collectors and has been exhibited around the world. But in the UK many critics have continued to dismiss his work with sometimes vitriolic commentaries.

Hirst first came to prominence as part of a group of Young British Artists dubbed the YBA’s or BritArt in the late 1980s. Hirst was instrumental in initiating a platform for the artists in setting up the Freeze exhibition in a disused Docklands warehouse. One of his most famous early pieces was his  The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which set a real deceased shark in a tank full of formaldehyde.

For the Love of God by Damien Hirst (2007)Image For the Love of God by Damien Hirst (2007). Secretly Ironic via Flickr

Whether its sharks in formaldehyde or just a collection of cigarette butts like The Abyss (one of my favourites that seemed to be both amusing and work on a number of levels) Hirst brought the concept of art to a new audience, some appreciative, some less complimentary, and outside of typical art or culture devotees.  Hirst and other artists such as Tracey Emin and the Chapman brothers (Jake and Dinos), for me felt like our generation’s Warhol. Just like Warhol, Hirst has been criticised as being nothing more than a good marketer, self promoter and fortunate in having patrons, in his case Charles Saatchi. Can this be a valid though? Every art exhibition is susceptible to marketing today and lots of great artists in the past have needed to have a bit of self promotion about them and typically patrons of some sort.

Then there used to be the personal attacks on Hirst himself about his lifestyle. Not quite sure when artists were meant to be timid, diplomatic creatures and the snipes about him loving money are well just good old fashioned class bollocks alive and kicking.   A picture of Mickey Mouse by Hirst raised £902,500 for the Kids Company, charity for disadvantaged young people which he has supported for several years.


Buy Damien Hurst. Ann Gallagher

With an introduction by curator Ann Gallagher, a new interview by Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, and essays by curator Andrew Wilson, author and critic Brian Dillon and art historian and critic Thomas Crow, as well as shorter texts on key moments in Hirst’s career by Michael Craig-Martin and Michael Bracewell, this superbly illustrated survey is a fitting tribute to his ground-breaking achievements. Surveying 25 years of the artist’s practice, from young Turk of the British art scene to internationally respected figure, this book makes a major contribution to our understanding and appreciation of one the most significant artists of our time.



Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer’s body of work spanning four decades has contributed to his reputation as one of the most important European artists in that period.

 Anselm Kiefer's Sternenfall Falling Stars

Image Anselm Kiefer’s Sternenfall Falling Stars.stunned via Flickr

History, myth and identity are explored and expressed in his art and often taking on challenging subjects such Nazi rule in Germany. One of his most controversial early works, made while he was still a student, was a series of photographic self-portraits entitled “Occupations” showing him carrying out Hitler salutes against a variety of backdrops. The result was anxiety among his tutors and created a furore amongst critics and the public at the series touching on what was a taboo subject in 1969 and still divides opinions today. But at the heart of the series and also in Kiefer’s continued preoccupations are how mythology, symbols and imagery are used historically to control, engage or inform belief systems.

It was in the 1980s that Kiefer really garnered serious attention as a Neo-Expressionist painter. He started to create epic richly textured and layered large scale paintings using a heady mixture of different materials including sand, straw, lead, oil paint, dirt, wood and photographs.

In 2007 Kiefer became the first artist to be given a permanent commission to install work at the Louvre, Paris since Georges Braque.


Buy Anselm Kiefer. Richard Davey.

This volume explores the themes that run through Kiefer’s œuvre, from the complex relationship between art and spirituality to the influence of German woodcuts and literature.





Miguel Barcelo

Miguel Barcelo artist Image Miguel Barcelo. Wikipedia Creative Commons

Miguel Barcelo is a renowned Spanish artist whose impressive body of work ranges from huge canvases and murals to sculptures and terracotta pottery.

Barceló’s work has been regularly commissioned for notable public spaces including a ceramic panorama in Majorca Cathedral’s Chapel of Saint Pedro, a domed ceiling covered in stalactites made from 35 tons of paint  at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva and the Gran Elefandret, the humorous upside down elephant defying gravity as it graciously balances on its trunk with its four legs outspread above its sagging skin.

Miguel Barcelo great living artistsImage Gran Elefandret Miguel Barcelo. Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Barcelo’s art encompasses influences ranging from Art Brut and the work of Jean Dubuffet, Baroque master Velazquez, American Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Chiaroscuro. Also having travelled extensively across Europe, US and West Africa all contribute to Barcelo’s synthesizing, ever evolving forms of artistic expression. One place that has fascinated and inspired Barcelo is Mali in West Africa, where the artist has visited frequently and spent considerable time. In Mali Barcelo would live in Dogon, a village without electricity and running water, where he learned and adapted many of the ancestral techniques used by the Dogon people in their own art, particularly involving clay.

Great Living Artists – Richter, Hockney, Abramovic, le Parc, Serra
Great Living Artists – Kusama, Nahas, Banksy, Nawa, Udo
Great Living Artists – Sacco, Cerny, Johns, Weiwei

Great Living Artists – 
Holzer, Sherman, Kapoor, Ono
Great Living Artists  – 
Lynch, Calle, Tuttle, de la Cruz
Great Living Artists Miyazaki, Potrc, Marshall, Ikeda