A is for Auction…Upon confirmation of the $1.4m winning bid for the framed print, ‘Girl With Balloon,’ by Banksy, began to shred whilst still on the wall. It nearly self-destructed, but the buyer eventually confirmed the sale and the work was renamed ‘Love is in the Bin.’
B is for Brillo Box…In the mid-1960s, Andy Warhol, furthered his investigation of American consumerism with his wood and screenprint Brillo Box sculptures. Initially, they didn’t sell, and this simple, knock-off consumer product infuriated the critics. Today each is valued around $1m.
C is for Crown…Jean-Michel Basquiat, street artist cum contemporary art superstar, was inspired and influenced by everything from anatomical science to jazz music. He was one of the most important artists that emerged from the splashy early 1980s downtown New York City art scene. The crown is the most identifiable of his recurring motifs, and is placed above images or figures that he respected and admired.
D is for Dots...Japanese Contemporary artist, Yayoi Kusama, is obsessed with polka dots. Since the late 1970s, she has voluntarily lived in a psychiatric institution. Her meditative practice of repeated patterns serves as a therapeutic tool to process trauma that she experienced.
E is for Eyebrow...Much of the work by Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, is figurative, and often self portraits with a mix of abstract and surrealist elements. After an accident at age 18, she suffered from pain and medical issues, confining her to her bed where she would paint. She was an important figure in the feminist movement, and was married to artist Diego Rivera, with whom she had a famously tumultuous relationship.
F is for Feminist...T-shirts have long been a modern marketing vehicle, which is perfectly aligned with the text based artwork by contemporary artist, Jenny Holzer. Her ‘truisms’ are trademarked by concise statements, that are produced in various forms, from 2D to large scale installation.
G is for Gas Station...California based artist, Ed Ruscha, has always been interested in elevating the ordinary and overlooked, often depicting trademarks that can be seen from the car, such as the Standard Gas Station illustrated. His first book, self-published and quite avant-garde for 1963, was titled ‘Twentysix Gasoline Stations.’ It had no text and displayed only photographs of gas stations which he passed along Route 66. His submission was rejected by The Library of Congress, and is considered the first modern artist's book.
H is for Horse...Italian contemporary artist, Maurizio Cattelan’s artwork installation of a stallion with its head through the wall, and body suspended is one of many works of this nature. His artwork is humorous and contrasts the perspective of the subject and the viewer.
I is for International Klein Blue...In in 1957, artist Yves Klein worked with a chemist to chemically compose this specific hue of International Klein Blue (IKB). It is so saturated that it almost causes one's sense of depth and perspective to waver when staring into it.
J is for John & Yoko…This iconic Rolling Stone cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono was taken by Annie Leibovitz in their New York apartment. She encouraged them to disrobe for the photograph- Yoko Ono, whom John called ‘Mother’ declined, but he accepted. Joining her at the foot of their bed in fetal position, the nature of their relationship was perfectly captured. Hours later he was shot dead outside of their apartment building.
K is for Kitsch…’Kitsch’ is used to describe artwork or objects that are considered ‘lowbrow’ or excessively garish. Much of the artwork by Jeff Koons is considered kitsch, especially works from his ‘Banality Series’ such as this life sized, gilded porcelain sculpture depicting Michael Jackson and his pet chimpanzee, Bubbles completed in 1988. Its composition recalls Michelangelo’s ‘Pietá’ and the gilding diefies the subjects.
N is for Nurse…Much of Richard Prince’s artwork is created by ‘borrowing’ images, slightly altering them and calling them his own, also referred to as ‘appropriation.’ The Nurse Painting images are sourced from cheap romance novels, by scanning the book covers and digitally printing them onto the canvas, then painting over and altering them. The nurses all wear caps and surgical masks, and the titles of the artworks are borrowed from the originating book title such as ‘Debutant Nurse’ or ‘Bachelor Nurse.’
O is for Oversized…Weighing twenty tons, and standing twenty three feet tall, Urs Fischer’s cast bronze outdoor sculpture, Untitled (Lamp/Bear), from 2005-2006 depicts a well-loved yellow teddy bear with a light bulb and lamp post protruding from behind. The work of this Swiss-born, New York-based artist is usually humorous, conceptual, large scale in nature, and described as a ‘collision of things.’
P is for Pots…Ai Weiwei is constantly under the watchful eye of the Chinese governmental authorities. His work both intrigues and enrages, and loudly condemns the devastation caused by the Chinese cultural revolution. One of his series covers Neolithic Age vases from 5000-3000 BCE with industrial paint, or tags them with commercial logos, as illustrated. His most notorious performance piece was from 1995, when he documented the dropping of a ceremonial Han Dynasty Urn, claimed to be valued at $1m.
Q is for Queer…Keith Haring is widely considered one of the most important and widely known contemporary artists from the 1980s downtown New York art scene. Although formally trained at the School of Visual Arts, his artwork was heavily influenced by the vibrant street culture of the time. Often painting murals or subway, his unique visual language and graffiti style work reflects his political and societal opinions, often expressing his homosexuality. He sadly passed away at the young age of 31 of AIDS related complications.
R is for Rivalry…Introduced in 1906 by Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse developed a sometimes healthy but perpetually competitive relationship. These two titans, Matisse from northern France, and Picasso from southern Spain, had an intensely close, but yin-yang connection. They met regularly to scrutinize each others work. This both fueled their already competitive relationship but also very much inspired each artists work.
S is for Spider…Louise Bourgeois’s work explores family and domestic roles, the female body and sexuality, and the subconscious, and her artistic practice served as therapy to help her work through childhood trauma. Her family was in the tapestry restoration business, which her mother oversaw. The spider, which she referred to as ‘Maman’ is an ode to her own mother, and emerged in the late 1990s as a central image throughout her work. The bronze sculpture illustrated here is an edition of six works, and stands over thirty feet high.
T is for Text…After a short period studying painting at art school, Christopher Wool dropped out and became completely immersed in the underground music and film scene. In the early 1980s he returned to the art world and assisted artist Joel Shapiro. The idea behind his best known work, the black and white text paintings, was inspired by seeing graffiti lettering on the side of a brand new white truck. Silkscreen has been the primary tool used in his artistic practice since the 1990s.
U is for Urinal…Marcel Duchamp’s sculpture, ‘Fountain,’ was made by laying a porcelain urinal in its ‘ready made,’ ordinary, manufactured form, on its back. It is widely considered an iconic artwork of the twentieth-century. This simple, yet provocative work, single handedly fueled the argument behind the question, ‘what is art?’ Although he did not create this form himself, he made it uniquely his by altered it slightly, thus giving it a new form, meaning and purpose.
V is for Vitrine…In 1991, Damien Hirst was commissioned by British marketing mogul and art collector, Charles Saatchi, to make any artwork he wanted for £50k. He made this illustrated vitrine, holding a fourteen foot long tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde. It is titled ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ and is considered to be the iconic artwork of 1990s British contemporary art. It was later sold to New York based art collector, Steven Cohen in 2004 for approximately $12m.
W is for Walking Man…Alberto Giacometti worked primarily in figurative sculpture, drawing and painting. His figures are identified by their withered, elongated forms. In 2010, ‘Walking Man I,’ broke the record for the highest price paid for a work of art at $104.3m.
X is for Xerox…Wade Guyton primarily uses scanners, photocopiers, and digital inkjet technology to make his digital paintings on canvas. For the past five years, his work has sold for over $1m. Disgusted by the outrageously high auction estimate given by Christie’s for the work illustrated, titled ‘Untitled (Fire, Red/Black U), Guyton printed multiple copies of the painting. He documented the process and posted on Instagram the copies hung and spread out all over his studio. The posts went viral, and the work still sold for $3.5m.
Y is for YBA…In the 1980-1990s a group of visual artists began exhibiting together in London, commonly referred to as the Young British Artists, also known as the YBAs. They were notorious for their wild lifestyles, entrepreneurial nature and use of ‘shock tactics’ in their artwork. Many were collected, exhibited and supported by Charles Saatchi, and included artists such as Tracey Emin (illustrated), Damien Hirst, and Sarah Lucas.
Z is for Zoomorphic…Belgian artist, Wim Delvoye began tattooing live and dead pigs in the 1990s. He compares them to humans, noting the color, texture and nudity of their skin. The tattoos are based on his drawings, which are mostly references to pop culture and Western icons, such as the Louis Vuitton monogram.