The Emerging Art on Our Curator’s Wish List
One of my favorite parts of my job at Artsy is discovering and meeting emerging artists—and sharing their works with our readers. Each year, I lead our annual feature, The Artsy Vanguard, through which we celebrate the most promising emerging artists working today. I’m excited to share our next Vanguard cohort with you in early November.
On a smaller scale and more frequent cadence, I dive deep into emerging art each week to select artworks for our Curators’ Picks: Emerging collection. My process is sort of a virtual version of gallery-hopping or visiting an art fair—poring through fresh works from Artsy’s gallery partners, looking out for new artists I’ve yet to discover, or for the latest works of familiar, rising talents I’ve been admiring. Nothing compares to seeing this work in person. Yet compared to a Saturday brimming with gallery visits (on a recent day in London, I clocked 32 galleries and 12 miles!), it’s a bit more relaxing (and efficient) to do this from the comfort of my laptop, with all the art I could wish for at my fingertips.
While art is far superior to the average holiday gift, and not something one would give lightly, Artsy’s Curatorial team and I decided to assemble a few special collections for those in the collecting mood ahead of the holidays. Whether you’re looking for something for a loved one or for yourself, this special edition of my usual Curators’ Picks collection features a wide range of works by early-career artists who’ve caught my eye lately. Here, I share five works from the collection that I’m particularly excited about.
System of Culture, Gummy Watch, 2021
I’ve been eyeing this work for months ever since discovering System of Culture on Artsy. The Tokyo-based artist duo of Toshimitsu Komatsu and Yuma Sasaki was formed in 2017 and is known to create cinematic photographs and installations that draw on film as much as still lifes and 19th-century European painting. What really drew me in was the Tillmans-esque aesthetics, the seeming effortlessness, and the crisp use of light.
System of Culture’s photographs are uncanny and relatable, capturing objects of this moment, like earbuds, Invisalign trays, and Tide pods. Yet there’s also a seriousness to the work and a palpable sense of nostalgia: So many of these objects will or have become obsolete, or nod to the innocence of childhood, as is the case with Gummy Watch. I just look at this work and recall my younger self’s own candy jewelry, slap bracelets, and pale blue Baby G watch. I love how it’s earnest but undeniably whimsical.
Johanna Seidel, Rollercoaster, 2023
German-born Johanna Seidel is another artist I first discovered through Artsy and have been excited to see featured in more and more gallery shows in recent months. Her distinctive muted, pastel palette lends the work a dreaminess, which seeps through her delicate, painted scenes that blend reality and fiction. This particular work comes from her new solo show, “What my sisters taught me,” at She BAM! Lætitia Gorsy in Leipzig, Germany (on view through December 15th).
Seidel’s world-building is rich with enigma, but there’s a sense of relatability, too. In this work, four young women, presumably friends or sisters, are on a drive together, windows open. The scene feels familiar and emblematic of youth, like when someone in your friend group finally got their license. Yet zoom out, or take a look at the title, and you see that our protagonists are not just on any old drive—their little white coupe is navigating a lush, jungle-like setting. This contrast of mundane and fantastical is Seidel’s forte, as is her deft painting technique. While so much figurative painting these days can feel rote, Seidel keeps it interesting.
Murray Clarke, Nice & Warm & Feels Good, 2022
Hyperrealistic painting can often feel overwrought and plastic-y, but that’s far from true with the work of British artist Murray Clarke. His latest works, which have recently featured in galleries across Europe and the U.K., render the fine textures of woolen sweaters and tailored button-down shirts with a delectable softness.
Yet the work is not just about surface—Clarke is interested in the coldness of luxury goods and the mass consumption and manufacturing of clothing. Through painting garments again and again, he borrows from the language of advertising and questions the singular nature of painting.
Clarke’s incredible attention to teeny-tiny fibers and stitches and stripes is wondrous—so spot-on that the artist’s hand is not evident. As a result, we’re left alone with the painting, led to reflect on our relationships to material goods. This particular work, Nice & Warm & Feels Good, is truly the physical manifestation of its title, but it also makes me wonder—why am I so infatuated with a fuzzy, striped sweater?
Sophia Heymans, Ice Cradle, 2022
I’ve been an admirer of the Taos, New Mexico–based gallery The Valley for the past couple of years, following their program of fresh emerging and mid-career artists from afar via Instagram. I first learned of Brooklyn-based artist Sophia Heymans’s work through the gallery’s presentation at NADA New York this past spring.
Heymans is focused on landscape painting—particularly responding to the centuries of painters who approached the natural world as a mere backdrop for depictions of people. She paints her subjects from an aerial viewpoint, she has explained, “so that there is no clear foreground, no place for humans to claim dominance or steal the show.” The resulting works quite magically celebrate shimmering bodies of land and water, from cascading waterfalls to lush green forests and desert rock formations.
This particular work harnesses the wonder of a winter landscape. We see a frozen lake, couched in pillows of snow and dotted with dainty trees and shrubs, which are also reflected in the icy surface. I love that the lake acts as a mirror, amplifying this enchanting scene. Heymans clearly approaches the Earth with reverence and curiosity, and I can feel that in this piece.
Megan Gabrielle Harris, Communing, 2023
Megan Gabrielle Harris centers Black and Brown women in her work, portraying them in moments of repose and delight, amid serene, sweeping landscapes. Her subjects often look out or lounge before dazzling skies and swathes of green and ocher. One can’t help but slow down and take a breath upon seeing these works.
Based in Sacramento, California, Harris mines inspiration from fashion photography and the natural world, as well as the work of her father, artist Thomas Harris, whose paintings took an escapist style. She’s also influenced by her experiences and travels, having worked as a model for 10 years.
I get swept up in this particular work—with its protagonist in a soft lavender gown, sitting amid wildflowers and gazing over a tranquil lake. The calm is contagious.
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