6 major contemporary British artists

img artisti inglesi contemporanei


Who are the contemporary British artists to know?
It’s hard to make a selection because the British art scene has produced many important artists over the last fifty years.

In this post you will find a list of exceptional artists who have changed the course of art history by blazing a new trail.

contemporary british artists


Starting with David Hockney and ending with Damien Hirst, a cross-section of the contemporary British art scene can be described.
Through a series of iconic works, contemporary British artists have explored a wide range of themes such as everyday life, loneliness, the human being, landscape, politics, religion, art history, literature, music, gender, violence or the relationship between life and death.
A sequence of artists whose careers have in some way been influenced by the experiences developed in the city of London, either because they were born there, or went there during their training, or perhaps moved there later in order to be close to the great galleries and museums, or simply to seek new creative horizons.

These British artists helped to place London in the Olympus of the artistic avant-garde, just as Florence had previously been in the Renaissance, Paris with Impressionism or New York in the second half of the 20th century. However, they placed the whole of England at centre stage, turning it into a reference point for world art.

The most important contemporary British artists have their roots in the London of the early 1960s, in the midst of economic and social transformation. A city that is the capital of a nation and that is still a point of reference for contemporary art.

David Hockney – “Portrait of an artist”.

David Hockney | ritratto

Sold at Christie’s for $90 million, the most expensive painting by a living artist encompasses a number of elements of the contemporary era in a single image.
The protagonists of the work, originally entitled “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)”, are two men: one is dressed and standing by the pool, the other is swimming in his costume.
The scene is inspired by a series of photographs that Hockney took when he was in the south of France, in the period following his break-up with his partner.
The man standing is the artist’s partner, the painter Peter Schlesinger, the man swimming is the artist.

Hockney’s painting is a fundamental moment in the history of Western painting. It is an intimate scene, in which the artist summarises his love story in a landscape in which light is the protagonist, but in which the presence of such a contemporary element as the swimming pool becomes characteristic of a precise historical moment.

Michael Craig-Martin – “An Oak Tree”

Michael Craig-Martin | An Oak Tree

Michael Craig-Martin, An Oak Tree

Sir Michael Craig-Martin is of Irish origin and is famous for encouraging and teaching many young contemporary British artists.
In fact, he was a prominent teacher of members of the Young British Artists movement in the 1980s.

Sean Scully – la serie “Landline”

Sean Scully | Landline

Sean Scully, Landline

Sean Scully was born in Dublin in 1945 and grew up in South London.
He is one of the most important painters of his generation and his work can be found in major museum collections around the world.
Although he is best known for his abstract paintings, composed of vertical and horizontal bands, tessellated blocks and geometric shapes made up of muted, shifting colours, Scully also works in a variety of different mediums, including printmaking, sculpture, watercolour and pastel.

Sean Scully revolutionised abstract painting in the 1980s, working outside of trends and fashions.

Tony Cragg – “Blown glass”

Tony Cragg | opere

Tony Cragg Curl 2020 Blown glass Photo credit Francesco Allegretto

Tony Cragg is one of the most important sculptors in the world.
His work is a constant attempt to find new relationships between people and the material world.
For Cragg, sculpture is a study of how shapes and materials influence our ideas and emotions.
Recently he has also been experimenting with the possibilities offered by a particular and ancient material such as glass, experimenting with various forms on the island of Murano.

Anish Kapoor – “Cloud Gate”

Anish Kapoor | Cloud Gate

Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate

Anish Kapoor was born in Mumbai, India, in 1954 and lives and works in London.
He is famous for his public sculptures that are masterpieces of engineering, made of different materials.
His concave or convex mirrors that reflect the landscape and the viewer have become famous, but the works in which the artist describes emptiness are just as famous.
Kapoor’s geometric shapes of the early 1980s rise up from the floor and seem to be made of pure colour, while the blood-red wax sculptures of the last ten years seem to want to create chaos.

Damien Hirst – “Mother and Child Divided”

Damien Hirst | Mother and Child Divided

Mother and Child Divided exhibition copy 2007 (original 1993) Image source: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12751

Since appearing on the international art scene in the late 1980s, Damien Hirst has created installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings that examine the complex relationships between art and beauty, religion and science, life and death.
From paintings in series of multicoloured blobs to animal specimens preserved in tanks of formaldehyde, his work challenges contemporary beliefs, describing the uncertainties that of the human experience.
In 2017, he presented his most complex exhibition in Venice with large-scale sculptures, drawings and installations.
The exhibition was “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” and the artist made a bit of a mockery of the public but also of the art world.


From 17 March to 17 July, at Palazzo Cipolla in Rome, for the first time in Italy, the exhibition “London Calling: British Contemporary Art Now”.

London Calling: British Contemporary Art Now. From David Hockney to Idris Khan
17 March 2022 – 17 July 2022
Rome, Palazzo Cipolla, Via del Corso, 320.

50 years of London art told through more than 30 magnificent works by 13 internationally renowned artists: from David Hockney to Anish Kapoor, from Jake and Dinos Chapman to Damien Hirst and Idris Khan.

The artists in the exhibition: David Hockney, Michael Craig-Martin, Sean Scully, Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor, Julian Opie, Grayson Perry, Yinka Shonibare, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Damien Hirst, Mat Collishaw, Annie Morris and Idris Khan.


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