Who Are the Greatest Living Artists? Vanity Fair Has Its Answer

Let the paint fly! Vanity Fair has released their list of the six greatest living artists. The results were compiled from a straw poll  administered by the magazine. One hundred art world players including artists, art professors, and curators were asked to name their own picks for the six most important living artists. Fifty-four responded.  And the drum roll, please:

1) Gerhard Richter- 24 votes

2) Jasper Johns- 20 votes

3)Richard Serra- 19 votes

4) Bruce Nauman- 17 votes

5) Cindy Sherman- 12 votes

6) Ellsworth Kelly- 10 votes

Notable runners-up include John Baldessari, Ai Weiwei, Kara Walker, and Ed Ruscha.

In addition to the poll, writer Mark Stevens used the results to create a profile of the contemporary art world analyzing the values that are placed upon artists and their art today. His conclusion:

“In a period whose presiding spiritual disease is narcissism, the artists we most admire play, seriously, with what we can know about who we think we are. Me, myself, and I- the modern trinity- has rarely seemed less fixed or certain”

There are other interesting findings of the poll to note and their implications. Women artists received less than 25 percent of the total number of votes cast and only two placed in the top 15; besides Sherman there is__.

Loved and loathed art characters such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince garnered less then stellar numbers, all in the single digit.

Traditional mediums such as painting and photography held weakly. The fact that most of these artists do not inhabit a strict art practice that defines them speaks to this and the values that the current art world holds. It is as though fluidity can be seen as the ideal way to discuss art and the world it inhabits.

“The preference for art its who are not tied to one genre or another, or who move among genres, reflects an impatience with customary boundaries and scales, perhaps because staying within the line seems an insufficient response to today’s world. Floaters- and Richter and Johns, despite being painters, have a lot of “float” in their sensibilities- can more easily piece together a postmodern “I” that seems to fit the moment.”


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