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The Most Influential Artists in Asia of 2018


The Most Influential Artists in Asia of 2018
Last Supper, Zeng Fanzhi. Image courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

As 2018 draws to a close, The Artling brings you a round up of the year’s highlights on the Asian contemporary scope. Determined by the impact of their exhibitions, actions, works, and agency, these Asian artists have continued to shape the Asian platform of the arts and beyond. From art that spans the aesthetically interactive to the political works encompassed by the spectacle, here are our most influential artists of 2018.

Image courtesy of Asia Society 

Zao Wou-Ki 

Netting a 2,735 percent return at this Sotheby’s Modern and contemporary art auction in October, Zao Wou-Ki’s painting Juin-Octobre (1985), a 33 by 9-foot triptych, set a new auction record for the artist. Selling for $65 million, it successfully exceeded its pre-sale high estimate of $45 million. His influence has consistently set the benchmark for Asian abstract painting, and presence still accurately gauged through his dominance in major auction houses such as Christies and Sotheby’s across Asia.

Zao, a Chinese-French artist, spent most of his life in France until his passing in 2013. His distinctive style of abstract-expressionist painting has resulted in him being cited as one of the most influential contemporary artists, with the price tag on his works at auction houses resulting in him joining the ranks of “postwar American contemporaries like Willen de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman”.


Takashi Murakami

In 2018 alone, Takashi Murakami exhibited with blue-chip galleries such as Gagosian and Perrotin from Shanghai to Los Angeles, worked on projects alongside Virgil Abloh, artistic director of Louis Vuitton, and still found time to host Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in his studio.

Having coined ‘Superflat’, a postmodern art movement some 20 odd years ago, Murakami shows no signs of slowing down. His influence on contemporary pop art movements to mainstream ‘hype’ fashion establishments is incomparable as supported by his whopping 1 million followers on Instagram. Having been cited as the ‘Andy Warhol of Asia’, Murakami easily makes it onto our 2018 list of most influential artists, and at the rate he’s going, perhaps for the years to come.

Christine Ay Tjoe

The field of Asian contemporary art is no doubt a male-dominated one, and yet Christine Ay Tjoe consistently trumps its Indonesian scope. You can find Ay Tjoe within the ranks of the highest grossing Indonesian contemporary artists, alongside names such as Masriadi and Heri Dono. Her dynamic works, contextually sound and encapsulated by the inspiration of spirituality, continues to push the boundaries of what it means to be a successful contemporary in our era.

2018 saw Ay Tjoe’s first Japanese Solo show, hosted by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary art in Kanagawa, featuring 53 works over two decades of her artistic production. She has also exhibited internationally at spaces such as the White Cube in London, the Grand Palais in Paris and Cornell University’s Johnson Museum in New York.

Zeng Fanzhi, Bacon and Meat, 2008. Image courtesy of Hauser & Wirth. 

Zeng Fanzhi

Known for his “Mask” series and widely regarded as one of China’s most important contemporary artists, Zeng Fanzhi still remains one of few Chinese artists to be represented by western blue-chip galleries.

This year, Zeng joined Hauser & Wirth’s roster. Whilst a release noted his continuing relationship with Gagosian and ShanghART, Hauser & Wirth did not hesitate in conceiving a solo exhibition entitled ‘Zeng Fanzhi. In the Studio’ spanning three locations – Zurich, London and Hong Kong, with each locale featuring works that have never been exhibited before. Zeng’s influential works have been brought together in an effort to examine the possibilities of painting in our contemporary era, continuing to convey a certain meditation on human experience and nature of perception.

Installation view of Ai Weiwei: Life Cycle Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Marciano Art Foundation

Ai Weiwei

Speaking on the second occasion of his studio being destroyed by Chinese authorities, Ai Weiwei states to NPR: Compared to a society which has never established trust in the social order, a trust in the rule of law, or a trust in any kind of unity in defending the rights of its people, what has been lost at my studio is insignificant, and I don’t even care,” Ai told NPR. “There are profoundly deeper and wider ruins in this deteriorating society where the human condition has never been respected.”

The waves that Ai’s works, with the events that surround him, are unlike any other. His active presence on social media highlights the trials and tribulations he tolerates in the face in political adversity, garnering him a spotlight in relation to all its downfalls. Indubitably influential in its political sense, his works, being and agency consistently bring to light the contextual academia behind his creations. Allowing viewers to acknowledge the stark connections between product and pretence.

Yayoi Kusama, Flower Obsession, Installation view at the National Gallery Victoria. Image courtesy of the NGV. 

Yayoi Kusama

A household name in the world of contemporary art, Kusama, like Murakami, shows no signs of slowing down. After ‘Life is the Heart of a Rainbow’ at the National Gallery Singapore in 2017 which showcased her 70 years of artistic expression, Kusama’s show went on to Melbourne’s National Gallery Victoria as part of the NGC Triennial through to 2018. Kusama’s show, ‘Infinity Mirrors’ organised by the Hirshhorn, has additionally been on show since February of 2017, travelling from Washington to Seattle, Los Angeles, Toronto, Cleveland, and is now in the High Museum of Art where it will end its tour in 2019.

‘My Heart is Dancing to the Universe’, Kusama’s 12th show with Victoria Miro in London, was sold out before it was set to begin before Frieze week. Opening before the artist’s 90th birthday, Kusama’s energetic vibrance did not cease, with this show exhibiting never before seen works that included infinity rooms perfect for Instagram selfie culture.


With 10 ongoing exhibitions spanning three continents, teamLab additionally falls effortlessly onto our list of most influential Asian artist due to the impact it has on social media. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being in the presence of a teamLab work, you’ve probably already shared it on a platform yourself. In short, it’s incredibly ‘instagrammable’. Going off the premise that “the digital domain can expand the capacities of art, and that digital art can create new relationships between people”, teamLab engages its audience through a wide variety of interactive artworks.

In all of their works, viewers have the capacity to instigate perpetual change, becoming an intrinsic park of the overall artwork. From drawing a car, scanning it, and seeing it show up on the big screen alongside illustrations by other museum goers, teamLab prides itself on the modes in which they make art wholly accessible, to anyone and everyone within the masses.

Haegue Yang, Mountains of Encounter, 2008, Aluminum venetian blinds, powder-coated aluminum hanging structure, steel wire rope, moving spotlights, floodlights, cable , Dimensions variable, Museum Ludwig, Köln, joint acquisition with the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst on the occasion of the 2018 Wolfgang Hahn Prize Installation view of Haegue Yang: ETA 1994–2018, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2018, © Haegue Yang

Haegue Yang

Haegue Yang has had a whirlwind year, winning the Republic of Korea Culture and Arts Award as well as being the first female Asian artist to win the 2018 Wolfgang Hahn Prize, one that seeks to honor artists who have achieved international fame and success but have yet to garner the attention in Germany’s context.

Yang’s works have been described as ranging from Minimalism to Conceptual Art, from classical sculpture to participatory elements, spanning multiples genres that establish her consistency as an artist of her time. Whilst Yang has yet to garner that aforementioned awareness in Europe, she’s incredibly established within Asia’s context, and we can only expect her level of influence to rise in the coming years.

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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