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Who are the top Black and African American visual artists in today’s contemporary art world? Who are the names to know, and who are the up-and-coming stars of the future? We’re sharing our curated list of almost 40 of the best, most famous, expensive and influential Black and African American art and artists, including painters, photographers and sculptors. There are many more, so consider this just a small sample of the exceptional names we should know, seek out and celebrate.

famous and influential black and african american artists in the world of contemporary art

This list of notable Black and African American visual artists could have easily been over one hundred names long. But one has to start somewhere. We’re sharing the names and work of over 30 of the most influential Black visual artists working in the mediums of painting, photography and sculpture.

contemporary artists to know

These are names that anyone interested in contemporary art and culture should know. Especially collectors! We’ve aimed to share a mix of prominent names and emerging artists. Their work has and will continue to impact the perception of what constitutes valuable art worthy of honor and attention.

Even if you’re not planning to start a collection of their work, you can always just sit back and reflect on their powerful imagery and themes. And then head to a gallery or museum exhibit to show your support of these extraordinary artists.

famous and influential black and african american artists to know right now

1. Nina Chanel Abney.

Nina Chanel Abney describes her art as “easy to swallow, hard to digest.” The Chicago native is based in NY. She paints in a graphic and disjointed style with a boldly, colorful palette. She explores powerful themes of race, politics, celebrity, sex and gender through a frenetic 21st century lens.

Her work which is a confluence of current events and her own personal experience. It is included in collections around the world. This includes the Brooklyn Museum, The Rubell Family Collection, Bronx Museum, and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong.

2. Derrick Adams

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, multidisciplinary artist Derrick Adams later found his way to New York City.  He earned his BFA from the Pratt Institute and his MFA from Columbia University and still resides in Brooklyn today.

Adams has worked with every medium from film to sculpture to painting. He is known for combining unexpected materials and forms to great effect. His work “probes the influence of popular culture on the formation of self-image” and “is deeply immersed in questions of how African American experiences intersect with art history, American iconography, and consumerism.” In his series Floaters, he creates a joyful series of portraits depicting Black leisure.

Penn Station NYC murals

If you’ve recently set foot in New York’s Penn Station, you may have noticed the installation of leafy green murals throughout the terminal. Those are Adams’ creations, and their soothing presence is enough to consider boarding a train at the old Penn Station instead of at Moynihan. The piece is called “The City is my Refuge.”

3. Radcliffe Bailey

Radcliffe Bailey passed away at the age of 55 in 2023, a heart-breaking loss of a marvelous talent. He used a mixed-media practice to delve into his black heritage and childhood in the South. He was known to employ paint, traditional African sculpture, tintype photography, clay, and other ephemera in order to make the personal, universal.

His works are held all over the United States. His collections can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.

4. Amoako Boafo

After attending the Ghanatta College of Art and Design in Accra, award-winning Ghanian painter Amaoko Boafo continued his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. He still lives today.

Boafo is best known for his striking portraiture, whose bold appearance is achieved through a unique finger-painting technique.  He paints Black subjects from all over the globe, showcasing the multitude of different forms the Black experience can take.

His pieces have been displayed in many of the world’s most renowned art museums. This includes the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Guggenheim, and Vienna’s Albertina Museum. In 2022, he debuted his first solo show at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, titled Amoako Boafo: Soul of Black Folks.

5. Mark Bradford

Born in 1961 in Los Angeles, California, award-winning artist Mark Bradford received both his BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. Though he has worked in a variety of mediums, Bradford is best known for his abstract pieces. They are constructed with a combination of paint, collage, and found objects.

Some of Bradford’s best-known pieces have taken the form of abstracted maps, which he creates in order to interrogate the oppressive social systems impacting Black communities. In his well-known piece Scorched Earth, Bradford depicts the area that had once been known as Black Wall Street, prior to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

awards and honors

Bradford has received numerous accolades throughout his career, including the MacArthur Genius Award, the Whitney Biennial’s Bucksbaum Award for Distinction, and recognition with Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2021. His work has been exhibited in museums all over the world. This includes Maryland’s Baltimore Museum of Art, China’s Long Museum, New York’s Whitney Museum, and Portugal’s Serralves. Currently, his solo show The Underdogs is on display at Museo de Arte Zapopan in Mexico.

6. Bisa Butler

Raised in South Orange, New Jersey, textile artist Bisa Butler received her first recognition for her artistic talents when she was just four years old. She later went on to graduate cum laude from Howard University. She then continued her education with an MFA from Montclair State University.

First training as a painter, it was not until her master’s degree that Butler discovered textiles. She had grown up watching her mother and grandmother sew, and she felt a natural connection with this new medium. Her quilted portraits offer a celebration of Black life, incorporating an extraordinary level of detail into the fibers.

If you’d like to visit her artwork in person, you can make your way to the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Newark Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, as well as others. Butler had a busy 2022. She received the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship and debuted two new pieces at Art Basel. This year she will premiere two additional pieces at New York’s Jeffrey Deitch.

7. Jordan Casteel

Born in Denver, Colorado, Jordan Casteel is known best for painting from her own photographs of people she encounters in daily life. With an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale School of Art, she now lives and works in New York City. At age 31, she’s catching fire. Forty of her works were on view at the New Museum for the solo show “Within Reach” (her first New York City museum show) when the coronavirus intervened earlier this year. The New York Times art critic described the show as having “a distinct sense of being let in on a casual but celebratory gathering, like a potluck or a block party.”

Casteel’s “Portrait of Her ‘Mom” sold for nearly $667,000 in February 2020, a new record for the artist.

Vogue magazine invited Casteel and Kerry James Walker to create new works for the covers of the September 2020 issue. They had complete freedom over their choice of subject. Casteel chose to portray fashion designer Aurora James. Aurora James made headlines in June with her 15 Percent Pledge, a campaign to support black-owned businesses by making their products 15% of the shelf space in leading retail stores (she’s wearing a dress designed by Pyer Moss.) That’s some serious Black Girl Magic right there.

8. Nick Cave

Born in Fulton, Missouri in 1959, the multi-talented Nick Cave is not only an acclaimed sculptor – he is also trained as a professional dancer, having studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Before studying dance, Cave received his BFA in fiber arts at the Kansas City Art Institute. He later went on to receive his MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Currently, he resides in Chicago, where he acts as director for the fashion program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Cave’s most recognizable creations are his remarkable Soundsuits, which are armor-like sculptures that are reminiscent of African ceremonial costumes. They are constructed from everyday objects, including buttons, beads, fabric, metal and more. These suits offer conversation on topics of race and gender, because they can conceal the wearer’s true identity.

New Yorkers may have seen Cave’s 2022 piece Each One, Every One, Equal All, which was commissioned as a permanent mosaic and sound installation for the Time Square subway station. His work has also been included in countless solo and group exhibitions. It is held in the public collections of the High Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and many more.

9. Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Born and raised in Nigeria but now based in LA, Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a figurative painter who layers paint, fabric, and photography into collages that “lure the viewer into a riptide of images that tell complex narratives about dislocation and transcultural daily life.”

While her source imagery often references her African heritage, Akunyili Crosby’s works also frequently depict her experiences living in the United States and the point of contact where cultures meet. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Hammer Museum, and the Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach), among others.

10. Derek Fordjour

Derek Fordjour was born in 1974 in Memphis, Tennessee to parents of Ghanaian heritage. He earned a BA at Morehouse College before receiving an MEd in Arts Education at Harvard University and an MFA in painting at Hunter College. He was recently appointed the Alex Katz Chair at Cooper Union and serves as a Core Critic at the Yale School of Art. He was named the 2016 Sugarhill Museum Artist-in-Residence and the 2018 Deutsche Bank NYFA Fellow.

11. Charles Gaines

Born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1944, Charles Gaines was raised in Newark, New Jersey. He earned his BA from Jersey City College. He was also the first African American to receive his MFA from the School of Art and Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Gaines is a conceptual artist, and is known for his grid-like paintings, as well as his work in other mediums, such as film and photography. Though his art may not appear to have political or racial meaning, conceptual art is innately interested in these ideas.

You can visit Gaines’ creations in the home of many permanent collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hammer Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum.

12. Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates is a unique figure in the artworld. As well as working with mediums like paint and sculpture, he creates art that exists at the intersection of installation and urban planning, with a focus on reclaiming and restoring space within Black communities. He “contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise – one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist.”

Born and raised in Chicago, Gates is a graduate of Iowa State University and the University of Cape Town. He is a professor at the University of Chicago, in the Department of Visual Arts. He has received copious awards throughout his career, and has notable works on display at the Whitney, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Tate. In 2022, he designed the Black Chapel for the Serpentine Pavilion in London.

In his just-closed exhibit at New York’s New Museum, Young Lords and Their Traces, Gates created a memorial for figures such as Virgil Abloh and Sam Gilliam, as well as other powerful Black artists who died too soon.

13. Rashid Johnson

Rashid Johnson is a leading artist who works across multiple media, including works that leverage a wide range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects, installations, videos, and performances.

The good news is that while he works are in high demand and sold for seven-figure prices, we can all see his work in prominent public spaces. Johnson was one of six artists commissioned in 2022 by the Queens Museum, New York, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to create a site-specific, permanent installation for Delta Airlines’ new terminal at the La Guardia Airport in Queens, New York. In 2021, the Metropolitan Opera, New York, commissioned Johnson to create large-scale artworks for its opera house, and a major outdoor sculpture by Johnson was installed at Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York.

14. Titus Kaphar

Known as a painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and installation artist, Titus Kaphar works through deconstructive techniques of cutting, shredding, stitching, binding, and erasing. And even the painting process itself comes to the embody the ongoing struggle for identity, visibility and recognition.

His physical manipulations reckon with the nation’s racial past and connect it to contemporary concerns. In 2018, he received a “Genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

15. Deanna Lawson

Born in Rochester, New York in 1979, photographer Deana Lawson graduated with a BFA from Penn State University. She then went on to receive her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Art and Design. These days, lives in Brooklyn.

Her photographs are famous for the intimate way she represents and celebrates the many nuances of Blackness in America, and for her meticulous staged scenes of life in the home. Her work conveys the details of the everyday in a way that few have managed. She has gone on to photograph subjects around the world, including in Jamaica, Haiti, and Ethiopia.

Lawson was the only photographer to ever receive the Hugo Boss Prize from the Guggenheim Museum, as 2022 was the final year for the award. Her work has been shown at the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and in other major art institutions around the globe.

16. Simone Leigh

Brooklyn artist and trained ceramicist, Simone Leigh works primarily with sculpture, often combining premodern techniques and materials with objects associated with the African diaspora. Cowrie shells, plantains, tobacco leaves, Nigerian ibeji figures and nineteenth-century African American face jugs. Leigh creates objects and environments that reframe stereotypes associated with the black female experience and to ultimately,  celebrate black life.

Some of her solo and group presentations include the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Whitney Museum of America Art, New York; and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.

17. Glen Ligon

A graduate of Wesleyan University, Glenn Ligon is a New York-based artist known for his text-based paintings. His work incorporates the words of legendary Black writers, such as Richard Pryor, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Baldwin.

He has been recognized globally for his unique creations, with solo shows at the Whitney, the New Museum, Musée D’Orsay, and elsewhere. His work can be found in the permanent collection of many of the world’s most prominent museums, including the Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, and Centre Pompidou.

18. Whitfield Lovell

Born in 1959 in the Bronx, Whitfield Lovell is a graduate of the Cooper Union School of Art. He is known for his portraits of Black Americans. Many of which are site-specific – created directly on the walls of a particular location. Often using crayon, pencil, or charcoal, Lovell will pair his subjects with found objects to compelling effect.

A MacArthur Genius Award recipient, Lovell has received numerous other awards and recognitions across his career. His work can be found in permanent collections across the country. This includes  the High Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and New York’s Modern Museum of Art.

19. Kerry James Marshall

A major career survey, Kerry James Marshall: MASTRY, was shown in 2016-17 at the Met Breuer in New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. That was the exhibition that cemented his stature as a painter. It put the artist’s name on the lips of contemporary art collectors all over the world. That’s where we first saw his work, and we still can’t take our eyes off of it.

Marshall was born in Alabama in 1955 and grew up in Watts, Los Angeles. He is a 1978 graduate of the Otis College of Art and Design and currently lives and works in Chicago.

His work represents the full scope, depth and richness of black life in America in way that has never really been done before. He shows black families having a picnic by the lake. Black lovers locked in a romantic embrace in a park in the spring. Harriet Tubman in a tender portrait with her husband. These images unlock a deep sense of our common humanity that’s without precedent in contemporary art.

They clearly strike a chord with others: the artist set a new sale price record of $21.1 million in 2018. We were delighted to learn that Marshall has been hard at work during the Great Lockdown of 2020. Inspired by John James Audubon, Marshall has just shared two paintings that explore the societal “pecking order.” They show black birds against a sapphire blue sky, and dovetail with “this mystery about whether or not Audubon himself was Black.” We can’t wait to see what happens next.

20. Julie Mehretu

Abstract artist Julie Mehretu was born in Addas Ababa, Ethiopia, and grew up in East Lansing, Michigan. After receiving her BFA from Kalamazoo College, she continued on to the Rhode Island School of Art and Design to complete her MFA. She is best-known for her breathtaking abstract paintings, and follows in the footsteps of other renowned Black abstractionists, such as Norman Lewis and Alma Thomas.

She was included in Time’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2020, and was a 2005 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award. Dozens of her pieces have found homes in prestigious permanent collections, including The Broad, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Centre Pompidou, and the Guggenheim.

21. Meleko Mokgosi

Botswana-born and Brooklyn-based, Meleko Mokgosi believes that it is incumbent on “first-world” viewers to understand that “the world doesn’t revolve around them. There are other histories.”

His large-scale paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures center around ideas of colonialism and democracy. They are heavy influenced by strongly influenced by cinema, psychoanalysis and critical theory. Last year, he had three solo shows at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art in Ann Arbor, the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, and at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami.

22. Zanele Muholi

Born in 1972 in Umalzi, Durban, Zanele Muholi earned their MFA from Ryerson University, and currently lives in Johannesburg.

They are nonbinary, and they identify as a visual activist, rather than an artist – they use their photography and film as a way of representing and advocating for the LGBT community of South Africa. One of their best-known series is “Faces and Phases,” which began in 2006; this series includes hundreds of portraits of Black lesbians who are photographed looking directly at the camera.

They have been included in solo and group exhibitions around the world, and their photographs are held in the permanent collections of the Tate Modern, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, and many other museums.

23. Toyin Ojih Odutola

Nigerian American artist Toyin Ojiih Odutola is famous for her detailed multimedia drawings, which have been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

Odutola is perhaps best known for her distinctive style, which utilizes pens, pencils, and charcoal to render skin in exquisite detail. Though not her only subject matter, the depiction of skin has been at the forefront of many of her most notable pieces. She also uses her work to explore issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality, as well as her experience as an immigrant in America.

24. Jennifer Packer

Jennifer Packer creates enigmatic portraits, interior scenes, and still-lifes which she hopes “suggest how dynamic and complex our lives and relationships really are.” Her models are typically friends or family members. These models are always posed in relaxed settings, unaware of the artist’s or viewer’s gaze.

In this way, Packer’s portraits critique the art historical “gaze” and address the privilege of viewership.

25. Faith Ringgold

Born in Harlem in 1930, Faith Ringgold is most well known for her painted narrative quilts which are informed by her civil rights and political activism. Ringgold chose the medium of “story quilts” in part because she had limited access to materials and space for storage.

With quilts, she could simply roll them up when she needed to move. Her works have been acquired by the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Harvard Arts Museums, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

26. Deborah Roberts

Based in Austin, Texas, artist Deborah Roberts specializes in mixed media collage. She graduated with an MFA from Syracuse University, and has since gone on to great success – her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Guggenheim Museum, and many others.

She uses her art to challenge the notions of an ideal standard of beauty. In her artist statement, she speaks of the impact that Renaissance paintings and fashion magazines had on her as a young, Black woman who did not see herself in the images promoted as “beautiful.” In this way, her work serves as social commentary. She strives to create a new standard of beauty for our time.

27. Betye Saar

The subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the fall of 2019, Betye Saar is a groundbreaking artist. Saar grew up in Los Angeles and Pasadena, California. She studied design at the University of California, Los Angeles. While her work has always been concerned with spirituality, cosmology, and family, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., her mystical assemblages became increasingly radical and focused on race in America.

In an interview, Saar notes “To me the trick is to seduce the viewer. If you can get the viewer to look at a work of art, then you might be able to give them some sort of message.”

28. Amy Sherald

Baltimore based painter and portraitist Amy Sherald renders her black subjects exclusively in grisaille – an absence of color that directly challenges perceptions of black identity. As shown in her famous portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama, Sherald offsets this against a vibrant palette and abstract background. Her subjects seem suspended in space and time, yet their assertive and expressive gazes force viewers to “ponder the thoughts and dreams of the black men and women she has depicted.”

Sherald was the first woman and first African-American ever to receive first prize in the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

29. Lorna Simpson

Born in 1960 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Lorna Simpson attended the borough’s High School of Art and Design. Later on went to earn her BFA from New York’s School of Visual Arts, and her MFA from the University of California, San Diego.

By the time of her 1985 graduation, she was already a premiere voice in the world of conceptual photography. Her works are large-scale, and engage with their subjects intimately. This is in such a way that forces the viewer to contend with questions of race, gender, identity, and relationship. Over the course of her career, she has become known for the use of many different artistic mediums, including video, installation, collage, and painting.

Her work has been seen at both the Venice Biennale and at Documenta, and can be found in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, and Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

30. Ming Smith

She is first Black female photographer to have her work displayed by New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Artist Ming Smith is originally from Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from Howard University in 1973, she found her way to New York where she still lives today.

She describes her photography – which consists mostly of vibrant portraits of Black subjects – as “celebrating the struggle.” As well as using her camera to capture spontaneous moments, she also photographed many iconic figures. This includes Alice Coltrane, Grace Jones, Nina Simone, and Alvin Ailey, and others.

31. Henry Taylor

From racial inequality, homelessness, and poverty, to the importance of family and community, LA-based painter Henry Taylor says, “My paintings are what I see around me…they are my landscape paintings.”

Taylor grew up in Oxnard, California where he worked as a psychiatric technician before attending the California Institute of the Arts. Here he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. We were introduced to his work when we visited the 2017 Whitney Biennial in New York. We’ve been following him ever since.

According to his gallery, recently Taylor has begun collecting emptied Clorox bleach bottles, which when spray painted black and inverted on broomsticks take the form of African tribal masks or dancing statues.

His solo exhibitions include the floaters, a public art installation on the High Line and a 2012 exhibit at MoMA PS1. Taylor’s work has been included in group shows at the 58th Venice Biennale; the Studio Museum in Harlem; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

32. Mickalene Thomas

Originally from Camden, New Jersey, Mickalene Thomas received her BFA from the Pratt Institute and her MFA from Yale University. Now a New York resident, she is known for her impossible-to-forget, mixed-media paintings. They include a mix of materials such as rhinestones acrylic and enamel.

She uses these works – as well as her work in other mediums, such as film, sculpture, photograph, and installation – to explore the nuances of Black female identity in the Western world.

Thomas is the recipient of numerous awards within the art world. Her pieces are on display in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Modern Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and many more.

33. Hank Willis Thomas

Conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas is certainly having a moment in the spotlight. Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, and a graduate of New York University and California College of the Arts, the New York artist has recently made several major debuts.

Thomas is the artist who conceived of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial that was recently unveiled in Boston. Called The Embrace, the large-scale sculpture is based on a photograph of Dr. King hugging wife Coretta Scott King. And Thomas also designed the sculpture Opportunity (Reflection) which was on display at the State Farm Stadium during the Super Bowl. It was then moved to the Arizona State University Art Museum. He is certainly an artist we will all continue to have on our radar.

As well as these buzz-worthy pieces, Thomas’s permanent installations include Unity, in Brooklyn, New York; Raise Up, in Alabama; and All Power to All People in Florida.

34. Kara Walker

Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California, in 1969. She received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991, and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. The artist is best known for exploring the raw intersection of race, gender, and sexuality through her iconic, silhouetted figures.

Walker exploded onto the contemporary art scene with an exhibit where she upended the traditionally proper Victorian medium of the silhouette. Painting directly onto the walls of the gallery, she created a space in which unruly cut-paper characters – both black and white -fornicate and inflict violence on one another.

Her work has since been shown at MoMA; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Guggenheim; and the Whitney. A 1997 recipient of the MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, Walker is also a sculptor. The monumental 2014 work A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby was installed in the former Domino sugar factory on the Brooklyn waterfront. And her work Fons Americanus was the prestigious annual commission for the Tate Modern’s iconic Turbine Hall.

35. Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems is known as one of our greatest living photographers. Her “The Kitchen Table Series” (1989-90), made her career. It represented the first time an African-American woman could be seen reflecting her own experience and interiority in her art. Weems has said, “Photography can be used as a powerful weapon toward instituting political and cultural change,” she has said. “I for one will continue to work toward this end.”

She was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” grant in 2013. Her work has been included at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and The Tate Modern, London.

36. Kehinde Wiley

Most famous for his 2018 presidential portrait of President Barack Obama, Kehinde Wiley is a LA native. He currently works between New York and Beijing. His distinctive portraits feature black men and women in a Photo Realist style. His colorful background patterns reference textiles and decorative patterns of various cultures, from 19th-century Judaica paper cutouts to Martha Stewart’s interior color swatches.

Wiley’s penchant for these juxtapositions seek to complicate notions of group identity. In addition to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the artist’s works are currently held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Denver Art Museum, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

37. Frank Wimberley

Born in 1926 in a New Jersey suburb, abstract painter Frank Wimberley studied his craft at Howard University. As well as working with professors like Lois Maïlou Jones and James Amos Portner, Wimberley also developed a friendship with the legendary Miles Davis while he was at school.

Wimberley’s paintings can be found in the permanent collections of the Parrish Art Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Islip Art Museum, New York’s Time Warner Center, and more.

He is a longtime resident of Sag Harbor.

38. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

British oil painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye draws from traditional formal considerations in line, color, and scale. However her paint technique is contemporary.

Working rapidly and intuitively, she often completes her dramatic compositions in a day. Her subjects are fictitious black men and women – from found images and her own imagination. She is included in numerous institutional collections. These collections range from the Tate Collection, London to The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

famous and influential black and african american contemporary artists

Those are some of the best, most famous, expensive and influential Black and African American art and artists in the world, including painters, photographers and sculptors.

There are so many brilliant and influential black visual artists that it’s impossible to capture them all in one short dispatch. But here are over 30 to get to know better. And we promise, we’ll be adding more to this list in the future!

Pamela Thomas-Graham

Pamela Thomas-Graham is the Founder & CEO of Dandelion Chandelier. She serves on the boards of several tech companies, and was previously a senior executive in finance, media and fashion, and a partner at McKinsey & Co.