10 Black Contemporary Artists 2024: (#8 Will Surprise You)

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Black contemporary artists are revolutionizing the art world, infusing it with narratives that challenge and enrich our understanding of identity, representation, and race. Their work, rooted in the African diaspora, offers a vital perspective on social issues and cultural diversity. This article delves into how these influential creators are redefining contemporary art, ensuring that their voices resonate in galleries and beyond. Discover the power and impact of their art as we examine the stories and conversations they inspire.

CV and Masterpieces of Black Contemporary Artists

Kara Walker

When we explore the pivotal figures among black contemporary artists, Kara Walker’s name emerges as a luminary. Walker’s compelling work plunges us into a dialogue about race, gender, and the slices of American history that many might wish to forget. Born in 1969, she has consistently captivated audiences with her distinctive use of silhouettes.

Kara Walker


Medium & Techniques

  • Silhouettes: Cut-paper installations
  • Painting: Large-scale works
  • Printmaking
  • Films
  • Installations

Walker harnesses the visual power of contrast in her narratives, often using stark black-and-white imagery to convey poignant themes. The simplicity of her silhouettes is deceptive, beckoning us closer to discovering complex stories of power and subjugation.

Her most recognizable works are the room-sized tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes. Audaciously, Walker reinvented the silhouette technique, transforming it into a medium for social commentary and historical interrogation.

Notable Themes

  • Race
  • Identity
  • Sexuality
  • Violence

Professional Highlights

  • Teaching: Walker’s influence extends into academia where she educates aspiring artists
  • Exhibitions: Prolific showings from coast to coast and internationally
  • Recognition: Renowned for her thought-provoking artistry

Walker’s artistry isn’t passive; it actively involves us in a conversation. It’s this engagement that makes her not just an artist but a chronicler of our time. Her legacy is etched in the way she has boldly framed narratives that many have tried to erase. As patrons of the arts, we’re richer for the truths that Kara Walker lays bare on the canvas of our collective conscience.

Kehinde Wiley

As we explore the dynamic world of black contemporary artists, we’re captivated by the vibrant brushstrokes of Kehinde Wiley. His unique fusion of classical and modern elements breathes new life into the realm of portraiture.

Kehinde Wiley

https://apnews.com/article/kehinde-wiley-profile-cb7dfb58be7eb728203859b4e6063cd8 (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invasion/AP)

Born in 1977, Wiley’s career skyrocketed with his lush portrayals of African-American individuals. He plunges these figures into a context historically reserved for the elite, framing them in the grandeur of Old Master paintings. His work is a testament to the beauty and power of diversity in art. Wiley’s subjects, often found during his street casting sessions, are presented with a dignity and grace that challenge the conventions of art history.

  • Known for: Reimagining traditional portraiture
  • Technique: Naturalistic, yet vibrant and bold
  • Highlighted Works: Portrait of Barack Obama
  • Residencies: Founder of Black Rock Senegal

Wiley’s global recognition soared when he painted former President Barack Obama’s official portrait. This masterpiece now hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, representing a significant milestone for artists of color.

Wiley is not just about painting; he extends his impact through Black Rock Senegal, fostering multi-disciplinary collaboration among artists worldwide. In these acts, he doesn’t just paint; he creates spaces for conversation and growth within the arts community.

Kehinde Wiley remains a compelling figure in our narrative of black contemporary artists, continuing to inspire and reshape perceptions of black identity through art.

Carrie Mae Weems

When we explore the realm of black contemporary artists, Carrie Mae Weems always stands out with her profound impact on visual arts. Born in 1953, Weems has become a pivotal figure, especially known for her powerful photography exploring themes of race, gender, and class.

Carrie Mae Weems

Internationally Renowned Artist Carrie Mae Weems Named University Artist in Residence at Syracuse University

Career Highlights:

  • Weems’ art extends beyond photography to include text, fabric, audio, and video installation
  • Her seminal work, The Kitchen Table Series, has been seminal in depicting personal and political issues
  • Weems has been celebrated for making the invisible visible, focusing intently on the black experience

Artistry and Influence:

  • With a career spanning over several decades, Weems has used her art to challenge societal norms and prompt meaningful conversations
  • Weems’ photographs often include herself as the subject, blurring the lines between art and autobiography
  • Notable exhibitions of her work provide powerful commentary on African-American identity

As an observer of history and proponent of change, Weems has always sought to stir the viewer, urging a deep contemplation on the narratives woven into her art. Through her unique perspective, we gain invaluable insights into the complexities of life as seen through the lens of one of the most compelling black contemporary artists of our time.

Kerry James Marshall

We’re diving into the world of Kerry James Marshall, a trailblazer among black contemporary artists. He ignites dialogue, paints with purpose, and shines a spotlight on African-American life through the lens of personal and historical narratives. Born in 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama, Marshall’s early experiences in a society grappling with Civil Rights have significantly influenced his art.

Kerry James Marshall

https://www.thoughtco.com/kerry-james-marshall-biography-4570818 (Rachel Murray/ Getty Images)

Key Highlights:

  • Born: October 17, 1955
  • Mediums: Painting, Drawing, Video, Installation
  • Themes: Civil Rights, African American identity, and representation

Marshall’s work is a vibrant tapestry of cultural commentaries, blending elements from different movements and styles to scrutinize the visibility of black individuals in society and art. His pieces often focus on unequivocally black protagonists, reinforcing their presence in a traditionally marginalized space.

Marshall’s artistic journey has not only been a personal crusade but a collective rise to challenge and enrich the art historical narrative. His approach is a fusion of rigor and vision, resulting in art that resonates with many and continues to influence peers and emerging artists alike.

Notable Exhibitions & Works:

  • Exhibitions: Received acclaim in prominent institutions worldwide
  • Works: Well-known pieces include large-scale paintings with black figures in contemporary settings

Recognizable for the deep, resonant black tones he employs, Marshall aims to insert blackness into the fine arts where it has often been absent. By doing so, our understanding of black identity and representation is forever enhanced.

Mickalene Thomas

We, as admirers of art, often find the vibrant tapestry of black contemporary artists utterly captivating. Amidst this panorama stands Mickalene Thomas, a name synonymous with unapologetic grandeur. Her medium is as varied as her subjects, employing acrylic, enamel, and, intriguingly, rhinestones.

Mickalene Thomas

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a29762435/mickalene-thomas-artist-interview/ (Photo by Dana Scruggs)

Born in 1971, Thomas’s work captures the essence of African-American women with a fresh lens that simultaneously celebrates and critiques societal and cultural norms. By integrating textures and patterns, Thomas’s creations are not just visual feasts but narratives draped in the rich history of African-American identity.

Career Highlights

  • Impressions: Draws inspiration from movements like Impressionism and Dada
  • Influence: Pays tribute to icons of black culture and the Harlem Renaissance

Her art does not whisper but rather shouts from the canvas, demanding attention and contemplation. This dynamic form of storytelling has afforded her notable exhibitions and recognition within the art community. We find reflections of her journey through art history, layered with the personal and collective experiences of black women.

Mickalene Thomas’s collages not only redefine the traditional bounds of beauty but affirm a powerful, reclaimed narrative. Her work is a dazzling reminder of the richness that black contemporary artists bring to the canvas of modern art.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

We often explore the rich tapestry of black contemporary artists, but Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s work truly captivates us. Born in Nigeria in 1983, Crosby’s paintings weave personal and cultural narratives, painting a world that teeters between her African heritage and Western experiences.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/oct/03/nigerian-artist-myth-authentic-african-experience-njideka-akunyili-crosby-harlem-studio-museum (Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian)

Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a name that resonates with inventiveness in the art world. Crosby’s path in the arts has taken her from Nigeria to the U.S., shaping her unique visual language. After graduating from Yale in 2011, she continued to grow as an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

  • Education: BA, Swarthmore College
  • MFA: Yale University School of Art
  • Awards: MacArthur Fellowship, 2017

Her works are characterized by their layering of different media, often combining painted images with transfers from Nigerian popular magazines, personal photographs, and fabric prints. This technique not only lends texture but also meaning, as it reflects the complex layering of identities in a globalized world.

Crosby’s intimate scenes are slices of personal space and moments of quiet reflection. What strikes us about her pieces is their ability to invite viewers into these spaces, offering a glimpse into the artist’s life and the broader experiences of the global African diaspora.

By incorporating her experiences in her art, Akunyili Crosby adds her voice to the rich mosaic of stories told by black contemporary artists. Each portrait is a conversation, each pattern is a sentence, and her canvas speaks volumes about the interwoven nature of culture and identity.

Lorna Simpson

We can’t discuss black contemporary artists without highlighting Lorna Simpson, a trailblazer whose multi-dimensional work encompasses photography, multimedia, and text. Simpson emerged in the late 1980s, critically engaging with themes of identity, gender, and race.

Lorna Simpson


  • Born: August 13, 1960
  • Mediums: Photography, Film, Ink, Sculpture
  • Themes: Identity, Gender, Race, Culture

Simpson’s work often combines photographs of black figures with evocative text to challenge viewers’ perceptions and confront stereotypical representations in visual culture. Her art exposes the multifaceted experiences of African-American women and advocates for broader perspectives on identity.

In a remarkable accomplishment, she was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1990, a milestone for black contemporary artists in a predominantly white-dominated art world.

Solo exhibition at MoMA1990
Venice Biennale exhibitor1990

Her installation pieces, such as “Guarded Conditions” and “Square Deal,” openly question the nature of stereotypes, and the interplay between historical memory and present-day context makes her work profoundly transformative.

Our appreciation for Simpson’s contribution to the art world deepens with every photograph and installation that thoughtfully bridges the past with the present, prompting a necessary dialogue about race and gender that continues to resonate within the community of black contemporary artists.

Bisa Butler

When we explore the vibrant world of black contemporary artists, Bisa Butler stands out with her striking textile portraits. Born in 1973, she’s not just making quilts; she’s weaving narratives that honor African-American identity and history. Her art captures the richness of black life through layers of skillfully chosen fabrics, each piece telling a compelling story.

Bisa Butler


Artistic Approach:

  • Medium: Quilts
  • Themes: African-American life and history
  • Style: Portraiture with vibrant and patterned textiles

Through the lens of Bisa Butler’s art, we’re transported into lives and moments full of emotion and vibrance. Her portraits are based on photographs that she brilliantly transforms, often large-scale and bursting with color, capturing the nuances of her subjects’ individuality.

Her quilts do more than just hang on a wall—they challenge the viewer, asking us to reconsider our perspectives on quilt-making and portraiture. Butler’s works have found their way into revered spaces like The Art Institute of Chicago, where they stand not merely as art pieces but as historical testaments to the black experience.

Key Exhibitions and Accolades:

  • Solo exhibitions in major cities
  • Recognition from prestigious art institutes

We’re witnessing not just beauty in Butler’s quilts but a powerful medium that stitches together past and present, celebrating the resilience and complexity of the black community. Through her hands, the stories of those depicted in her quilts take on new life, insisting on acknowledgment and remembrance.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

We often explore the vibrant world of black contemporary artists, and it’s impossible to do so without discussing the ingenious Jean-Michel Basquiat. Born in Brooklyn, his early years as a graffiti artist under the name “SAMO” set the stage for his later acclaim in the art world. Basquiat’s style was raw and emotive, a powerful commentary on topics like race, identity, and class structures.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/sep/03/jean-michel-basquiat-retrospective-barbican (Photograph: Julio Donoso/Sygma via Getty Images)

Key Achievements:

  • Rose to success during the 1980s
  • First black artist to break through New York’s predominantly white gallery world

Art Style:

  • Graffiti-inspired
  • Combined lively imagery and poetic text
  • Neo-Expressionist approach

Legacy: Basquiat’s impact extends far beyond his untimely death, with his works still commanding attention and high auction prices. His legacy lives on, cementing him as a cultural icon within the art community and among black contemporary artists. His art continues to inspire new generations, attesting to his enduring influence and pivotal role in the art history narrative.

Notable Points:

  • His work ‘Untitled’ sold for $110.5 million
  • Basquiat’s influence redefined the public’s understanding of what art could be

We remember Basquiat not just for his art, but for the doors he opened for artists of color following in his footsteps. His story is a testament to the relentless spirit of creativity that challenges the status quo and reshapes our cultural landscapes.

Faith Ringgold

We’ve witnessed a renaissance in the work of black contemporary artists, and Faith Ringgold stands as a beacon within this vibrant landscape. Her storytelling through the fabric, startling in its truth and beauty, makes us confront the layered narratives of race and gender in America.

Artistic Evolution
Ringgold’s career, enriched by the zeitgeist of the Harlem Renaissance, captures the Black experience with a raw authenticity. Her artworks are not just visually arresting, they serve as a historical conduit—educating and provoking thought. It’s not just the African American community that can see their reflections in her tapestries; it’s all of us, engulfed in the universal human experience that her work encapsulates.

Celebrated Works
Ringgold’s unique figurative style broke ground during a time when abstraction dominated the New York art scene. Her most famous pieces include:

  • “Dancing at the Louvre”
  • “The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles”
  • “The Flag is Bleeding”

Each piece, a chapter of the larger narrative she weaves, differentiates her from her contemporaries and underscores the potency of her visual narratives.

Teaching Impact
As educators, we explore Ringgold’s approach to storytelling in our workshops, discovering how to support students’ observation skills and critical thinking. The “American People” series exhibition at the New Museum exemplifies this perfectly, inviting close engagement with themes that span race, politics, and womanhood.

At 91 years young, Ringgold continues to harness her experiences and heritage to produce art that resonates across generations. Truly, her work is a testament to the power of expression that black contemporary artists hold in shaping our perceptions and conversations around societal issues.


Who are the contemporary black artists?

Contemporary Black artists include Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, Amy Sherald, Mickalene Thomas, and many others who have made significant contributions to the art world.

Who is the most celebrated African contemporary artist?

The most celebrated African contemporary artist is difficult to pinpoint definitively due to the diverse and evolving nature of the art world. However, artists like El Anatsui, Wangechi Mutu, and Julie Mehretu have gained significant international recognition for their groundbreaking work.

Who are the overlooked black artists?

The overlooked black artists include Joshua Johnson, Edmonia Lewis, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Horace Pippin, Augusta Savage, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Aaron Douglas, and others.

Who is the most influential black artist?

Kerry James Marshall is widely recognized as one of the most influential Black artists today, being included in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world in 2017.

We appreciate your time in reading our blog post about “Black Contemporary Artists.” We value your feedback and personal stories on this topic. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section to engage in the conversation. We eagerly anticipate your contributions!

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Carlo Hummel
Carlo Hummel

Greetings, I'm Carlo!

At the youthful age of 21, I've found my purpose in shedding light on the latest trends, innovative interior designs, influential artistic creations, and notable events within the dynamic landscape of contemporary culture. My passion for these aspects of life drives me to share my unique perspective with others, fostering a deeper connection to the ever-evolving world of culture and creativity. Modernity Rules!

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