The 10 Highest-Ranking Contemporary Artists

Thriving contemporary art, spaces for talented artists. Top buyers: Americans, Chinese, British, French. Who breaks auction records? Explore today's art scene with top 10 artists.

By Cécile Martet | 09 Aug 2023

1. Christopher Wool

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Christopher Wool, "Apocalypse Now," 1988, enamel and Flashe on aluminum (84 x 72 inches), © Christopher Wool, with the kind permission of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Born in 1955, Christopher Wool is an American artist who has been active since the late 1980s. His work is instantly recognizable: large black letters painted on a white background. He draws inspiration from urban art and explores themes of banality and repetition. Since the 2000s, his works have become more abstract, featuring black lines painted with spray paint or screen printing. Highly regarded, his iconic piece "Apocalypse Now" sold for $26 million in 2013.

2. Peter Doig

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Peter Doig, "100 years ago," 2001, Centre Pompidou - National Museum of Modern Art, Photo (C) Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat - (C) Peter Doig

Peter Doig has been the most highly valued contemporary artist for several years. A figurative painter, this unassuming 58-year-old Scot is the second-highest-selling artist after the late Jean-Michel Basquiat. His style draws inspiration from German Romantics and masters like Munch. He primarily paints wild or abandoned landscapes, often inhabited by solitary figures. In 2016, one of his paintings sold for nearly 13 million euros.

3. Damien Hirst

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
The bronze sphinx found in the wreckage of L’Incroyable, a ship chartered in the 1st century AD by Cif Amotan II, a vast collector of ancient art, belongs to Damien Hirst. Photo by Prudence Cuming Associates / Damien Hirst and Science Ltd / DACS/SIAE 2017 - Displayed at the François Pinault Foundation in Venice in 2017.

Damien Hirst is widely recognized by the general public for his dissected animals displayed in tanks filled with blue liquid. Despite his fascination with the theme of death, this English artist is remarkably prolific and diverse in his creations. In 2017, he conceived a remarkable exhibition in Venice ("Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable"), a dramatic presentation of imagined sunken treasures brought to the surface. Damien Hirst has consistently ranked among the world's top 10 highest-earning artists for several years. In 2007, his artwork "For the Love of God," a diamond-encrusted skull, sold for a staggering 74 million euros, setting a record.

4. Richard Prince

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Richard Prince, “Untitled (Cowboy)”, 1989, Guggenheim Museum New York, (C) Richard Prince

Richard Prince is perhaps one of the most controversial contemporary artists. This American photographer and visual artist has often made a name for himself through the appropriation (some might say theft) of photographs assembled into collages. He garnered significant attention in 2014 with a controversial exhibition composed entirely of screenshots of portraits from Instagram. Notably, Prince initially gained recognition with "Cowboy," created from a cigarette advertisement. In 2005, this work became the first photograph to exceed a million dollars in value.

5. Anselm Kiefer

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Anselm Kiefer, “Bohemia Lies by the Sea”, 1996 - photography by mma, MET New York, (C) Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer, born in 1945, is a recognized German artist who has been established in the art world for several decades now. He famously stated, "History for me is a material, like landscape or color." He creates canvases saturated with texture, evoking the devastations of history, especially those of World War II. In 2007, one of his works set a record by selling for 2.4 million euros.

6. Adrian Ghenie

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Adrian Ghenie, “Nickelodeon,” 2008, Credit Adrian Ghenie, via Christie's Images Ltd. 2016

Adrian Ghenie is a Romanian painter whose style and works are often compared to those of Francis Bacon. He gained recognition relatively recently, in the mid-2000s. His artworks notably depict portraits of prominent dictators with faded faces, fallen into oblivion, within a universe of ruin. In 2016, his painting "Nickelodeon" was auctioned at Christie's London for 9 million dollars, a record for this emerging artist.

7. Mark Grotjahn

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Mark Grotjahn, "Untitled (Face for Greece 843)," 2009. Courtesy Mark Grotjahn

California-born artist Mark Grotjahn, born in 1968, reached new heights in 2017 with a sale of $16.8 million. This abstract painter began his journey in the art world in the late 1990s and is now highly esteemed among collectors. His highly graphic works with colorful lines create the illusion of perspective, and his color choices often rely on chance. He also translates his painting ritual into three dimensions with his "Masks."

8. Rudolf Stingel

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Rudolf Stingel, “Untitled”, 2012, Cast Galvanized Copper, (C) Rudolf Stingel

A prolific artist born in Italy in 1956, Rudolf Stingel centers his artistic production on the interplay between abstraction and figuration. He incorporates a play of material and texture in many of his works, which are also imbued with themes of memory and the concept of permanence. His market value surged starting in 2007, and in May 2017, one of his portraits from the "After Sam" series was auctioned for over $10 million.

9. Zeng Fanzhi

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Zen Fanzhi, “Van Gogh III”, 2017, Photo Van Gogh Museum, (C) Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi, a Chinese painter, gained recognition through his "Mask" series, depicting figures concealed behind smiling masks with a Pop art aesthetic. His work draws inspiration from Chinese history, his personal experiences, and the great masters of Western Art history. His most iconic artwork, "The Last Supper," set a record by selling for $23.3 million in 2008 at an auction in Hong Kong.

10. Yoshitomo Nara

Les 10 artistes contemporains les plus cotés
Yoshitomo Nara, “Cosmic girl (eyes open)”, 2008, (C) Yoshitomo Nara

Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara is associated with the Nippon Pop art movement. Children and animals take center stage in his works; beneath their seemingly light and naive appearance lies a distinct sense of solitude and underlying anger. The "Cosmic Girl," a young and rebellious figure, epitomizes his compositions characterized by minimalism. His most valued pieces currently command prices exceeding $3 million.

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