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Keith Haring artwork from City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of the City of New YorkKeith Haring artwork from City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection

NYC’s most iconic artists

These are the 10 visionaries who shaped New York City—and were shaped by it

Time Out in association with Land Rover

New York City has always been a haven for artists. Whether drawn here by the city’s booming creative culture, majestic beauty, or endless energy, they came in droves; inspired by the city’s rhythms, movement and people, they immersed themselves in it, drawing upon its flow to create works of unparalleled beauty. Some of the greatest artistic minds humanity has ever known have traveled the very same streets the rest of us take every day—whether on foot, by bus, or by Range Rover Evoque.

The city's most iconic artists

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Photograph: D. James Dee

1. Jean-Michel Basquiat

Few artists have had as much New York City in their souls as Basquiat. Born in Brooklyn, he began as a graffiti artist in lower Manhattan; by the early 80s, he’d moved into music, paintings, and mixed media works, touching on themes like African-American heritage and street culture. His art proved explosively popular—by 24, he was selling works to museums and private collectors for tens of thousands of dollars. Sadly, his success helped lead to his ruin; he died in 1988 at the age of 27 of a heroin overdose.
Andy Warhol
Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art

2. Andy Warhol

Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but it was only upon his move to New York City in 1949 that he began his rise in the art world. Starting out as a commercial artist doing advertisements, he began exhibiting his works at galleries in the 1950s, helping to popularize the pop art style in the U.S. It was the 1960s that would largely define him, though. He and his work became a focus point for the counter culture of the era; in addition to his paintings, he created experimental films in his studio, known as The Factory, and managed The Velvet Underground. He remained a fixture of New York’s art scene all the way until his death in 1987.
Jackson Pollock
The Museum of Modern Art

3. Jackson Pollock

Pollock was born in Wyoming and spent much of his creative life in the Hamptons, but it was during his years in New York City that he was exposed to his signature medium, liquid paint. His unique style of creating works through extremely nontraditional methods—dripping or hurling paint onto a canvas on the floor. Since his death in 1956, his artwork has continued to be identified with New York—specifically, the Museum of Modern Art, which held retrospectives of his work in ’56, ’67 and ’98, and has several of his works on permanent display.
Marc Chagall
Private Collection

4. Marc Chagall

Born in Russia, Chagall spent much of his early years as an artist in France—but when the Nazis invaded, the outspoken Jewish artist escaped to the United States. Stuck in a foreign land, Chagall found refuge in New York, amongst other artists who had fled persecution in Europe. He returned to France in 1948, where he lived until his death—but not before making am impact on the New York art scene, creating numerous paintings and designing sets and costumes for the New York Ballet Theatre.
Roy Lichtenstein
Photograph: Courtesy Acquavella Galleries

5. Roy Lichtenstein

Born and raised in Manhattan, Lichtenstein was part of the Pop Art wave of the 1950s and 60s. At first glance, much of his work seems derivative, yet the change in scale and media gives the works power and artistic merit. His works can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art, but as is appropriate for a native New Yorker, he also gave the city a piece of art for everyone to enjoy—he created the six-by-53-foot mural in the Times Square–42nd St subway station.
Marcel Duchamp
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of Modern Art

6. Marcel Duchamp

Landing in the New York art scene with a splash thanks to his famous 1912 piece, Nude Descending a Staircase No.2, Duchamp quickly found a home here in the burgeoning Dada scene. He helped found the Society of Independent Artists, an organization dedicated to the advancement of avant-garde art; it was also during his time in New York that he worked on his Futurism-inspired masterpiece, The Bridge Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass).
Keith Haring
Adam Reich

7. Keith Haring

Like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haring came up from the graffiti art scene in the late 1970s and 1980s, and attracted the attention of such New York art notables as Andy Warhol. But where Basquiat’s art focused largely on the harsh realities of the African-American experience, the openly gay Haring’s works dealt in large part with sexuality. In later years, the fear of AIDS would become a theme in his work, and one that was tragically true to life; the disease wound up claiming him in 1990.
Edward Hopper
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.426 © Whitney Museum, N.Y.

8. Edward Hopper

Born in upstate New York, Edward Hopper’s career followed much the opposite path of many famous artists. Far from achieving brief, white-hot success, he struggled to find a creative foothold for several decades. It was only several years after he moved to Greenwich Village that he became successful. He continued to create iconic works of art well into his older years, eventually dying in his studio at age 84. But his legacy here remains strong; the Whitney has more than 3,000 of his works in their permanent collection, a bequest from Hopper’s wife.
Cindy Sherman
Photograph: Museum of Modern Art

9. Cindy Sherman

Though her career stretches back decades, Cindy Sherman’s exploration through the camera’s lens of themes such as feminism and identity makes her an ideal artist for the selfie generation. Born and raised in the Tri-State Area, it was her 1977–1980 series Untitled Film Stills, largely shot in New York City, that launched her to public prominence with its exploration and subversion of Hollywood archetypes; since then, her work has dug into topics as varied as fairy tales, pornography, and fashion. Serving as both photographer and model and largely working without assistants, Sherman draws from a deep supply of costumes, props, and makeup to transform herself for the camera, creating images that inspire, disturb, intrigue and astound.
Elizabeth Murray
Photograph: Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

10. Elizabeth Murray

As part of a group of artists who helped breathe new life into Modernist abstractionism in the late 20th Century, Elizabeth Murray’s bright, cartoon-like paintings delve into traditional subjects, like human relationships and life in the modern home, in utterly unconventional fashion. Often rendered on unusually shaped canvases with paint layered so thick it seems three-dimensional, Murray’s decision to stick with painting an a time when it had largely fallen out of favor with modern artists—along with her choice to ignore many of painting’s traditional boundaries and labels—helped her to stand out. As a result, she is one of only a few women to have had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, coming a year before her death in upstate New York in 2007.
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