Contemporary Artist Memes

“The Boys” series

Artist memes: Have you watched ‘The Boys’? It’s a trending web television series based on the comic book of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. In the world depicted in The Boys, super-powered individuals live among ordinary people and work for large corporations. Those superheroes are stars of the media on the camera, but on the inside, they are just as vulnerable, flawed, and corrupt as others. A team of vigilantes hunts down these ‘supes’ (super-powered) for personal revenge and a variety of reasons.

What if we replace those ‘supes’ with some top artists in the world of contemporary art?


“The Boys” quote

“In a world in which super-powered “artists” have become commonplace, they are syndicated, monetized, and marketed. Unfortunately, money and privilege corrupt,
and many of the “artists” give in to their darker impulses.”
Contemporary artist memes Anish kapoor

Anish Kapoor Memes

More than once, Kapoor’s actions have been blasted as “arrogant, elitist and selfish”.

Contemporary artist memes Anish Kapoor

Vantablack memes:

Blackest black in the known universe

Vantablack often referred to as the blackest black, is not a color but a material. Vantablack coating is formed of very tiny carbon tubes that absorb 99.96% of visible light. It was developed for a non-civilian purpose, then it was licensed to renowned British artist Sir Anish Kapoor exclusively for its artistic use. He was knighted in 2013 but to make things easier, we will cut the formalities and address him with his last name.
Having such exclusivity caused rage in the online art community.

Falling into a Blackhole

The controversy went further when one of his installations “Descent into Limbo” injured someone who after he mistook an art installation for an optical illusion and fell into a pit.

Stuart Semple vs Anish Kapoor

Rivalry is a huge part of superhero movies. Kapoor has his own “Villain” too. Young artist Stuart Semple proposed a black 2.0 in reaction to the Vantablack. Not as black, but it’s very affordable. Semple made it available to anyone except for Anish Kapoor. He also released the pinkest pink, a bright fluorescent pink color sold at 5 dollars per bottle.
Kapoor’s reaction on Instagram was loud and clear: he dipped his middle finger into Stuart Semple’s pink proudly announce that he could access it anyway.

The Art Fight continues

The fight went further when Stuart Semple made the glitterest glitter from tiny flakes of glass, so Kapoor would hurt himself if he tries again.

Contemporary artist memes Anish Kapoor vs Stuart Semple
Anish answer to Stuart Semple #pink (source: Anish Kapoor’s IG)

The Black Color Case

We made a deeper focus on the Blackest black story on this video:

Art World Drama

The drama continued with one of his sculptures The Cloud Gate (2006), which became a target for jokes and memes. It was called the Bean because it shared more similarities to a gigantic beam rather than what the title suggests. People digitally painted it pink for fun. I guess Kapoor must not be very happy about it.

The root of his problem

In fact, Kapoor is one of the richest artists alive. He has repeatedly been referred to as ‘everything wrong with the art world’, and the epitome of the art worlds elitism problem. As a self-made successful artist, he had all odds against him while still made it. Just to be fair, he definitely had some superpowers.

Contemporary artist memes Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami Memes


Low culture, one-man mass-market machine. Vigorously, ingeniously self-promotional (Wired)

Contemporary artist memes Takashi Murakami

Fast-paced artist

Murakami has incredible productivity. For that, he was inspired by the Warhol Factory. He employs from 25 assistants in order to perform specialized tasks. The Kaikai Kiki studio mostly focuses on the recurring motifs, which are also archived as digital clip art. He draws them on notebooks, then scans them, vectorize them, colors and compose them together on illustrator. From there most of the work is for his assistants under his cautious and hyperactive direction.

Traditional chain of command

This is a quite old organization, which started when artists were separated from craftsmen and had to act as superstars during the Renaissance, and sign individually the work of a group. Raphaël who was working for the pope was criticized for that. The good behavior Murakami has is that he communicates about his team.

“The well-trained assistants, who even worked with me for a long time, don’t catch it or notice things in the artwork.”

The art of justification

Murakami was often blamed for not doing his artworks he developed his thoughts in reaction: Museum solo show, May 29 2019, Hong Kong.

“Apart from the organizational side of the exhibition, a total of about 100 staff members at Kaikai Kiki has been involved in painting and sculpture, production, design, administrative work, and accounting, among other things.”

The art system

“There are people, however, who still criticize me for producing and presenting paintings and sculptures through such a system. When I post images on Instagram showing staff members other than myself painting of assisting with the installations, from some corner of the world inevitably arrives the criticism.”

Informing us about the art world

Then follows:

“For those who view paintings and sculptures in museums, art still had the persistent, fixed image; they want to enjoy how an artwork came to be, with an artist pouring his soul, painting it brushstroke by brushstroke to his heart’s content. But in the past 20 years, the manner in which art is appreciated has dramatically changed.”

Stay at the frontline

“In order to stay at the frontline of the change, I have always been producing my work with my team. From presenting video works in the same room as paintings to exhibiting my hand-sketched idea drawings and animation art drawings, and designing a large merchandise retail corner, I have been handling all the details of each aspect of this exhibition.”

Contemporary artist memes Takashi Murakami's art toys
Takashi Murakami hand-made Art Toys
Contemporary artist memes Takashi Murakami
Takashi’s assistants (Takashi’s IG)

The Superflat theory

Kaikai kiki also produces merch and Art Toys. The idea is that anyone anywhere can get and enjoy it. He includes this in his discourse and believes the flat, consumerist society we live in calls for a rethinking of the relationship between commerce and art.

Artists employees

Murakami works with a group of emerging artists, some of them like James Jean already reached international success. Contracted by Kaikai Kiki, they have facilitated access with world-class galleries. They profit from the management, production, public relations and biographical information of the firm. We would be curious to see this specific contract.

Some big art galleries are doing that, managing artists and paying them monthly while taking care of the business and handling their communication. If you go out from it, you have to start from zero.

Artist director

Takashi clearly compares himself as a movie director. Hey, you know about the end titles where everyone who participated is mentioned? How strange, there is something called mention on Instagram. You can just use it.

Controlling the signal

He thought about it and recently published a catalogue of selected interviews of his employees. It was related to the exhibition “Under the Radiation Falls

I guess this interview was not selected :

“We have no contract. Everything is an oral agreement. Kaikai Kiki will say, ‘The budget will be x,’ and if you are dumbshit, then you pre-sell on that figure. When the budget gets to be x times two or three, you cannot go back to Takashi and try to renegotiate because… Well let’s just say that you would not want to be in the room for that discussion”
Seven Days in the Art World – Sarah Thornton

Contemporary artist memes Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin Memes


Criticized as narcissistic, opportunist while showing false naïvety

Contemporary artist memes Tracey Emin

Meritocracy and mediocrity

Tracey Emin is often compared to a humble version of Damien Hirst. She excels at becoming friendly with celebrities, staying around social climbers to be photographed with her. And as the art and cultural scene in Britain is closely cared for by politics, she became a Conservative supporter just as Labour looked set to lose the election.

Having been embraced by the new establishment, she’s acquired a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire). Her words

“Art is for everyone, not just elite”

Emin words

“As an artist, you’re doing what you feel needs to be made, what needs to come into the world. When someone tells you what they want, It’s not art. Art is going to be supporting everybody else right now. The world is going down down down. People’s moral compass is going completely off-kilter. Everything is wrecked as far as I’m concerned. Morally, politically, socially in lots of ways, art has never been needed more.”

It goes on…

“We need some guidance, we need beauty and we need something which is spiritual and we need something which takes us out of our daily mundane existence and art and creativity does that and it’s never been needed more than now and art will take us forward”

Tracey Emin words after presenting the Arts Foundation 2019

And Starlight words

“Since when did “hopeful” and “naive” become the same thing? I mean, why would you get into this business if not to save the world?”

Contemporary artist memes Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin collecting her CBE (Getty Images)
Contemporary artist memes Tracey Emin

Professor of Drawing

The biggest controversy is from her Professor of Drawing awarded by The Royal Academy. Funny thing is that the term ‘Fine Art’ was first mentioned at the Royal Academy when Sir Joshua Reynolds was knighted artist in 1769 (Ref: the quote from David Starkey). Following the idea of ‘Bellas Artes’ art was becoming conceptual and separated from the skills required from craft. But what can be applied to art is more difficult to drawing as it still requires skills. We definitely have a lift off as you can see with her drawing Space Monkey”.

Contemporary artist memes Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst memes

The Deep

“Damien Hirst is, perhaps, the artist we deserve.” The Guardian

Contemporary artist memes Damien Hirst

Biosphere Extinction Hero

The numbers are from Artnet. Throughout his career, Hirst had to collaborate with many professionals including

  • The Australian shark-hunter Vic Hislop
  • The London-based taxidermist Emily Mayer
  • London’s Billingsgate Fish Market.

Here is the estimation of the size of Hirst’s mass killing: 913,450 animals. That is 9 times what the RSPCA rescued in 2018). The most well-known being the shark “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” and from them he has drawn criticism as well as a huge success within the art market.

As he tells:

“Cut us all in half, we’re all the fucking same”

Surfing on credulity

Damien Hirst tries his best to be well-known from the most. He isn’t half as good as Banksy but his recent mockumentary proved he made some progress.

Making the film “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable” (2017) he did of one stone two birds:

Myth building

Most people assumed this was a factual documentary up to the end and at the same time he was building a myth around his series of artworks for the Venice Biennale. Many visitors were clearly persuaded by all this fake antiquity.

The artist has filled not one but two museums with hundreds of objects in marble, gold and bronze, crystal, jade and malachite – heroes, gods and leviathans all supposedly lost in a legendary shipwreck 2,000 years ago and now raised from the Indian Ocean at Hirst’s personal expense.

Contemporary artist memes Damien Hirst
“Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable” detail
Contemporary artist memes Damien Hirst

Delivering what top collectors want

Even the most mercenary of gallerists will tell his clients to buy with their eyes and not their ears, to buy only what they love, and other standard art-world platitudes. And the fact is that Hirst makes exactly the kind of work that a small group of incredibly rich men, led most prominently by the French luxury-goods billionaire François Pinault, love and want to own.

Art Market Heroes

That confirms again that those super artists don’t succeed because of their creativity. They do more because they are a reflection of what our society is doing worse. In that way, they might be kept in history books because of their testimony of the sickness of it.

Contemporary artist memes Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic memes

Queen Maeve

Godmother of performance Art or the cult of artist-as-celebrity and artist-as-brand

Contemporary artist memes Marina Abramovic

Art Made of Trust, Vulnerability and Connection

The artist Marina Abramovic transition to celebrity happened when she set the “Artist Is Present” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The museum never had such amount of visitors and celebrities like Björk, James Franco, Lou Reed showed up.

The key scene was the “surprise” appearance of Ulay. then, It went viral on YouTube and many people cried. In fact, they cried like many cried watching a movie like “The Titanic”, the reality would have let them a bitter taste.


An artist’s life

The timeline:

  • 1988: “The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk” performance. Fittingly, Marina and Ulay broke up this day. This happened during a co-organized performance too: “The Great Wall Walk”. It later emerged that Ulay had impregnated his translator over the course of the performance. They would marry in Beijing in December of the same year (Source: Marina Abramovic “Walk Through Walls: A Memoir”).
  • 1999: Ulay launched a lawsuit at the court in Amsterdam in which he claimed that Abramovic has violated a contract covering works they had created together. They obviously had to meet at this moment. The courts awarded Ulay a 250,000 USD payout as she lost the case.
  • 2010: The major retrospective  “The Artist Is Present”. Ulay magically shows up. They pretend this is the first time that they have seen each other again since they broke up while they had to meet each other at the court of Amsterdam.

You cannot reach the celebrity without providing the public with a scripted, controlled story of your life. Marina decided to merge her fiction and real life, bending the information for her success. She masters it and it must be at a great cost for a career move that streamlined her towards fame and success.


Marina Abramovic manifesto

– An artist must make time for the long periods of solitude
– Solitude is extremely important
– Away from home
– Away from the studio
– Away from family
– Away from friends

Queen Maeve

“Our weaknesses are the same as anyone: it’s people, the people we care about. So I say “cut them lose” for your good and for theirs. That way you are really bulletproofed” 

Contemporary artist memes Marina Abramovic and Ulay
Contemporary artist memes Marina Abramovic
Photo for Givenchy – Vogue Ukraine

Malevolent powers

The Spirit Cooking is a series of performances, dinner parties with stars and collectors and a recipe book. Recipes are painted on a wall in blood. The first is “Mix fresh breast milk with fresh sperm milk” The other recipes are similar; most revolve around sex and blood.

In 1997, the performance was installed in the Zerynthia Association in Rome, Italy and included white gallery walls with “enigmatically violent recipe instructions” painted in pig’s blood. Those rituals made her very unpopular and still today she is accused to be satanic and a witch.

She just did what she thought could bring her more fame. Many rock stars used this kind of symbolism and were not being unpopular for it. 

Contemporary artist memes BANKSY

Banksy memes


Elusive and deceptive established anti-establishment

Contemporary artist memes Banksy

Anonymous profit

Banksy clearly supports the greater populace which is under oppression by the elite. But then his main source of profit is provided from this class.

Art market mystification

On October 2018, a framed version of Girl with Balloon by Banksy was sold at Sotheby’s for at least $1.1 million. At the moment it was acquired, a hidden device in the work’s frame activated, shredding the artwork until reaching half.

Every social media went crazy and the buzz was born, following the idea of the artwork being completely destroyed. Even Banksy wrote on Instagram: Going, going, gone…

But the real story, this one not becoming a buzz: the partially shredded work has been given a new title, “Love Is in the Bin”. It was authenticated by the artist. Sotheby’s released a statement that called it

 “The first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction, being worth £2m plus.”

Translucent: “My superpower ain’t invisibility – it’s reading people.”

Social manipulation

Banksy clearly masters how to navigate between different social groups which clearly don’t mix.

  • The elite: “Now it’s worth even more than the million pounds it was clubbed for just before the shred. I still want it.”
  • The humble innocent person: “Banksy doesn’t want fame, he doesn’t want his art to be sold. He has all of these things without wanting it and he has done one thing the rich don’t have: Privacy. The man is a Genius. Fuck the rich. I love it”
  • The media: “Buzzz! Let’s just publish without verifying the source. I love it”
  • Banksy: “I Can’t Believe You, Morons, Actually Buy This Shit”
  • Alex Branczik Sotheby’s European head of Contemporary Art: “I’ll be quite honest. We have not experienced this situation in the past where a painting spontaneously shredded upon achieving a record for the artist. We are busily figuring out what this means in an auction context. I was not in on the ruse
Contemporary artist memes Banksy
“Girl with Balloon” half shredded commodity
Contemporary artist memes Banksy
7. Discovered archive: July 4 2019, the British television channel ITV News posted an archived record called Interview with Banksy in July 2003. It was archived and they forgot about it. The reporter Robert Murphy found it 16 years later when he was looking for a video about the artist. You can compare that the eyes and front head are really similar to Robert Del Naja’s ones. In the Interview Banksy tells:

“I’m wearing a mask because you can’t paint graffiti in public. These things are incompatible.”

Who is Banksy?

Like the other artists in this list, Banksy is a brand and its productivity needs the work of a group. But in visual art, most of the groups have a leader, and we bet that the future will confirm Robert Del Naja is the initiator of Banksy. Here some arguments:


  1. Bristol: Robert Del Naja “3D” was born in Bristol in which he has an art studio. Banksy started with freehand graffiti art as part of Bristol’s DryBreadZ Crew in the 90s.
  2. Art: Del Naja is a well-known visual artist. His has appeared on Massive Attack’s record sleeves. He started his career as a graffiti artist. Furthermore, he is credited with bringing the stencil graffiti movement to Bristol.
  3. Collaboration: Del Naja was in Banksy’s 2010 mockumentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. Banksy wrote the intro to Del Naja’s book, “3D & the Art of Massive Attack”.
  4. Mutual friends: Del Naja is friendly with Geoff Barrow of Portishead. Barrow produced the soundtrack for Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
  5. Pattern: Journalist Craig Williams matched the appearance of Banksy murals with Massive Attack tours. At least six occasions on which Banksy murals appeared Massive Attack performances in the same city.
  6. Goldie: Musician, DJ and visual artist worked as graffiti artists in Banksy’s same circles during the 90s. on Scroobius Pip’s podcast, Goldie made the slip mentioning Banksy’s first name:

“Give me a bubble letter and put it on a T-shirt and write Banksy on it and we’re sorted. We can sell it now… No disrespect to Robert, I think he is a brilliant artist.”

Contemporary artist memes Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons memes

The HomeLander

Unwavering optimism, self-acceptance champion, the embodiment of the American Dream

Contemporary artist memes Jeff Koons

World’s most expensive living artist

If Banksy shines in communication, Koons knows better the rules of the art market than anyone. And rule number one is:

“The best art is the most expensive art because the market is so smart.”

Koons knows the artworld is a mirrored image of the finance capitalism: one investment’s value is deriving from another’s, which derives from yet another, and so on. And the fact that an artwork’s value can neither be objectively estimated nor controlled makes it a very interesting opportunity.


While keeping the art in the wishful thinking area

“Art to me is a humanitarian act and I believe that there is a responsibility that art should somehow be able to effect mankind, to make the world a better place”

“I try to be a truthful artist and I try to show a level of courage. I enjoy that. I’m a messenger”




The bigger it is…

Koons factory

Koons is wildly criticized for exploiting skilled workers as a particular technology he needs to increase the productivity of his brand. Among the seven super artists, all of them are managing groups in different ways, only Tracy Emin doesn’t because oh her art is conceptual or doesn’t require any kind of skill.

John Super Powers

Jeff Koons employee John Powers wrote in his New York Times article “I Was Jeff Koons’s Studio Serf” about the “dozens” of workers responsible for creating a series of paintings. He describes in detail the factory-like conditions of the Koons studio environment. Later on, he abandoned his career as an artist, but he was well paid and respected and certainly not a serf. Plus, would he have made the same painting had he not been under Koon’s direction?

Contemporary artist memes Jeff Koons
Photo: Steve Pyke by Getty Images
Contemporary artist memes Jeff Koons

Appropriation art

Koons practices and claims “appropriation art” and consequently attracts controversy. He pushes the boundaries of both copyright and authorship. That’s very much part of the intent. In that way, he means to help us better understand the world… at his advantage indeed.

  • Left: photo from Art Rogers, Puppies, 1985
  • Right: Jeff Koons, String of Puppies, 1988

Any similarity?

Jeff Koons

“You know, ‘I am what I am.’”

The Homelander

“I’m the Homelander. And I can do whatever the f*ck I want.”

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