Every generation is marked by specific fashion, styling, and art movements. These trends seem to arrive quickly and disappear before anyone has a chance to notice that they’re already hopelessly outdated.
However, trends like fashion and art have a tendency to be circular: Young millennials mocked their mothers’ high-waisted pants. But the next thing you know, everyone was filing into their local mall in search of “mom jeans” or the “dad hat,” which was briefly a faux pax when flat bill snapbacks were the rage (The coolest kids knew to leave the sticker on the underside of the hat brim).
Just like fashion, art goes through trends as well. Pop art, impressionism, surrealism, and more all resurface now and again. Each time they change and evolve as artists react to the world around them. Even when art nods to the past, it is still something new to behold. Interestingly, these trends are morphing faster than ever before, thanks to internet culture.
Read on to learn more about the top art trends of 2021.
Street art and graffiti have come a long way. Its origins are clearly inspired and rooted in prehistoric cave paintings and went from illegal tagging to the high art form it is today. Modern street art is a direct descendant of graffiti and is now often commissioned and completely legal.
Early History of Street Art
The medium of street art has changed and evolved quite a bit. It’s no longer considered just spray painting a wall in an alley. Street art now includes sculptures, performance art, and much more. One of the main qualifiers to be considered within the medium is that the piece or performance should be in public.
However, even that “requirement” has started to change as art galleries display spray-painted murals, and it’s becoming increasingly popular. Graffiti artists have gotten a bad rap over the years because they often create their work in legal grey areas.
Recently, cities have adapted to this particular art form by providing blank concrete walls for people to freely spray on, which has largely worked. Instead of random buildings and alleys getting tagged, these parks provide a cultural space of free expression.
The Art District in Los Angeles has multiple building owners that offer their walls for artists to create stunning and impressive murals. It’s been nothing short of a success with reports of increased business thanks to sightseers who spread the word through social media and viral photos.
Street Art in 2021
The style and techniques of street art, specifically graffiti-style murals, have heavily advanced. New artists are making a name for themselves with some unbelievable work in 2021.
Some of the best work in the world can be found in Bushwick, New York. Much of the street art scene in Queens was destroyed by a real estate project, so Bushwick became the new street art epicenter.
There are even walking tours you can take through certain areas to see the best work. A great place to visit is the Graffiti Hall of Fame that not only features famous pieces by famous artists but also pieces by lesser-known artists. The Hall is consistently updated with new work.
Art Inspired By Nature
Trends in art change regularly, but these artists are being inspired by the natural world around them and the problems that they see in it.
You’ve seen their work even if you don’t know their name. Banksy is an anonymous artist who is known for their paintings, sculptures, and stenciled graffiti art found around the world. As an artist, Banksy and their works are critical of politics and capitalism.
Most of Banksy’s street art is completely unannounced and has to be randomly discovered by passersby. It’s likely they create their work in the middle of the night to avoid detection. In the earlier years of their career, Banksy’s street art was not viewed kindly by the British government.
However, Banksy’s work brought in significant sums from gawking art collectors and tourists traveling to the United Kingdom to witness these unique creations. The local government is now encouraging street artists to hopefully uncover the next Banksy and the next great piece of art.
Earlier this year, a possible Banksy mural was found on a wall in an English coastal town. The piece features three small boys playing as sailors in a piece of scrap metal with the words “We’re all in the same boat” above them.
Two of the boys are looking ahead while one is taking a bucket and trying to stop the boat from sinking. This piece is believed to be a message about environmentalism and the importance of a unified approach to fighting climate change.
Born in 1986, Qi Lei is a contemporary artist who has earned a lot of praise in the abstract and nature-oriented space. He combines vibrant colors with traditional methods of Chinese landscape paintings.
His oil paintings, like The Swimming Pool in Summer, feature striking compositions and have a liveliness that is rarely seen in concert with the two styles. Lei’s work is world-renowned. His exhibits have been displayed all over China, and he maintains a popular online presence.
Qi Lei’s latest solo exhibition, “Stalker,” was revealed in 2019, but he continues to create in 2021.
Making Social Statements
There’s also a running trend today of using art to comment on social problems.
Art has amazing superpowers. It can instill a variety of emotions in the viewers. Not everyone has the same experience when seeing the Mona Lisa that the other tourists in the Louvre do. However, there is a general reaction with one street artist: and it’s not the warm and fuzzy feelings that Norman Rockwell’s 50-year career engenders.
Mark Jenkins, a Virginia native, creates statues and 3-D public art that shocks, awes, and hopes to inspire change. In a recent interview, Jenkins told Insider that his intention isn’t to scare viewers. His public sculptures ranged from a figure tied to several balloons, appearing to drown in a Swedish river, or a figure of a man leaning into a Washington D.C. wall, with his head disappearing into the bricks.
Much of his recent art is intended to bring light and resources to suicide prevention, especially in male demographics underserved by traditional mental health services.
Ai Wei Wei
Another artist that has shown themselves to be an activist is Ai Wei Wei. Part of the Excessivism movement, he focuses on human rights issues, often making use of multiple mediums like video, porcelain, and sculpture.
Ai grew up in China, in a remote corner of the north-west after his father was exiled. His art isn’t the only way that he demonstrates his activism—he also investigates government corruption, and is openly critical of the government.
One of his most famous pieces is called Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, and it’s a collection of three images of him allowing an ancient urn fall and break. While this is one of the more well-known pieces, he’s a fairly prolific artist.
Not all artists get a popular reception when they first burst on the scene. However, decades or hundreds of years later, a more modern audience sits up and takes notice.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. Famous for (as one prevalent theory states) selling only one painting (Red Vineyard at Arles) during his lifetime, Van Gogh is now one of the most revered and celebrated artists ever.
In case viewers can’t see an authentic Van Gogh in a museum, now the museum is coming to them. No, there isn’t an armored car carrying dozens of priceless paintings; one would only need to walk into the Van Gogh Exhibition: An Immersive Showcase. Traveling to over 20 temporary locations, with this exhibit, viewers can walk right into a painting.
The combination of 15,000 screens, 500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video, and 90,000,000 pixels create a 360-degree virtual reality experience where patrons can scroll through Van Gogh’s greatest works. Aided by music and shifting images, patrons experience everything from Starry Night and the Sunflowers.
Art in the Digital Age: How It’s Changing Things
With the rise of social media, the way we have consumed art has radically changed. If you go to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, you would be lucky to see past the barricades of cell phones and cameras.
The advent of the internet created some of the best ways to stay up to date with new and changing trends. Museums can use social media to promote new artists and exhibits, drawing in record audiences to experience the beauty their fellow humans can create. During the Covid-19 pandemic, with virtual museums, people at home during lockdowns could visit any museum in the world with a simple click.
On the other hand, social media has created the need for proof of experience. People snap pictures of art to post on their own Instagram or Facebook to prove they were there. This trend of photographing and the capacity of others to reproduce public art might have far-reaching implications for street artists.
For example, over the past several years, Bansky has tried to trademark his works to no avail. The courts of the European Union have decreed that since his art was created in public spaces (coupled with his anonymous identity), he cannot claim a trademark over his iconic images. This poses a potential risk for all street artists.
Changing Art Trends
Art has long since adapted alongside our changing technological landscape. From different ways of creating paints to the use of technology in graphic design, technology and art coexist in a delicate balance.
Art trends come and go. With the technology of the future, who can truly say what is going to happen next?