Specialists Speak: 17 Most Talked-About Contemporary Artists

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Specialists Speak: 17 Most Talked-About Contemporary Artists

Magnus Sodamin installation (see below for artist bio). Represented by Primary Projects. Photo courtesy of Primary Projects

From June 16-19, galleries, collectors, and art connoisseurs from around the world will meet the renowned Art Basel fair to discover and admire international artists. Leading up to the fair, we proudly introduce our first gallery-focused edition of our “Specialists Speak” series.

In this edition, gallerists and experts from 8 different galleries share with us the 17 contemporary artists you should know right now - from rising stars to mid-career artists you’ll find at Art Basel – as well as a helpful price range for each.


Ali Antoniou

Art Consultant, Quidley & Company

Ali AntoniouArdan Ozmenoglu is a versatile Turkish artist who works in a wide range of mediums including large-scale glass sculptures, works on Post-It® notes, photography, and neon lighting. Ozmenoglu’s work is highly original in medium, design, and content. Her playful work, ripe with sociopolitical commentary, challenges the viewer to reconsider familiar images, products, and ideas. She cleverly uses ubiquitous items to create pieces of art that unite seemingly opposing ideas: the past and the present, art history and contemporary art trends, creativity and consumerism, repetition and individuality, the whole and the fragmented. She unites the centuries old practice of printing with modern colors, glitters, paper and images. Her brightly colored, bold art forces the viewer to consider everyday objects and ideas in a different light. (Price Range: $6,500-30,000)

Born in 1986, Pennsylvania native Oriana Kacicek spent her early years in a nurturing environment of great art, dance, music and literature. Inspired and encouraged by her mother, also a painter, she began painting and drawing at the age of one and continued the practice throughout her teenage years. Influenced by the light and color of the European Impressionist and Dutch painters, Oriana's hyper-realist style is infused with wit and energy. "I've discovered that all art forms are fundamentally the same; they are about revealing truth and beauty, demand the utmost in time and attention, and must be grounded in good technique," she says. "I aspire to create paintings that are full of joy, color and light." (Price Range: $2,000-6,000)


Books Bischof

Founder & Principal, Primary Projects

Books BischofAutumn Casey’s art has this rare ability to bring the viewer to tears, to rush them through a series of emotion. It has happened in our space, in the museum, and at the fair. I wouldn't tell you it is a regular occurrence but when it does happen, there is something eerie and fantastic, it is unlike any other experience I know. Casey believes that the more personal she makes her work, the broader audience she reaches. Her ability to create sculpture or video that touches a viewer in such a unique way is priceless. This is rare, this is what makes her work noteworthy and always exciting. I highly suggest never missing an Autumn Casey exhibition. (Price Range: $1,200-6,000)

Magnus Sodamin is an explosive painter. His love for painting is only matched by his love for nature. Sodamin spent some time with us in Los Angeles working on a project this year. If he wasn’t in his studio he was in a National Park in California, Arizona, or Utah. It was amazing to watch the flora and color pallets of the region be immediately absorbed into his paint brush. His brush stroke, his mark making is entirely unique. There is something magnificent about a young artist that can translate this kind of energy onto the canvas. Sodamin is one of these artists. His paintings are an invitation into a world all his own, but once you arrive, you find it vaguely familiar and comforting. (Price Range: $2,500-12,000)


Brigitte Micmacker

Co-Owner and Director, Sculpturesite Gallery

Brigitte MicmackerThere is a prodigious energy that emanates from Emil Alzamora’s work. Always depicting the human figure, Alzamora keeps reaching further into the imaginary by distorting, deconstructing, stretching or encasing his figures. His works are in turn smooth, textured, white, black, rust colored, matte, glossy, liquid, organic, deeply expressive, or completely devoid of expression.

Alzamora sculpts in bronze, ceramic, cast stone, resin, or any material or technique that best expresses his need at the moment: to reveal a specific emotion or physical situation, or to tell a particular story. Alzamora's keen interest in the physical properties of his materials, combined with his hands-on approach, allow for the process to at once reveal and inform the aesthetic and the conceptual. I always look forward to seeing Alzamora’s new works, as they constantly surprise and delight me. (Price Range: $1,000-100,000, depending on size)


Right: "Prism" by Emil Alzamora, 2013, edition 7/8. Left: "LOVE2014" by Emil Alzamora, 2016,
edition 2/6. Photos courtesy of Sculpturesite Gallery


Dan M. Allison

Owner, D.M. Allison Gallery

Dan M. AllisonKelly Moran offers a mixed bag of happy urban myth and late American pop culture to be sure, but at the same time the work is so well executed that one wants to stop and think it all over. Moran takes advantage of an omnipotent time frame while jumping gender fences, and looking back at "the way we were" just far enough in the past to clue us into the fact that the human chemistry found in her works is universal. Moran's work is emerging, still at very accessible values, but is quickly finding it's way into collections both public and private including Houston's Museum of Fine Arts. D.M. Allison represents her work in Houston. (Price Range: $1,000-5,000)

Deborah Bay is an American artist who specializes in tabletop and constructed photography. An artist on the rise and popular with collectors in several market areas in the U.S. and overseas, Bay is creating enigmatic in-camera images as well as digital composites and often abstracts reality through color manipulation, slow shutter speed and a macro lens. Bay's photography not only has found it's way into the art journals and onto the cover of the British Journal of Photography, but unrelated non-art publications as the national gun control debate has raged on. "The Big Bang" collection, a series of photos of sheets of Plexiglass impacted by bullets shows the terrific force and unique patterns that come from everything from a 9mm round to a shotgun slug opened in 2014 at the Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara, California. D.M. Allison represents her work in Houston. (Price Range: $800-3,500)


"The Next New Thing" (Fringes of Cyberia Series) by Deborah Bay, 2012-2016,
sublimation print on white metal. Photo courtesy of D.M. Allison Gallery


Jenn Singer

Founder, Jenn Singer Gallery

Jenn SingerThe first artist I'd recommend is Delphine Diallo. A French Senegalese artist, Diallo is a photographer in her 30s to keep an eye out for. Working with film and mixed media collages, Delphine connects with her subjects on a deeply emotional level, revealing their inner soul and true spirit via her camera. In 2012, Smithsonian named Delphine Diallo one of Photography’s Emerging Stars and her work has recently expanded to include 3D technology. (Price Range: $2,000-20,000)

Second is Brooklyn-based artist Carey Maxon. Maxon is an emerging artist off to a great start with work in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Carey's abstract drawings and paintings on paper and canvas are hypnotic in their repetitions and range from minimalistic dot patterns to more frenetic works incorporating symbols and markings conjuring imagery of urban landscapes and energies. (Price Range: $2,000-20,000)


"Untitled" by Delphine Diallo, 2015, mixed media collage. Photo courtesy of Jenn Singer Gallery


Muriel Guepin

Owner & Director, Muriel Guepin Gallery

Muriel GuepinCanadian artist David Fredrik Moussallem is a “post-graffiti” painter but his deconstructed carved collage paintings are definitely influenced by the street art movement. His mixed-media abstract paintings tell different “stories from the streets” and respond to urban landscape. Extensive travels all around the world have triggered a fascination for global subcultures and urban street life, while his academic background in advertising, graphic design, and typography has heavily influenced his compositional approach.

Moussalem’s mixed media paintings resemble distressed city walls that, like palimpsests, have accrued years of graffiti, posters, and fliers. He blends calligraphy and personal inscriptions with blurred color fields, using paint brushes, fragments of scrapped fliers and posters to then carve into his work deep fragmented lines that look like city maps. His works are layers of hidden stories evoking the pace of frenetic metropolis and lie between the boundary of abstraction and calligraphy. (Price Range: $2,500-8,500)

American painter Robert Szot has an extraordinary sense of composition and use of colors with many layers coming back to the surface. Each work begins with loose, gestural underpainting in a process of sketching after which he adds several flat fields of color and other abstract elements. Visually, his work is akin to a complex conversation, composed of many different layers and scattered sites of weight and elaboration. Szot often characterizes his work as “argumentative” and claims he must put the painting “in jeopardy” to get it to a satisfactory place. His paintings have often been compared to Richard Diebenkorn’s early abstract works, and they definitely carry a similar palette but a different vibrancy thanks to the many re-appearing underneath color fields and elaborate shapes. (Price Range: $1,800 for monotype; $3,800-18,000 for paintings)


"Graffiti Rose" by David Fredrik Moussallem, mixed media on wood panel, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Muriel Guepin Gallery


Nihal Kececi

Owner, Gallery NK
(Response in collaboration with Silvia Palmero, Director, Museo Palmero)

Nihal KececiThe first artist I’d recommend is my signature artist, Alfredo Palmero. He is the third generation of a lineage of artists that began with his grandfather, with whom he shared a name and a great love for painting. It was under his grandfather's instruction that Alfredo learned all of the techniques and the true office in order to have an exceptional craftsmanship.

His paintings are a combination of tradition and modernity and became a personal vision of the art. His language is influenced by some of the best XIX and XX century European Art. The light of the Mediterranean culture is always present and it is one of his main features. (Price Range: $1,500-10,000)

Nihal Kececi works in acrylic, oil, and pastel at a large scale. With a background in engineering, she knows how to model complex systems precisely and objectively, but painting has transformed her approach and provided the insight she needs to create complex and evocative artwork. Whether painting whirling dervishes, dramatic landscapes, or impressionistic figures, Nihal masks the known with the unknown and explores the transcendental. Over the past fifteen years, Nihal has amassed a body of over 700 paintings. She has exhibited nationally and internationally in over 150 shows. (Price Range: $2,500-18,000)


"Menina en ocres" by Alfredo Palmero, oil on canvas, 162x130 cm.
Photo courtesy of Gallery NK


Richard Baiano

Co-Owner, Childs Gallery

Richard BaianoMore and more galleries are embracing figurative art as an important means of contemporary expression. Figurative art appeals to individuals and gallerists such as myself interested in the ways in which the human form is used as a narrative vehicle. These artists are often influenced by the historical canons of art history, and many embrace the techniques of the old masters. Many of these artists are at the forefront of the contemporary art world now.

In my opinion, this movement began with the striking and sometimes bizarre paintings of John Currin, represented by Gagosian Gallery. Currin is most directly influenced by the old masters in terms of his technique and compositional devices. His subjects are composite figures of heroic beings, old world beauties, and pulp fiction characters. As Gagosian Gallery states about the artist, “consistent throughout his oeuvre is his search for the point at which the beautiful and the grotesque are held in perfect balance.” I am always excited to discover a new Currin at Art Basel. (Price Range: $500,000-1,000,000; $5.5M auction record)

I would also hope to see Hernan Bas, represented by Victoria Miro. Bas’s paintings employ sprawling narratives within larger landscapes. His figures are more expressive in nature than some of the hyper-realistic figurative works of other painters. According to Victoria Miro, Bas is interested in the tension created between various thresholds, such as youth and adulthood, or innocence and experience. His figures are often androgynous boys poised within rituals concerning courtship or love and death. It is easy to lose oneself in a Bas painting. (Price Range: $75,000-200,000)

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