The Most Iconic Artists of the 1980s

Art has had its heroes throughout the ages. Some of them are known to us, and to many people, names like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and more recently, Dali, Picasso. What about even more recent history?

The 1980s were a very profound time, for music at least. With the invention of various digital instruments and devices that can make music, such as synthesizers, music took off in its own direction. Similarly to that, art also found its own direction and started developing. As always, there were some people at the front, leading the charge. Here are the most iconic artists of the 1980s.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat lived like most people imagine artists to live, engulfed in psychoactive substances and the popular culture, but digested in his own way. Born in 1960, he died in 1988, due to a heroin overdose. But during that time, especially since the start of the 1980s, he created some amazing art. 

Lthomas2, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – cropped

He is known as a neo-expressionist, and his art had to do with the street culture of the time. He painted, used crayons and drew, revitalizing what was at the time known as a dead type of art. He became what some considered the poster child of neo-expressionism.

Richard Prince

Prince belonged to what was known as the Picture Generation. They used photographs and magazine covers to make amazing art. His art, specifically the Fashion series from 1982 to 1984 was used to show the female model of generic beauty. This, done the way it was, managed to not only make a new artistic masterpiece, but also criticized society, exposing those generic models as lies. He was born in 1949 and is still among us, making art and challenging new ideas.

Keith Haring

Haring was an amazing artist who lived through the 1980s making what was at the time known as street art, or rather, graffiti art.

His works were mostly done in subways, as it were at the time, street art was frowned upon, as it still is in some parts of the world.

Shady galleries and underground dealings, their art was displayed in interesting places which were afterwards purchased by upcoming galleries. New York at the time was a very interesting place.

Haring did not live to see the 1990s, having lost his life in the year 1990 due to AIDS-related complications.

Willem de Kooning

De Kooning was an artist who belonged to another generation of artists, altogether. But, having been alive at the time, he couldn’t help but get pulled into the very wild world of the 1980s. His work, Untitled XVIII, is an amazing piece of art, a painting which is very open, so much so that it resembles a drawing. 

As someone who adapted and used the inspiration from the world around him, de Kooning had plenty of works of art prior to the 80s, but the 80s brought out something special out of him. 

These are but some of the most influential artists of the 1980s, yet there are so many more. The world of art is full of surprises.