Icons, An Introduction

Who is an Icon? For us at ARTnews, in 2018, it’s not the celebrity artist who grabs headlines for high-production values, prices, or provocations. It’s Arthur Jafa, who condensed years of American history into seven supercharged minutes of video. It’s Dara Birnbaum, whose experiments with the “boob tube” foreshadowed YouTube. It’s Amalia Mesa-Bains, whose activism changed the way we think about identity and inclusivity. It’s Fred Moten, whose ideas and poetic meditations incited a new generation of artists. It’s Cady Noland, whose uncompromising art distilled dark undercurrents in American politics long before we were ready to recognize them. In the profiles that follow, iconic status is high-stakes and hard-won—and, we hope, long-lasting.

Arthur Jafa
Dara Birnbaum
Fred Moten
Amalia Mesa-Bains
Cady Noland

ABOVE Still from Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel’s Happy Birthday, Marsha! (detail), 2018, on which Arthur Jafa served as cinematographer. COURTESY THE ARTISTS



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