Diane Arbus' (1923-71) profoundly original works record the astonishing variety of attitudes, emotions and appearances to be found amongst the people around us, blurring the line between art and reportage.
The German sculptor Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) is recognised as one of the most influential figures of the second half of the twentieth century. Artist, political and social activist, scientist and educator, Beuys’s philosophy proposed the healing power and social function of art, especially in the context of the period following World War Two.
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a French-American sculptor, painter and printmaker whose confessional, autobiographical approach to art left behind one of the most extraordinary bodies of work of the past century.
The Latvian-born artist Vija Celmins (b.1938) uses a variety of media including charcoal, graphite and erasers to produce exquisitely intricate work which includes paintings, drawings and prints based on photographs of natural phenomena, notably the sea, deserts and the night sky.
Martin Creed (b.1968) takes commonplace events and objects as the subject of, and the material for, art that celebrates everyday life. His magpie enthusiasm for the beautiful and strange all about us is expressed in a wide variety of forms, including performance, film, painting, installation and music.
Ellen Gallagher (b. 1965) comes from Irish and African-American stock. Her work draws on a broad spectrum of influences that spans the writings of Gertrude Stein and Herman Melville, the art of Sol LeWitt and Agnes Martin, the musical and theatrical tradition of blackface minstrelsy, the free jazz of Sun Ra, the Black Power movement and the visual tropes of advertising targeted at African-Americans.
Gilbert (b. 1943) and George (b.1942) have been important figures in the international art world since 1970. Working as a pair and presenting themselves as ‘living sculpture’, incorporating themselves and their lives into their art, they set out to provoke their viewers, to make them think and question conventions and taboos.
Douglas Gordon (b. 1966) is a Scottish artist, working with photographs, film, text and installations. He explores the nature of perception and memory and force us to reassess how we fabricate meaning from our experience of the world.
Johan Grimonprez (b. 1962) is a Belgian artist and film-maker who first came to prominence when his hour-long video montage 'dial H-I-S-T-0-R-Y' was exhibited at the Pompidou Centre and then Documenta X in 1997.
Damien Hirst is the most prominent artist to have emerged from the British art scene in the 1990s. He uses the preoccupations and passions of the time to confront the age-old fears of his audience about the fragility of life, of death and decay.
Jenny Holzer's use of language has made her one of the pioneers of conceptual art. Working on both a small and, more recently, large scale, her use of new technologies and subtle understanding of architectural and even landscape spaces shows her to be one of the most most significant, uncompromising and truth-seeking artists of our time.
A key figure in European post-war culture Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) derives his art from his awareness of history, theology, mythology, literature and philosophy and the extraordinary ability to work with all kinds of materials from lead to concrete, from straw to human hair and sunflower seeds.
Pursuing his interests in the basic dreams and desires of human society from the cradle to the grave and in the psychological, economic and social structures of the historic past Koons, like Warhol and others, takes objects from the 'real' world and renders them iconic by changing their size and turning them into High Art.
Born in the Greek port city of Piraeus, Jannis Kounellis (b. 1936) has lived in Rome since 1956. His first exhibition in Rome in 1960 was titled 'Kounellis Alphabet' and combined living and inert materials.
Richard Long (b. 1945) was among the foremost of a new generation of British sculptors to emerge in the 1960s who extended the possibilities of sculpture beyond the confines of the studio and gave it meaningful existence as part of the place, time and substance of which it is made.
A major figure in the Arte Povera movement, the Italian artist Mario Merz (1925 - 2003) combined a fascination with the material and metaphorical qualities of natural objects with ideas regarding infinity and repetition.
Since the mid-1960s the American sculptor Bruce Nauman (b. 1941) has been one of the most highly respected and influential figures in contemporary art. He is noted for his toughness, his refusal to compromise, his exploratory way of working and his search for self-knowledge.
Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden, which after World War II became part of the German Democratic Republic. He left the DDR shortly before the Berlin Wall went up in 1962 and settled in Düsseldorf. He has since become one of the world’s most successful and influential artists.
At the heart of the paintings of Robert Ryman (b. 1930) is a concern with the materiality of painting. Since the 1950s he has reduced his work to a simple equation of canvas (or other support) plus white or off-white paint.
August Sander (1876 - 1964) is one of the finest photographers of the twentieth century. He pioneered a realist, almost scientific approach based on observation which made him one of the heroes of modern photography.
Robert Therrien (b. 1947) presents a world of the unexpected filled with objects which are both familiar and strange. It can seem a fairytale place of deceptively childish charm and logic where ideas can literally be translated into reality.
For over fifty years the American artist Cy Twombly (1928 - 2011) explored the natural world, literature, poetry, classical history and mythology through poetic, gestural painting and abstract sculptures.
Bill Viola (b. 1951) was among the first artists to explore the possibilities of film and video in a fine-art context. Long respected as a groundbreaking artist, his depictions of raw human emotion have achieved popular acclaim in recent years.
The most famous proponent of Pop Art, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) took images from the popular press, advertising and other ubiquitous images such as dollar bills and signs, and fixed them forever in the public imagination through his enduring fascination with celebrity and mortality.