As the phrase “going viral” took on a new, far more literal definition this year, art that went viral on the internet evolved into a role more important than ever. While we were stuck at home, art shared online served variously as a public-health tool, an amplification of cries for social justice, and a much-needed means of escape.
Here are some of the most memorable artworks and at-home art trends that were widely shared in 2020.
Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, Safety Match
Photo courtesy of Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre.
Artist couple Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre perfectly captured the need for social distancing with this short video of ignited matches.
Jose Manuel Ballester, “Concealed Spaces“
Jose Manuel Ballester’s empty version of The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Courtesy of Jose Manuel Ballester.
Jose Manuel Ballester began removing the figures from historical paintings in 2006, but the series caught on this year as crowded public spaces suddenly emptied out and citizens around the world were urged to stay home.
Animal Art Museums
Filippo Lorenzin and Marianna Benetti created the Gerbil Art Gallery for their pets Pandoro and Tiramisu. Photo courtesy of the artists.
Curator Filippo Lorenzin and artist Marianna Benetti struck a chord with art lovers missing their favorite institutions when they built a tiny art museum for their gerbils, Pandoro and Tiramisu. It started a micro-trend that quickly expanded, with other pet owners making versions for their gekkos, birds, and box turtles.
Data Illustrations by Mona Chalabi
Courtesy of Mona Chalabi.
Illustrator Mona Chalabi’s clear and direct drawings sharing facts and data offered easily digestible information throughout the year. The works variously addressed the global health crisis, the societal inequities fueling the Black Lives Matter movement, and the presidential election.
Stefanie Trilling, “Children’s Books for Pandemics“
Stefanie Trilling, Goodnight Zoom from “Children’s Books for Pandemics.” Courtesy of Stefanie Trilling.
In March, Stefanie Trilling, a mother of two, began painting quarantine-themed versions of popular children’s books. She ended up making 114 in total, featuring 2020 takes on beloved classics, such as Harold and the Purple Corona, Where the Viruses Are, and Cloudy With a Chance of Panic Hoarding.
Timo Helgert, “The Return of Nature“
During the early days of isolation, Timo Helgert offered an escapist fantasy in his digital reimaginings of urban spaces overrun with wildflowers, butterflies, and tall grasses.
Focaccia Bread Art
Teri Culletto is credited with popularizing Garden Focaccia. She called this work, inspired by an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, “Vincent van Dough.” Photo by Teri Culletto.
As more and more people turned to baking to pass the time at home, Teri Culletto helped popularize her “Garden Focaccia,” putting lively decorations on the Italian bread.
Marcel Dzama’s watercolor of President Donald Trump playing golf superimposed over the New York Times. Photo courtesy of Marcel Dzama.
When Donald Trump took a trip to the golf course as the nation hit 100,000 deaths, artists including Marcel Dzama united to turn the front page of the New York Times into a critique of the president’s callousness.
White House Fence Art
Messages are attached to the security fence on the north side of Lafayette Square, near the White House, in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2020. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
Activists demonstrating on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement in June were unfazed when the president erected additional fences around the White House, turning the barricades into a billboard for messages in support of racial justice.
Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain, George Floyd Mural
The makeshift memorial and mural by Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain outside Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Photo by Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.
Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain painted an instantly iconic portrait of George Floyd, later displayed at his funeral, on the side of the Minneapolis Cup Foods where police officers killed him. The site quickly became a memorial, and similar displays proliferated around the country, including a tribute wall in Harlem.
Ariel Sinha, Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor
Ariel Sinha, Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor. Courtesy of Ariel Sinha.
Ariel Sinha’s moving image memorialized Breonna Taylor, an African American medical worker who police shot and killed while she slept in her own apartment in March.
Good Trubble and Bria Goeller, That Little Girl Was Me
Good Trubble and Bria Goeller, That Little Girl Was Me, combining a photograph of vice president-elect Kamala Harris with the shadow of Ruby Bridges from Norman Rockwell’s famous painting The Problem We All Live With. Courtesy of Good Trubble.
Following the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, you might have spotted this striking image of the vice president-elect shared on social media. It combines a photograph of Harris with the shadow of Ruby Bridges from Norman Rockwell’s famous painting The Problem We All Live With.
Nikkolas Smith, Ahmaud Arbery
Nikkolas Smith, #iRunWithMaud. Courtesy of Nikkolas Smith.
Nikkolas Smith paid tribute to Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot and killed by two white men while he went for a jog in February, with this emotional portrait.
Jon Henry, “Stranger Fruit“
Jon Henry, Untitled 39, Santa Monica, CA, from the series “Stranger Fruit.” Photo by Jon Henry.
Named after the Billie Holiday song and created in response to police killings of Black men, Jon Henry’s mournfully beautiful “Stranger Fruit” series of photographs poses Black mothers and their sons as the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Pietà.
Black Lives Matter Street Paintings
A man uses his cell phone to take a picture of a newly painted Black Lives Matter mural outside of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue on July 10, 2020 in New York City. Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images.
City governments across the US turned their streets into canvases to display the message that Black Lives Matter—including one strategically placed outside of Trump Tower in New York City.
Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask
Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask. Photo by Tudor Vasilescu.
In a reminder of the importance of wearing face coverings, Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi each created a couture look from 150 masks and wore them around the city for a day-long performance art piece in September.
Sara Shakeel, “Wash Your Hands”
An artwork from Sara Shakeel’s “Wash Your Hands Series.” Courtesy of Sara Shakeel.
As hand-washing became a sudden obsession in the early days of the pandemic, Pakastani artist Sara Shakeel injected some glamour into the fearful moment in time with her glittery digital collages of sinks spouting sparking water.
Casey Drake, Side Walk Drawings
A sidewalk chalk drawing by Casey Drake featuring Batman and Robin. Photo courtesy of Casey Drake.
Stuck at home, Florida mother Casey Drake began drawing quarantine-inspired artwork featuring Disney characters on the sidewalk in front of her home.
Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins, Virus Illustration
Illustration created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image by CDC/Alissa Eckert, MS, and Dan Higgins, MAMS, courtesy the CDC.
Today, the CDC image of the virus’s morphology is instantly recognizable. That’s thanks in no small part to CDC medical illustrators and “biomedical artists” Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins, who created this widely disseminated image for official government use.
The Getty Challenge
Lily Shattenkirk recreating Raphael’s Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn. Photo courtesy of Naomi Yavneh-Klos.
One of the most delightful art trends of quarantine was people recreating famous paintings with whatever objects they had lying around their homes as part of the #GettyChallenge.
Still Life Challenge
Jeff Yeh, Apple and Facemask (2020). Courtesy of the artist.
Photographers in lockdown eager for new subjects began staging elegant still-life arrangements and sharing them on social media under the hashtag #quarantinestilllife.
Pierce and Stacy Thior, “Will It Beard“
Pierce and Stacy Thior, “Will It Beard.” Photo courtesy of Pierce and Stacy Thior.
Photographer Pierce and Stacy Thiot’s 2014 “Will It Beard” series, depicting various objects stuck in Pierce’s thick brown beard, took on new relevance as men working from home chose to eschew their regular shaving habits.
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