Art 101

What Is an Artist's Artist?

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What Is an Artist's Artist?
The artist Joyce Pensato in her studio

Artists, as humans, are especially sensitive instruments, keen to ferreting out objects and ideas that harmonize with their sensibilities, even where the rest of the world finds only incomprehension. So when an artist finds communion with the work of one of their peers, the bond that forms can be exceptionally strong—and frequently they embrace new work before curators, or the market, can catch up. Hence the term "artist's artist," which is applied to these figures whose art possesses some strange brilliance or idiosyncratic foresightedness that their fellow creatives cannot resist. Sometimes these artist's artists are famous—Marcel Duchamp is a paragon of the category—but, just as often, they are as-yet-undersung talents whose time is still to come.

To highlight a few examples, Bryan Donnely (aka KAWS) collects works by R. Crumb, Peter Saul, Joyce Pensato, and Jim Nutt—all artists that share his fondness for social critique. Ugo Rondinone collects works by the underrated Alan Shields, who died in 2005, and by Nancy Grossman, whose work is resurfacing after a remarkable exhibition at Michael Rosenfeld gallery. Keith Sonnier collects works by his longtime friend Mary Heilmann, who had an overdue retrospective a few years ago at the New Museum, as well as works by up-and-coming artist Cordy Ryman (son of artist Robert Ryman). April Gornik is a big supporter of artist Lucy Winton, while Cindy Sherman collects vases by Michael and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, the husband-and-wife duo whose comic-book-inspired pottery was “discovered" in the Hammer Museum’s current Biennial.

Look to the right for a curated group of pieces by notable artist's artists on Artspace. Explore these works and, who knows, you might find something that touches your own artistic soul.

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