Kerry James Marshall
Full stop, Kerry James Marshall is one of the world’s greatest living artists. His paintings, which act as dual critiques of Western art history and as exaltations of the beauty and complexity of Blackness, have also made enough of an impact on the market to earn him a unique distinction: Marshall holds the record for the highest price paid at auction for a work by a living African American artist. A 2016 MCA Chicago exhibition survey of over 30 years of Marshall’s work pointed to another aspect of what makes his work so great: the variety of the backgrounds. Sometimes his paintings interpolate elements of pop art and collage; at other times, his stunning figures make their homes in abstracted and vaguely unsettling miasmas of color. In 2021, it was revealed that Marshall painted a portrait of the scholar and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., further solidifying the artist’s reputation as an irreplaceable documentarian of history.