This January, Artsy is launching a series of three features to spotlight the trends we’re watching in 2021. Using our internal data, each of these features reflects a theme we saw emerge during the end of 2020 that we expect to take hold across the contemporary art world in the year ahead. This week, we share the second installment, “Craft Figuration.”
In the wake of the resurgence of figurative painting over the past decade, artists’ depictions of the body through craft mediums have recently been met with great enthusiasm. This “Craft Figuration” trend, however, is not new. It is an impulse that can be traced through centuries of art history, from Paleolithic clay Venus figurines to the black-figure pottery of ancient Greece to the tapestries of medieval Europe. Yet now, contemporary artists are turning to these mediums to explore identity in new ways, using craft techniques to convey cultural histories and personal experiences through the human form.
This trend coincides with the widespread embrace of craft within the art world in recent years. Often cast as lower art forms and denigrated as “women’s work” in the past, craft mediums are increasingly esteemed and even recognized as a form of rebellion, of activism. In the 1980s,