How do you choose one defining artwork for a century still in its adolescence? Some of the art world’s leading figures take their best shot.
Want to make an art historian laugh? Ask them to name the most iconic artwork of the 21st century. Turns out, it’s not so easy to single out the most significant work of art created over the past 17 years. Nevertheless, some leading figures in the art world—from curators and gallery directors to artists and auction house executives—gamely agreed to try their hand at narrowing it down. What single artwork defines this awkward, information-addled teenage century? Some simply couldn’t choose just one work, while others ultimately refused to answer at all. But many, to our pleasant surprise, told us exactly what they think. Below, 14 art experts weigh in on the 21st century’s most iconic artwork.
George Goldner, art advisor; former chairman of prints and drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The most iconic work from 2001–2017? A misuse of the word icon for a period that is destined to fade into oblivion. There’s no Mona Lisa, Raft of the Medusa, or Guernica to be found here.