7 Contemporary Sculptors Your Students Should Know

As you know, adding contemporary artists to your curriculum can have a big impact on your program. There’s something about the work of living artists that immediately captures student interest. Plus, with more and more artists showing their work through avenues other than traditional galleries, it’s easier than ever to share a wide variety of work with your students.

Here are 7 contemporary sculptors sure to enthrall and inspire your students.

Rachel Whiteread

image via Tate Gallery

Whiteread generally works with casts, using materials like concrete, resin, and even snow to create sculptures of objects such as mattresses, stairwells, and an entire house. The point of interest, however, is that Whiteread creates casts of negative space. If you look at the image of the sculpture above, this concept is illustrated perfectly. What originally looks like bookshelves are, in fact, the negative spaces in between those objects. This twist is sure to captivate your kids.

Dan Lam

image via Dan Lam

Lam’s amorphous blobs somehow manage to look adorable and dangerous at the same time. With an Instagram account full of squishes, blobs, and drips, she can make you want to reach through the screen and try to touch her work.


Sarah Sze

image via art21

Sarah Sze’s work can best be described as a mix of order and chaos. Her sculptures and installations are part architectural design and part intricate detail. The everyday objects she uses create fractal-like patterns that can disorient and overwhelm you, but they never fail to fascinate.


Tara Donovan

image via Widewalls

Donovan’s biomorphic sculptures are painstakingly assembled (and disassembled) with everyday objects to create site-specific works. Whether she is using toothpicks, drinking straws, or styrofoam cups, her installations accentuate the qualities of those objects in unique and exciting ways. Like the time she stacked one million index cards.

Kate MccGwire

image via Arrested Motion

Because you always wanted to know what a sculpture made entirely of bird feathers looks like, right? Her organic, undulating forms are created with layer after layer of feathers. In her own words, “I gather, collate, re-use, layer, peel, burn, reveal, locate, question, duplicate, play, and photograph.” And the results are spectacular.


Simone Leigh

image via Radical Presence

Simone Leigh’s thought-provoking work includes sculpture, video, and installation.  She often uses materials and forms traditionally associated with African art, and her work draws from a variety of cultures, time periods, and locations around the world.


Teresita Fernandez

image via Blouin Art Info

The work above is made up of 250 plates of golden, mirror-polished metal, overhanging the paths of a New York park. It immerses anyone who walks under it, showing their reflection as they walk between buildings and nature. Her large-scale sculptures and installations are inspired by fire, cloud formations, meteors, and other natural phenomena.

Website: Teresita Fernandez

The fact is there are hundreds of sculptors to choose from. Use this list as a jumping off point for your own exploration. Teaching your students to seek out work they can connect with is also a good idea. You never know what they might discover!

Who are your favorite contemporary sculptors?

Which sculpture artists would you add to this list?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Timothy Bogatz

Tim Bogatz is AOEU’s Content & PD Event Manager and a former AOEU Writer and high school art educator. He focuses on creativity development, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills in the art room.

More from Timothy