Jeff Koons Balloon animal

Animals in Contemporary Art

The association of the human and animals is as old as the civilization itself. Since the beginning of civilization, humans have been using animals in their day to day life. Several animals like horse, bull, cow, etc. have been great friends of mankind. The man has even reflected this association and friendship in the art as well. The cave paintings made by primitive man is a good example of that association. Many of these cave paintings show animals during hunting, as part of some rituals or their importance to mankind.  

Evolution of wildlife painting  

The artists have always been fascinated by the beauty of various animals and have often used them as their ‘muse’ in contemporary animal paintings. With time, contemporary wildlife painting has evolved a great deal and today we get to see varied forms of use of animals in contemporary art.  

From the animal paintings on the caves to contemporary animal paintings, the practice of painting animals in art has gone a long way. Before the year 1900, any artist who would portray animals in his artwork was called an ‘animal painter’. But in the last century, with the contemporary art movement, painting animals in contemporary art has been given a new name, which makes it scope broader to include many other things. Now, the preferred term for contemporary animal paintings is “wildlife art”  

Contemporary Wildlife Animal Paintings  

The animal kingdom continues to inspire artists, even today, as their muse in contemporary wildlife painting, in increasingly varied forms. Animals have always been popular subjects for artists to represent in their works, either as part of the environment or as primary subjects. This has been the common thread in all contemporary wildlife paintings, though the manner of portraying animals in contemporary art has changed schematically in each century, following changing norms and increased wildlife awareness.  

In this blog, we bring you a collection of great jobs of portraying animals in contemporary art by different contemporary artists from different parts of the globe. Using their creativity and thought process, they have tried to highlight the beauty of nature - universal as well as enduring. Have a look at these contemporary animal paintings and explore the perspective of these artists.  

  • Rat-King by Katharina Fritsch  

In her famous contemporary wildlife painting ‘Rat-King’, she creates a larger-than-life installation of resin-cast rodents. This painting is inspired both by mythology and physicality and showcases a group of rats in a circle with their tails intertwined with each other. The sheer size of these rodents and matte-black colour has made this contemporary wildlife art iconic, exuberating feeling of fear and malice.  

  • Rat Graffiti by Banksy  

The elusive British street artist famous for his simple stencil designs is also known for his contemporary wildlife art. He makes wonderful use of animals in contemporary art to convey powerful political messages. In his contemporary wildlife paintings, he used rats as a means of social commentary. Banksy’s rats symbolize the regenerative nature of street art, which cannot be controlled by governments, just the way rats, whose population cannot be controlled.   

  • Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei  

Inspired by the complex fountain-clock designed for Yuanming Yuan, a Qing dynasty imperial retreat outside Beijing, Ai Weiwei has used animal heads to recreate the traditional zodiac sculptors. In his contemporary wildlife art, he depicts each of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, where each animal symbolizes a particular zodiac and is given a distinct personality.   

  • Sculptures of Paper Animals by Anna Wili-Highfield  

What started as just an activity to kill her boredom, turned out to be one of the greatest examples of contemporary wildlife art. Just one look at the sculptures and you are bound to get mesmerized by the craftsmanship. Based out of Sydney, Australia, Anna Wili-Highfiled creates beautiful sculptures of horses, birds, and other animals using paper or copper wire.  The beauty of each artwork lies in its unique personality.   

  • Balloon Animals by Jeff Koons  

Jeff Koons is an American artist, who has used animals in contemporary art in a very playful manner. In this iconic contemporary wildlife art, he uses balloons to create various animals. His collection includes both huge and miniature collection of balloon swans, rabbits, monkeys, and even Venuses.  

  • ‘Pixcell’ Deer by Kohei Nawa  

Kohei Nawa is a Japanese sculptor, who is best known for creating ‘Pixcell’ series, a term which he has created on his own. The term combines a “pixel,” the smallest unit of a digital image, with that of a “cell.” In his contemporary wildlife art, he creates magic by picking up existing objects, like taxidermised deer, and giving it a granular feel by decorating it with an intricate layer of glass beads, prisms, glue, plaster, and spray foam.  

  • Lifesize replicas of animals by Cai Guo-Qiang  

One of the examples of the greatest work done of portraying animals in contemporary art has been done by Cai Guo-Qiang. In his famous contemporary wildlife art, he creates an unforgettable, though a utopian image of the natural world. In his famous work, ’heritage’ he shows 99 life-size replicas of animals in perfect harmony, around a vast blue pool surrounded by white sand. There is perfect harmony as all kinds of animals are drinking water together, which also gives an impression of some sort of crisis in the wildlife.