Painters, photographers, sculptors and digital artists from 63 countries competed in the most prestigious online art call, AMERICAN ART AWARDS, https://www.americanartawards.com/, where America’s 25 best galleries and museums score art in 50 categories. In this column, I’ll reveal the world’s best contemporary artists of 2019 one category at a time.
There were so many brilliant works entered that America’s top 25 galleries and museums had a hard time deciding, consequently many phenomenal pieces did not get enough votes to be winners this year — however the featured works in this article received the most votes and won 1st to 6th Place in the 2019 AMERICAN ART AWARDS. Congratulations to all these artists for scoring above the stiff competition.
BIO OF 1ST PLACE WINNER: Georgy Kurasov
Georgy Kurasov was born in 1958 in the USSR, in what was then Leningrad. He still lives and works in the same place, but now the country is Russia and the city is called St Petersburg. Without any effort on his part whatsoever, Georgy seems to have emigrated from one surreal country to another.
His native city was irrational from the very moment of its foundation. Situated on the same latitude as the southern shores of Alaska, on the swampy delta of the River Neva where no one had ever settled before, this new capital city grew up on the very edge of a monstrous empire.
Here on the totally flat surface carved across by rivers, streams and canals, European architects laid out, like images on a canvas, straight avenues, streets and squares, they built Greco-Roman porticoes and Baroque palazzi, erected sculptures and fountains, amidst something akin to permafrost where half the year is dominated by ice and frost and the other half by damp and rain.
It is hard to find a more artificial — more artistic — city.
Georgy spent his childhood on the Petrograd Side, to the north of the city, in a tiny little flat with windows that looked out onto an even tinier courtyard. As far as he recalls, he modeled things in plasticine and drew resting on the vast wooden windowsills. Not so much aesthetic pastimes as compensations for the grey minimalism of everyday life, the absence of light and bright colours.
At thirteen years old his mother put him in the art school attached to the Academy of Arts. At the interview it was politely explained that there was nothing for Georgy in the painting department since he had a total lack of feeling for colour. So they suggested Georgy Kurasov join the sculpture class.
In some way he was pleased, since all the painted images they showed him seemed terribly boring, and Georgy had great interest in form.
That was when he began his professional training.
In 1977 Georgy Kurasov entered the sculpture department of the Academy of Arts.
He spent six years in the vast studio of a building erected during the time of Catherine the Great, in the late 18th century. Those gloomy, narrow, incredibly high vaulted corridors, the vast, cold, grimy studios, everything was inhabited by the ghosts of long dead masters of ages past, whose influence was far more real than the insignificant apologists of Socialist Realism and of Marxist-Leninist aesthetics. The Academy was a solid amalgamation of temple to and prison of the arts.
Yet those years in the Academy were the best years of his life. Nearly all Georgy’s friends and colleagues date from those years.
The circles he moved in were intellectual, talented, young — which meant free, with the exception of the one or two informers that were simply an obligatory element of life in those years and did little to alter the overall picture.
It was then that Georgy met his wonderful Zina, who was later to occupy nearly all his space, both physical, in his life, and creative, in his works.
Almost immediately after his diploma Georgy Kurasov was called up for army service, but even there he was armed not with a rifle but with paints, since he was lucky enough to be appointed Court Artist to his general.
In 1984 Georgy Kurasov was at last demobbed. He was free.
Over the next few years he took part in all kinds of exhibitions and competitions in order to score the Brownie points necessary to gain membership of the Union of Artists, since that was more or less the only way of being allocated a separate studio.
It was not the easiest of times. In order to take part in exhibitions you had to have something to display. And in order to create that something to display, you had to have a place in which to create it. Georgy had nowhere.
At last, however, he managed to join the happy ranks of members of the Union of Artists, was allocated his tiny studio, and thought he was at the very peak of happiness. All around him the country was in turmoil, at the very heights of Gorbachev’s ‘perestroika’, people passionately quenching their thirst for information whilst battling with a hunger of somewhat more concrete physical nature caused by food shortages.
Things were now rather difficult for artists, particularly as far as sculpture was concerned. Sculpture, as is well known, is an art form for either rich or totalitarian states. The totalitarian state had ceased to exist but it had not become rich.
Georgy Kurasov started to paint, but it soon became clear that selling his pictures for any acceptable price was going to be impossible, and so he had to feed his family by producing small pastels which Georgy sold through small galleries dealing mainly in souvenirs for foreign tourists.
In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed. By that time Kurasov had put together a large body of paintings, but had absolutely no idea what he was going to do with them. The future looked bleak.
Then in 1993 his works were first exhibited in the USA. Since then, Georgy Kurasov have exhibited and sold his paintings exclusively in North America.
It is many years since he dropped out of the world of sculpture in Russia, and he never formed part of the world of painting there. Kurasov knows there are plenty of people who, noting the absence of his works at Russian exhibitions, think he has emigrated.
Americans see Georgy Kurasov as a Russian artist, Russians as an American artist. Painters think he is a sculptor. Sculptors are sure he is a painter.
And when Georgy Kurasov thinks of it, he rather like this borderline existence. Perhaps it what makes it possible to be himself, to be unlike anyone else.
CONTACTS FOR CATEGORY 9. CUBISM / CUBIST OR NEO-CONSTRUCTIVISM
1ST PLACE-TIE GEORGY KURASOV RUSSIA http://www.kurasov.com/ “#246 / Seville” 96x96cm Oil. (Neo-Contructivism)
1ST PLACE-TIE GEORGY KURASOV RUSSIA http://www.kurasov.com/ 96x96cm “#241 / Business Brunch” Oil. (Neo-Contructivism)
2ND PLACE-TIE GEORGY KURASOV RUSSIA http://www.kurasov.com/ “#236 / Stargazer” 100x80cm Oil. (Neo-Contructivism)
3RD PLACE LISBOA JOSE BRAZIL http://www.artupclose.com/jose-lisboa-3 “Apocalíptico Urbanóide” 12.3x12.3” Assemblage and acrylic on panel.
4TH PLACE ORLANDO SILVA (WERSITO) SPAIN / VENEZUELA email@example.com “Guitar On The Square” 15x23" Oil on canvas.
5TH PLACE-TIE BOBBY BAUTISTA aka BOBBYBAUT PHILIPPINES www.facebook.com/bobbybaut “La Femina Di Pablo” 32x48” Acrylic.
5TH PLACE-TIE WILLIAM FRANCIS BRENNAN GERMANY www.william-francis-brennan.com “Procession” 90x120cm Oil on canvas.
5TH PLACE-TIE PETER POWELL AUSTRALIA firstname.lastname@example.org “In Concert With The Muses” 45x70” Digital art.
6TH PLACE-TIE LISBOA JOSE BRAZIL http://www.artupclose.com/jose-lisboa-3 “Urban¢ide XP” 27.5x27.5” Assemblage and acrylic on panel.
6TH PLACE-TIE GULMIRA ABUOVA KAZAKHSTAN https://www.instagram.com/gulmira_super_star/ “Blossom’s Angels” 120x90cm Oil, canvas.
This is the 11th anniversary for the international awards organization which decides the 25 Best Galleries and Museums in America, who decide the World’s Best Contemporary Artists. Gallery decisions are based upon years established, industry reputation, online buzz, location, size, socially relevant exhibits, motivational and educational programs, represented artists as well as artist, client and visitor references.
2019’s 25 Best Galleries & Museums asked to vote on art were:
BEST IN ARIZONA — EXPOSURES INTERNATIONAL GALLERY OF FINE ART: Rising like a gigantic mystical temple in Sedona, this 20,000 sf showplace displays the finest of every style from classical to contemporary. Serving private or commercial needs, offering small maquettes to monumental bronze and stone sculptures, original oil and acrylic otherworldly paintings, fine art jewelry, enchanting glass art… https://www.exposuresfineart.com/
BEST IN ARKANSAS — FORT SMITH REGIONAL ART MUSEUM: Originated in 1948 but fully re-branded in 2013. AWARDS: Preservation through Rehabilitation Award (2013), American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gulf State Region Merit Award (2014), and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Gold Award… http://fsram.org/
BEST IN CALIFORNIA — EXCLUSIVE COLLECTIONS: History of six galleries between California and Nevada honed expertise to assist significant collections of fine art and enduring legacy. Their red-carpet events showcase today’s most celebrated artists — from young emerging masters to established international masters… http://ecgallery.com/our-galleries/solana-beach/
BEST IN COLORADO — MIRADA FINE ART: Both the booming Denver gallery and owner/curator Steve Sonnen continue to be prominently featured in national and international art publications as well as appearing on numerous ‘Best Of’ lists. Lively spirited art, insightful exhibits, a Colorado vortex. http://www.miradafineart.com/
BEST IN HAWAII — SUNSHINE ARTS: 4,000 square foot structure on the Windward side of Oahu, offering over 2,000 original art images by 75 best-selling artists. For 23 years, this heralded Kaneohe landmark has been a favorite of local artists and nearby residents as well as international designers and collectors. http://www.sunshinearts.net/
BEST IN ILLINOIS — TRICKSTER ART GALLERY: The only Native American owned and operated arts institution in Illinois. 10,000 sf facility exhibits contemporary Native art (post 1960s) and first-voice multi-cultural arts with themes of veterans and social justice. https://www.trickstergallery.com/
BEST IN INDIANA — HAAN MANSION MUSEUM OF INDIANA ART: Holds the most extensive Indiana art collection in the US, including paintings from the Hoosier Group and Brown County Art Colony. Specializing in major oils, over 100 artists are represented. Haan is a true find; a rare hospitable time-capsule cradling a precious past. http://haanmuseum.org/
BEST IN IOWA — MOBERG GALLERY: Exceptional eye for contemporary masterpieces and represents 50 phenomenal Iowan artisans, procured work for museums, corporate collections, private collections and public art projects across the nation. Sets the standard for modern art in the Midwest. https://www.moberggallery.com/
BEST IN KANSAS — EVA REYNOLDS FINE ARTS: 30 years specializing in European and American contemporary original paintings and sculpture. A world-renowned fine arts service record among collectors and represented artists. Recognized by Ingram’s as a “Top Gallery in Kansas City.” https://evareynoldsfinearts.com/
BEST IN KENTUCKY — E&S GALLERY: For 30 years an iconic African-American gallery. 11,000 sf. Three stories of stunning space and empowering art. Unmatched selection of artists, mediums, subject matters and genres. Premiere selection of original graphics and sculpture by renowned old master artists. https://www.eandsgallery.com/
BEST IN LOUISIANA — NEWCOMB ART MUSEUM: Since 1886 acknowledging the contributions of women to the fields of art and design. Continually presenting innovative exhibitions and programs that engage communities, spark idea-exchange and instigate cross-disciplinary collaborations. https://newcombartmuseum.tulane.edu/
BEST IN MARYLAND — ANNAPOLIS MARINE ART GALLERY: For 40 years providing the best of marine art to the Mid-Atlantic collector community. Located at City Dock in Annapolis, they have an extensive collection of originals and limited edition prints of renowned artists John Stobart, John Barber, Willard Bond, Patrick O’Brien, Paul Landry, John Ruseau, and more. https://www.annapolismarineart.com/
BEST IN MINNESOTA — MODERN ARTIFACT: Buys and sells some of the world’s most collected and demanded fine art, antiques and memorabilia. Innovative. Headquartered in Minneapolis with clients all over the world. Daily relationships with many art dealers, collectors and top artists. https://modernartifact.com/
BEST IN MISSOURI — HILLIARD GALLERY: 45 years… one of the oldest and largest fine art galleries in Kansas City… voted by Kansas City Visitor Center as Best Gallery In Kansas City in 2012… voted by Kansas City Magazine as the Best Gallery In Kansas City 2014… https://www.hilliardgallery.com/
BEST IN NEW JERSEY — EVALYN DUNN GALLERY: For 60 years, a family legacy serving the community with expert, innovative and personable staff. Features the finest 20th Century American and European art. http://www.evalyndunngallery.com/
BEST IN NEW MEXICO — PIPPIN CONTEMPORARY: On historic Canyon Road, an uplifting world of vibrant color as expressed in contemporary art. The richly sensuous visual experience is complemented by a warm, engaging and insightful staff. Passionate artists; energetic and tactile, elements of surprise and beauty. A special oasis to access pure emotions. https://pippincontemporary.com/
BEST IN NEVADA — THE METROPOLITAN GALLERY OF LAS VEGAS ART MUSEUM: 20,000 sf facility dedicated to raising awareness, understanding and accessibility for a wide range of fine art by local, regional and international artists. Also offers insightful educational programs and cultural events. https://www.mglv.org/
BEST IN OHIO — LEE HAYDEN GALLERY: Mastered the Mid-western art business. Very prominent Cleveland gallery; a collector’s favorite for decades, offering paintings, sculptures and rare prints from both emerging and world-renown artists. https://www.leehayden.com/
BEST IN OREGON — BRONZE COAST GALLERY: In its 24th year. Oregon Coast’s premiere fine art gallery specializing in limited edition bronze sculpture and original paintings by more than thirty award-winning regional, national and international artists. Also provides education in sculpture and the in depth process of bronze casting. http://www.bronzecoastgallery.com/
BEST IN SOUTH CAROLINA — MARY MARTIN GALLERY: Located in the heart of downtown Charleston, Mary Martin Gallery is a gem of the city. Representing artists internationally in her two locations, Mary exhibits an eclectic mix of paintings and sculptures that appeal to collectors from all parts of the world. No matter if you own a large collection of art or only one painting Mary believes everyone should experience the joy of having their very own art collection. http://www.marymartinart.com/
BEST IN SOUTH DAKOTA — SOUTH DAKOTA ART MUSEUM: Since 1970, for almost fifty years, this museum beautifully houses the artistic legacy of South Dakota in all its diversity. 7,000 objects in its collection include Harvey Dunn paintings, Native American art, Marghab Linens, and much more. https://www.sdstate.edu/south-dakota-art-museum
BEST IN TEXAS — AO5 GALLERY: Austin’s largest contemporary art gallery, featuring hundreds of emerging and established artists from around the world. With over 7,000 sf to explore, there’s something new to see on every visit. https://ao5gallery.com/
BEST IN UTAH — SOUTHAM GALLERY: Premier Utah gallery for almost 40 years. Sells the work of some of the most highly regarded artists in the western United States. Stunning realism and impressionism. Experience and insight to guide serious art portfolios. Endless satisfied collectors. http://www.southamgallery.com/
BEST IN WASHINGTON DC — LIK FINE ART WASHINGTON DC: With 17 locations across the country, LIK Fine Art showcases some of Peter Lik’s most notable and award-winning photographic masterpieces. Peter has spent over 30 years pushing the boundaries of fine art. A self-taught pioneer in the field of landscape photography, Lik’s works make up four of the top 20 most expensive photographs ever sold, the highest selling for an astounding $6.5 million in 2014. https://lik.com/pages/lik-fine-art-washington-dc
BEST IN WEST VIRGINIA — WEST VIRGINIA STATE MUSEUM: Established 125 years ago with the intent to collect, preserve, present, promote and document West Virginia’s every aspect of history, culture, art, paleontology, archaeology, and geology representing all its people and industries. http://www.wvculture.org/museum/State-Museum-Index.html