Modern artists influenced (inspired?) by political events:

Art has historically been a source of expression, highlighting social iniquities, challenging politics, being outspoken about the world (Hogarth’s ‘An election entertainment’ 1755), . However, there has always been a large body of ‘gentle’ art, art simply for beauty, admiration or commissioned art for personal vanity (Constable, Rembrandt, Vermeer). Also art at certain periods heavily limited/restricted by religious strictures.

Freedom of expression granted to majority of contemporary artists (leaving aside certain ‘closed’ countries such as N Korea) means they have scope to express their views, shock, challenge, achieve infamy/notoriety with impunity. Examples include:

Political, social and economic inequalities, strong social statements. Using non-traditional media, scale and location to produce art. Graffiti is subversive, contemporary, a challenge to authority, illegal(!) but gets noticed. Large-scale so cannot be ignored, very quickly becomes a talking point, goes viral. Taps into the art and social underground. Anonymity further enhances subversive, off-grid nature of art. Perversely, becomes more mainstream and collectable, collectors buying (and thieves stealing) the walls the art is located on.

“The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists.. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”
Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

“The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages.”
Banksy, Wall and Piece

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

Grayson Perry
Uses variety of media to challenge the establishment. Textiles are traditionally a ‘female’ artform; his alter-ego, Claire, further challenges prejudices around sexuality, cross-dressing and gender identity.

Chose an alternative arts medium, to produce a TV documentary series, ‘Why Men Wear Frocks’, to explore in very personal way the themes of transvestism and masculinity in the 21st century.

Further series ‘All in the best possible taste’ explores the theme of ‘good taste’ in different social ‘classes’. Series later translated into large, brightly coloured, visually and emotionally intense tapestries ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’.

Has also been an art critic, delivered the Reith lectures, written books, graphic novels. An outspoken challenger of the art ‘establishment’. Again, somewhat perversely, becomes adopted and recognised by mainstream art world with Turner Prize and CBE.

‘The basic premise of taste, as Stephen Bayley, the cultural critic, said, is that taste is that which does not alienate your peers. Most people want to fit in with their tribe in some way or another, so they give off signals, whether it’s with their clothes, their behavior, their car, their whatever, and gain status. Every tribe has a hierarchy, and that’s what taste is: it’s an unconscious display of who you are, and where you want to be’ Guernica Mag

“If George Osborne had dressed up as a cross between Flashman and the Grim Reaper instead of a business suit when he delivered his budgets, perhaps we would have had a more appropriate vision of who was controlling the nation’s finances.”
Grayson Perry (The Descent of Man)

Barbara Kruger
Subversive, femisist, agitpop art. Graphic design, site-specific installations, video, audio and magazine work. Signature use of bold fonts, taking black and white image/s with a ‘marketing’ or non-challenging source, radically changing meaning and focus with confrontational text.

‘I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are, what we want to be and what we become.’

Tracey Emin
Well-known for her bold, often brutal messages challenging mainstream art world (Unmade Bed, All the Men I Have Ever Slept With).

Interesting phenomenon that often most controversial artists eventually become ‘accepted’ by art world. Does this take away their ‘power’ to influence/continue to shock? Are they now, as part of the establishment, no longer regarded as expressing the subversive messages that brought them to fame/notoriety? Do they still have subversive credibility?