4 Top-Selling Contemporary Artists: Today's Global Art Stars

German painter Gerhard Richter

Gerard Richter
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Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany and is best known for his wide range of painting genres and techniques.

Richter flawlessly straddles two diverse painting styles as he creates abstractions by squeegee and figurative representations that appear photographic. He is the master of ambiguity and this may be a contributing factor to his world-wide success and stature.

In 2012, he became the highest-selling living artist as his painting Abstraktes Bild, owned by Eric Clapton, sold for a record price of $34m at Sotheby's.

Richter became well-known to American audiences when he had a 40-year retrospective in the US in 2002-2003: Forty Years of Painting debuted at The Museum of Modern Art, and traveled to other prestigious museums such as The Art Institute of Chicago; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

In the US, his artwork is represented by the influential Marian Goodman Gallery in NY.

Japanese installation artist Yayoi Kusama

Marakami artist
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Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto, Nagano in central Japan in 1929. Both an artist and writer, she is known for her room-sized installations covered with dots, her phallus encrusted furniture pieces and domestic objects, her white on white paintings, and for her mirrored infinity boxes.

Kusama lived in New York City during the late 1960s and her staged happenings and scandalous performances created with nude participants often made the headlines of the local tabloids. At that time, she was as well-known in NY's art scene as Andy Warhol.

While in the US, Kusama had developed close friendships with artists Georgia O'Keefe and Joseph Cornell.

She slipped into obscurity when she returned to Japan in the 70s, However, by the late 90s, there was a resurgence of her work which was rapidly gaining international prominence.

In November 2014, one of her paintings sold for $6.2 million at auction, and since that time, the demand for her artwork is still strong, with little turnover.

British conceptual artist Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst artist
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Damien Hirst grew up in Leeds, England, and first gained recognition as being a central figure in the YBAs, Young British Artists. He studied art at  Goldsmiths, University of London and received the Turner Prize in 1995.

Hirst's work is strongly themed, often musing on metaphysical issues such as mortality. His most famous piece is his 1991 installation titled "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" in which a 14-foot (4.3 m) tiger shark floats in a tank of formaldehyde.

Hirst and his staff of assistant artists create a huge variety of artwork: spin paintings, preserved animals in vitrines, polychrome sculptures, drawings, paintings, and installations. Besides working as an artist, Hirst also curates exhibitions and works on other art ventures. His professional work and personal life often generate headlines in the British press.

Japanese pop artist Takeshi Murakami

Murakami installation at Versailles
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Takashi Murakami was born in Tokyo, Japan. Known for combining both high and low art, commercialism with aestheticism, and creating manga-inspired paintings, sculptures, and installations, Murakami has become one of the leading international top-selling artists.

Murakami easily wears many hats: conceptual artist, fashion designer, author, speaker, astute businessman and company owner. His Louis Vuitton-designed handbags were so popular in the fashion world, while his books are extremely popular with the design crowd.

Murakami's controversial Versailles installation in 2010 received some condemnation and some admiration.

His solo mini-retrospective exhibition in 2007 titled ©MURAKAMI at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, traveled to the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany; and the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.