Since our last poll of Art Radar‘s most-searched artists, published in August 2011, Chinese artist-dissident Ai Weiwei has taken the number one spot from compatriot Tsang Kin-wah, and South Korean artists have seen a spike in popularity.

Lee Yong-Baek, 'Angel Soldier_Photo – No. 1', 2011, C-print. Lee's "Angel Soldier" series was featured in the Korea pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

The list picks up from our last update in 2011, and covers the period from July through to December 2011. We cannot claim that this list is a reliable proxy for the most-searched Asian contemporary artists on the Internet overall (take a look at our disclaimer at the bottom of this article for more on why), however, we do think the list throws up some fascinating data, particularly when compared with our previous lists. For the data from 2010, click here, and for the data from 2009, click here.

The list…

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Correction, 17 August 2012: Art Radar mistakenly included New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana in our list of the most-searched Asian artists on our platform. As New Zealand is not located in Asia (according to the United Nations geographic classification scheme) we have since removed the name of this artist. We apologise for any confusion or dismay that this has caused the artist and those in association with her, along with our readers.

Ai Weiwei reigns in 2011

Red-hot Chinese artist Ai Weiwei claimed the top spot left vacant by Tsang Kin-wah’s precipitous drop to number 14. This comes as no surprise, given the artist’s vocal press and social media outreach conducted in defiance of the terms of his release from custody on 22 June 2011. Ai was the subject of a watershed retrospective at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum that ran from 29 October 2011 to 29 January 2012, which included his famous Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads bronzes. He was also a runner-up for Time magazine’s person of the year and topped ArtReview‘s Power 100 list of the most influential people in the arts.

South Korean artists on the rise

Perhaps the most surprising development on the list was the increase in South Korean artists, who overtook Chinese artists to occupy more spots than any other single country on the list. Newcomers included Lee Yong-baek, the artist chosen to represent South Korea at the Venice Biennale from 4 June-27 November 2011 with his pavilion The Love is gone but the Scar will heal. Also new to the list was Park Sung Tae, whose first New York solo exhibition in early 2011 made for a striking picture feast. Returning from the previous list, Kim Joon jumped nine spots to crack the geographically diverse top five. These are all signs that the art world may be embracing South Korea as the next big wave in Asian contemporary art.

First appearance for Cai Guo-Qiang, Manuel Ocampo, Silas Fong

While Chinese artist Li Hui dropped off the list from his number five spot, mega-artist Cai Guo-Qiang made his first ever appearance on the list at number six. His solo exhibition at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art opened on 5 December 2011, his first show in the Middle East. Also new to the list was Manuel Ocampo, who in late 2011 participated in Contemporary Art Dublin in addition to holding a solo exhibition called “The Beer Belly Masculinity Intensification Program” at Melbourne’s KALIMANRAWLINS gallery. The only young artist to make the list was Hong Kong’s Silas Fong, who in 2011 participated in the Seoul International NewMedia Festival, capping off several prolific years in the Hong Kong arts scene.

How does our list match up to your expectations? Leave us a comment and tell us who you think should be on the list.

Disclaimer: This list is not a reliable proxy for the most-searched artists on the Internet overall. If we have not written a post on or tagged an artist, search engines will not bring us traffic for this search term and it will not appear in our traffic analysis statistics. Art Radar is still young, having just celebrated its third birthday, so it is quite possible that we have not yet covered some higly-searched artists. Even if we have referenced an artist on our site and the artist is highly searched, the searcher will not come to us unless we have a high page ranking for the story on search engines. For example, if the post is, say, after page four of search engine results, the searcher is not as likely to find our post and the search term will not appear in our stats. Finally, even if we have written a post on a searched artist and that post is ranked highly, it may be that other stories on the same page are more alluring than ours and readers do not find their way to us.


Related Topics: Ai Weiwei, Korean artists, list posts

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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