Art in the Twenty-First Century

Season 5

Season 5, the series’ most international season to date, provides viewers with a unique look at the lives and work of contemporary artists, revealing the artists’ perspectives and showcasing their working processes and studios. Art21 traveled around the world in Season 5, filming the creation of new art on every continent except Antarctica, and in museums, studios, galleries and homes in nine countries.

Fourteen internationally recognized artists, from painters and sculptors to photographers and filmmakers exploring the possibilities of new media, were filmed in their own environments and in their own words. The result is an exceptional opportunity for audiences to experience first-hand the complex artistic processes behind some of today’s most intriguing and thought-provoking art.

Included in the season are artists John Baldessari, Cao Fei, Mary Heilmann, William Kentridge, Kimsooja, Jeff Koons, Florian Maier-Aichen, Paul McCarthy, Allan McCollum, Julie Mehretu, Doris Salcedo, Cindy Sherman, Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA), and Carrie Mae Weems.

Broadcast Episodes


  • 54:11

    Systems features four artists—Julie Mehretu, Kimsooja, John Baldessari, and Allan McCollum—who invent new grammars and logics, finding comfort in some systems while rebelling against others in todays supercharged, information-based society. Whether through acts of appropriation, repetition, or accumulation, the artists in this episode realize projects both vast in scope and beyond comprehension.

  • 54:30

    Compassion features three artists—William Kentridge, Doris Salcedo, and Carrie Mae Weems—whose works explore conscience and the possibility of understanding and reconciling past and present, while exposing injustice and expressing tolerance for others.

  • 54:30

    Fantasy presents artists whose works defy convention and transport us to unreal worlds and altered states of consciousness. With works at times hallucinatory, irreverent, and sublime, each of these artists pursues a vision first held in the mind’s eye.

  • 54:30

    Whether satirizing society or reinventing icons of literature, art history, and popular culture, the artists in Transformation—Cindy Sherman, Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Paul McCarthy—inhabit the characters they create and capture the sensibilities of our age.

Art21 proudly presents a new collection of artist interviews, titled “Being an Artist”.