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The 100 most iconic artworks from the last five years

And the top ten are ...

Leading international art website ARTINFO has released a list of the “100 Most Iconic Artworks From the Last 5 Years”. The full list, released on their website this week, is an ambitious attempt to distill the past half-decade into its most memorable artistic moments. They put it thus:

From among the thousands of individual works that pass through galleries and museums, which have affected the conversation in some significant way? Amid all of contemporary art's chaotic installations and ephemeral gestures, which images have some staying power?

The top condenders were chosen by members of the ARTINFO staff, colleagues and several “distinguished outsiders”. The final cut – notably heavy on “art stars”, installations and performance pieces (Damien Hirst, Ai Weiwei, Marina Abromovic, Tino Seghal and Pussy Riot all make it in) – has sparked mixed reactions.  We’ll let you be the judge. In the top ten slots:

1. Christian Marclay, "The Clock", 2010

Produced for the Lincoln Centre in New York, this piece of video art - spanning 24 hours - on a clock was built “collage” style from spliced film clips, each frame displaying an exact time.          


2. Marina Abromovic, "The Artists is Present", 2010  

Renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic’s retrospective at the New York MOMA saw her spend three months across from an empty chair, in which thousands of visitors took a seat over the course of the exhibition.


3. Tino Sehgal, "This Progress", 2010            

A participatory work in which volunteers guided visitors through the ascending levels of New York’s Guggenheim Museum, mirroring the passage of time.


4. Ai Weiwei,"Sunflower Seeds", 2010            

The artist flooded the Tate Modern Turbine Hall with a hundred million seemingly identical hand-sculpted sunflower seeds, offering poetic comment on the notion of “made in China” and the nature of individuality.


5. Damien Hirst, "For the Love of God", 2007         


YBA breakout star Damien Hirst stirred controversy in the art world once again when he covered this human skull with diamonds and sold it for $100 million.


6. Mark Wallinger, "State Britain", 2007            

For his solo piece at the Tate Turbine Hall, Wallinger’s “ready-made” was a meticulous recreation of the anti-war encampment that was forcibly removed from outside London’s Houses of Parliament.


7. Voina, "A Dick Captured by the FSB", 2010         


Street art? Establishment protest? The Russian art Voina collective shot to notoriety after tracing this phallus on a drawbridge outside the former KGB in Moscow.


8. Shepard Fairey, "Hope", 2008            

The now-infamous portrait was appropriated by Fairey from an Asssociated Press photograph, and was soon absorbed into the visual iconography of Obama’s 2008 election campaign.


9. Pussy Riot, "Christ the Savior Cathedral performance", 2012            

Feminist punk group/performance artists - and recent cause-célèbre - Pussy Riot’s most famous performance saw them perform on the alter at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow - then landed them in jail.


10. Allora & Calzadilla, "Track and Field", 2011     

The American art duo devises this absurdist installation, in which an athlete used an overturned 60 ton military tank as a treadmill outside the US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. “As brawny and bombastic as the nationalistic spectacles it was mocking”.


See the full list here.

Charlotte Simmonds is a writer and blogger living in London. She was formerly an editorial assistant at the New Statesman. You can follow her on Twitter @thesmallgalleon.

Flickr/Alfred Grupstra
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How will future videogame makers design a grand strategy game about the 21st century?

With the diminishing power of nation states, and the lack of conventional warfare, what would a 21st-century grand strategy game look like?

In the world of historical strategy games, it always seems clear how to win. Paint the map your colour. Raise your flag over the capitals of your rivals. Pave the streets of your cities with gold. Games based around statecraft in olden times will tend to have diverse objectives, they usually focus on the greatness of a nation in the traditional senses of the word: military might, technological advancement, religious and cultural hegemony. These same priorities hold up from the times of the Roman Republic to the Cold War.

Yet if games designers in the future were to look at the world of today, how would they interpret the actions of modern governments? Do the same goals as before apply or have we moved on? Are the objectives of contemporary societies different, and if so, just what would a player in a game of 21st-century grand strategy be trying to achieve?

One thing is for sure, the conventional measures of success in historical grand strategy games don’t stack up so easily in a modern setting.

War, for instance, has always been a staple part of historical games and it remains a preoccupation of contemporary society too. In the 15 years of the 21st century, Britain has invaded two countries, conducted armed interventions in three more and is even now lining up the procurement of new fighter jets, new aircraft carriers and new nuclear weapons at incredible expense. So we can safely say we do not live in a peaceful age.

But despite having all this firepower and the political will to bring it to bear at the drop of a dossier, war doesn’t seem to serve Her Majesty’s Government in the way it does in either the history books or the strategy games. There is no territory to be won and no rival great powers being thwarted – only air strikes, occupations and teetering puppet governments.

Indeed the only country whose military adventures bear any resemblance to the old-timey way of doing things is Russia, with Putin perhaps the last of the breed of world leaders who still thinks swapping out the flags on municipal buildings constitutes a legitimate redrawing of national boundaries. Given his famous distrust for technology it seems quite likely he didn’t get the tersely worded Tweet from Obama about how that kind of thing isn’t supposed to work anymore.

On the economic side of things the approaches opted for by governments today don’t fit with the historical mind set either. Nations are no longer trying to get rich for their own sake. Privatisation relinquishes the assets of the state in return for a temporary financial gain and long term loss of revenue. Deregulation and poor tax enforcement bleeds capital overseas. It is here we see perhaps the key difference between games where you play as The State itself and real countries, countries run by people who have bank balances of their own and competing party financiers to appease.

The idea of running a country for the purpose of making that country wealthier and then reinvesting that wealth back into the country by developing assets and infrastructure has gone out of the window. Simultaneously both the leftwing model of a state run for the benefit of its citizens and the rightwing ideal of a country mastering its economy to become a more powerful force on the world stage have been quietly phased out. Outsourcing and tax havens suggest that there is no longer room for patriotism in economic policy – unless you’re China, of course, but it wouldn’t be much of a game with only one nation playing it.

On a technological front there was the space race, and there have even been games built around it. But in the 21st century, the urgency and the sense of competition has been lost. Rovers on Mars, probes on comets and space stations tend to be viewed in a spirit of collective human achievement, partly because of the collaborative nature of modern space exploration, and also, I suspect, because lots of people in those fields are Star Trek fans.

The idea of going to Mars so you can stand on the surface of another planet and tell the Communists to stuff it no longer appeals as much as that whole "pushing back the scientific boundaries for the benefit of all life of Earth" deal. It is laudable, but not ideal for games built around competing with other countries.

In the 21st century grand strategy game, we wouldn’t be looking to conquer the world, we wouldn’t be looking to buy it and we wouldn’t be looking to leave it in our technological wake either. So what does that leave? What would 21st-century grand strategy look like?

It could be argued that we’ve moved beyond the era of nation states as the bodies driving world affairs, and such a game might reflect that. Maybe something more akin to a Crusader Kings game would be the way to go, with the player taking the role of an individual – a connected political blueblood, perhaps, like an oligarch, a CEO, an activist turned politician, a drugs baron or a terrorist leader. Or maybe we would play not as an individual, but as an organisation, for example the CIA, ExxonMobil, Isis, Amnesty International or the Solntsevskaya Bratva.

It may be that we never see the present day immortalised in a strategy game, at least outside of that passing phase in Civilization where everything is either settled down or exploding in nuclear fire. Perhaps we’re destined to nestle into a historically obscure crack between the tumult of the 20th century and something spectacular or horrible yet to come. It is nice to think, however, that the times we live in are at least interesting and that maybe we’ll get to see it all laid out in a game one day, if only to find out what winning the 21st century would look like.

Phil Hartup is a freelance journalist with an interest in video gaming and culture