Exclusive: Six Women Artists From Saatchi Art’s 2021 ‘Rising Stars’ List

COVID obviously devastated the art business, with galleries and fairs scrambling to create worthy digital experiences – though in many cases arguably actually pulling it off. But while Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami will be just fine, thank you, younger, up-and-coming artists were hit particularly hard by the shut down of physical spaces, as the frisson of openings and exhibits is so vital to the cultivation of awareness of their work.

But Saatchi Art has long made it a mission to assist us in discovering the next generation of rising art talent. And the 2021 edition of their annual ‘Rising Stars’ list, compiled by the consensus of top curators, features 27 artists from 13 countries, from the UK to the USA, South Korea to Hong Kong, Portugal to Romania, and notably including a great number of women. The latter is certainly encouraging, of course, as the art world continues in its struggle towards gender equity.

Speaking to exactly that, while the list won’t be officially released until September 8 (view it at SaatchiArt.com), Saatchi Art and BlackBook have collaborated on an exclusive sneak peek at six of the female artists who will be a part of it. Their works are all uniquely challenging, distinctly thought-provoking, and each visually captivating in its own singular way – and their names may very well be grabbing cultural headlines in 2022.

As to the importance of the list, Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator and Director, Art Advisory at Saatchi Art, is quick to point out that many ‘Rising Stars’ alumni have indeed gone on to significant international success.

“Saatchi Art has always been at the forefront of championing artists early on in their careers,” she enthuses. “‘Rising Stars’ is our annual list of top emerging artists to watch, and continues to be a highly sought after source for discovering fresh names in the art world. So we’re thrilled to present this new class.”

Abigail Albano-Payton, USA

The Big Chop‘ (top image, cropped – link to full image at SaatchiArt.com)

A young Afro-Filipina artist, Abigail Albano-Payton pays homage to her community and heritage through richly textured figurative paintings, which highlight underrepresented subjects with both formal and conceptual sensitivity. In The Big Chop, Abigail explores the emotional and symbolic complexity of hairstyles and, more broadly, the social norms that define us. The emotive quality with which she captures quotidian experiences caught our attention as we were making selections for ‘Rising Stars,’ and we think her practice will continue to grow with nuance.

– Bethany Fincher, Assistant Curator

Anna Wehrwein, USA

‘Crossword (Mother, Daughter)

From cozy scenes at home to candid moments with friends, Anna Wehrwein’s paintings create an illusion of intimacy that gives viewers a snapshot of daily life. In Crossword (Mother, Daughter), the artist plays with unexpected patterns, chromatic colors, and unconventional angles to reinvent the domestic scene of a mother and daughter working on a crossword puzzle. Anna’s refreshingly different depictions of women in contemporary spaces brings a new perspective to this year’s edition of ‘Rising Stars.’

– Aurora Garrison, Associate Curator

Laura Manino, Argentina

Expansión Tropical

Laura Valeria Manino’s delicate compositions convey movement and energy through skillful linework. Using pencils, graphite, and pastels in her freehand creation Expansión Tropical, she utilizes negative space to give the composition a palpable three-dimensionality. The Buenos Aires-based artist’s inclusion in the 2021 class of ‘Rising Stars’ provides a much needed spotlight on the intricacies of works on paper. 

– Aurora Garrison, Associate Curator

Nooka Shepherd, UK

Wyrd Sisters

Inspired by Wessex folklore, Nooka Shepherd seamlessly combines the human form and elements of nature in haunting reimaginings of Anglo-Saxon myths and legends. In Wyrd Sisters, she gives human attributes to a forest with the portrayal of three ethereal sisters – prompting viewers to revisit their relationship with the natural environment. The artist’s offbeat retellings of traditional folklore are an exciting addition to our ‘Rising Stars’ feature this fall.

– Aurora Garrison, Associate Curator

Roxana Daniela Ajder, Romania


Roxana Ajder’s figurative paintings are based on photos of people, primarily women, involved in the social nudity and naturalism movements. Her sun drenched paintings contemplate our cultural ambivalence towards nudity and concepts of beauty and femininity: With ebullient nude figures set against natural backdrops, as in Untitled, Roxana paints a vision of women with agency, imbued with freedom. She captures a peculiar element of life with richness and infectious optimism. With her having exhibited these works prolifically, we project interest in her work will grow as her career expands. 

– Bethany Fincher, Assistant Curator

Katie Burdon, UK

Persistence 2

Katie Burdon uses her photography practice to explore bodily existence, in all its strangeness, through the historically underrepresented female gaze. In Persistence 2, Katie pays homage to Dorothea Tanning’s surrealist installation Hôtel du Pavot. In this photograph, the domestic space, one of comfort and familiarity, is destabilized, transporting viewers to a discomfiting yet alluring alternate world. Her attention to art history and her fresh approach to the human body make her a welcome addition to the ‘Rising Stars’ list.

– Bethany Fincher, Assistant Curator

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