5 Brilliant Female Artists You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

5 Brilliant Female Artists You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

If you’ve ever been to the famous Museum of Modern Art in New York City or any other modern or contemporary museum, it’s not difficult to notice that the galleries and exhibitions heavily feature male artists. This is true for the broader category of art in which women are very often the subjects of the artwork but rarely recognized for being the artists behind the piece.

In MoMA alone, just 26% of displayed artists are female and women of color produced an even smaller 2% of the pieces. As a result, many brilliant female artists aren’t as widely recognized by the public like their male counterparts. Here are a few female artists in the modern and contemporary realm to keep your eye out for the next time you visit a museum.


Lee Krasner

Krasner was an abstract expressionist painter who was often overshadowed by her husband Jackson Pollock. However, Krasner was key in introducing the then-fledgling Pollock to key figures in her avant-garde circle. The two set up a studio where they both had separate spaces and their styles were heavily influenced by one another. Despite the snubs she often endured, Krasner certainly stands as an artist in her own right with her own distinct style and artistic success. As she put it, “I happened to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock and that’s a mouthful. I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent.”

Notable works: Seated Nude (1940), Composition (1949), Cool White (1959)

Museums featuring her art: MoMA, New York; The Met, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.


Yayoi Kusama

Kusama’s avant-garde work spans a variety of media including paintings, collages, sculptures, performance art pieces, and immersive installations. Her work features “dense patterns of polka dots and nets, as well as her intense, large-scale environments.” A highly acclaimed artist, she made a splash in the 1960s as a key artist in the pop art movement and influenced figures like Andy Warhol. Kusama also made history in the art world for a record sale by a female artist for $5.1 million in 2008.

Notable works: Mirror/infinity rooms (series), Kusamatrix (exhibition)

Museums featuring her art: Tate Modern, London; MoMA, New York; LACMA, LA; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo


Agnes Martin

Martin’s minimalist pieces feature square formats, grids, lines drawn on canvas, and monochromatic color with subtle variations in hue. Her style emerged during the 50s with influences from Mark Rothko. In 1998 Martin was awarded a National Medal of Arts and was recognized with a lifetime achievement award by the Women’s Caucus for Art.

Notable works: Loving Love (2000), Falling Blue (1963)

Museums featuring her art: New Mexico Museum of Art, Sante Fe; Smithsonian, Washington D.C.; MoMA, New York; LACMA, LA


Rineke Dijkstra

A Dutch photographer, Dijkstra constructs series of single portraits focused on a variety of groups like young women and mothers in a specific context such as the beach or new mothers after giving birth. Dijkstra’s portraits capture, “people in states of significant transition” and record the details of an individual’s physical appearance as well as illuminating their “subtly shifting inner states.”

Notable works: Beach Portraits (1992-2002), Olivier (2000-2003)

Museums featuring her art: Guggenheim, New York; the Met, New York; MoMA, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

Inspired by her Iranian heritage, Farmanfarmaian’s work reflects Islamic and Persian patterns and architecture as well as modern abstract expressionism that “appropriates the ancient traditions to contribute to the modern art conversation.” Her work is based on geometry with techniques including mirror mosaics and reverse glass painting that create stunning pieces. Now 90 years old, Farmanfarmaian’s work will be featured in her first solo exhibition in New York at the Guggenheim.

Notable works: Geometry of Hope (1976), Infinite Possibility (exhibition)

Museums featuring her art: Guggenheim, New York; Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran

If any of these pieces or accomplished artists tickle your fancy, take the time to truly appreciate their beautiful art by visiting their works in person!

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.