Elephant’s Top 11 to 20 Most Popular Articles of 2021

From interviews and columns to profiles and opinion pieces, we count down the top 20 features that attracted more readers than anything else this year

Gloria and Charmaine, Baltimore, Maryland, 1979. Courtesy Anthology Editions

11. Joan E Biren’s Long-Lost Lesbian Family Album

“The album captures the tenderness between women loving women, memorialising lesbian life and creating space to come home to ourselves” As a new edition of JEB’s Eye to Eye was released, we consider representations of lesbians in visual culture in the 40 years since its original publication.

12. “I Made a Bunch of Dicks”: Meet Al Freeman

The Canadian artist is known for her large-scale pleather representations of instantly identifiable objects, but her work isn’t as soft as it appears. “Originally I was going to do only my own exes but revisiting those narratives through the work became emotionally exhausting. I decided to include other people’s exes, giving myself an emotional break by working on multiple pieces at once.”

Blindspot Gallery, Frieze London 2021

13. Frieze Diary #1: “All I See Is Overworked Gallery Staff and Awkward Rich People”

We ran five diaries charting five very different Frieze Week experiences. First up was The White Pube’s Zarina Muhammad. “I say I hate Frieze, I complain and whinge, but I’ve gone every year since 2015…”

Danielle McKinney, Dreamer, 2021

14. Why Danielle McKinney Abandoned Photography In Favour of Painting

“I became very fatigued with watching and looking at the world around me, and making a statement about it.” The US artist explained why creating her art through a brush rather than a lens gives her a better connection to the world and to herself.

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, 2019. Courtesy CDC

15. How Visual Language Helps Us to Navigate the Pandemic

“The spatial arrangement of the atoms can tell you something about how the virus attaches to cells”. We explore how graphic communication for biological sequencing, data visualization and even magazine covers deepen our understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic, and have been crucial in helping us adapt to our new lives under it.

Agnes Martin, Desert Flower, 1985 © Estate of Agnes Martin /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

16. How Agnes Martin’s Desert Flower Brought Me Calmness and Reconciliation

The painter’s work created an oasis of calm that allowed writer Ava Wong Davies to reconnect with her distant elderly father. “Martin’s grids are guiding lines, a steady, low constant, like a warm hand resting on the back of your neck. Looking at them in the museum, the pressure on my temples had eased. Martin had granted me some modicum of peace…”

17. How Günter Brus’ Self Painting Showed Me Life’s Psychotic Duality

Writer and novelist Megan Nolan explains how she felt excluded from art until she discovered the Austrian artist’s powerful performance pieces. “The images of Günter Brus were intoxicating, the immediacy and undeniability of their effect on me… In Self Painting the hideous welding and incompetent sewing required to maintain personhood is laid bare.”

18. Genieve Figgis: When the Dinner Party Becomes a Ghoulish Social Portrait

“My characters are always about survival. The figures are happy, mostly floating in some utopian stage of equality” The Irish artist paints strange social scenes and gatherings that are difficult to place yet eerily resonant. In this profile we get to the heart of her lingering figures, and a practice that positions “art as coping mechanism.”

19. Erwin Olaf: “Many Art Forms Can Make You Cry but Photography Rarely Does”

We meet the Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, whose diverse image-making career ranges from traditional landscapes to highly-stylised, fashion-adjacent portraits. He describes his despair at the pandemic’s outset, and how his craft brought him back from the brink. “Nature doesn’t have emotion. It doesn’t mind if you drop dead, if you suffer, if you are happy.”

20. Stalks, Stones and Sex: Popping the Cherry Myth

From the Virgin Mary to Lolita and Beyoncé, the cherry’s sexual stereotyping is ripe for a revamp. We traced its path from racy cheap shot to serious artistic motif, via serious sculpture and delicate prints. “These portraits idealise youthful innocence, yet the cherry-virgin paradox is a disturbing reminder of sex to come…”


Elephant’s Top 10 Most Popular Articles of 2021

Counting down the most-read features published on elephant.art this year