As the phrase going viral took on a new, far more literal definition this year, art that went viral on the internet evolved into a role more important than ever. While we were stuck at home, art shared online served variously as a public-health tool, an amplification of cries for social justice, and a much-needed means of escape. Here are some of the most memorable artworks and Most Viral Instagram paintings that were widely shared.
1. Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre, Safety Match
Artist couple Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre perfectly captured the need for social distancing with this short video of ignited matches.
2. Jose Manuel Ballester, Concealed Spaces
Jose Manuel Ballester began removing the figures from historical paintings in 2006, but the series caught on this year as crowded public spaces suddenly emptied out and citizens around the world were urged to stay home.
3. Data Illustrations by Mona Chalabi
Illustrator Mona Chalabi’s clear and direct drawings sharing facts and data offered easily digestible information throughout the year. One of the Most Viral Instagram paintings, it addressed the global health crisis, the societal inequities fuelling the Black Lives Matter movement and the presidential election.
4. Trump Golfing
When Donald Trump took a trip to the golf course as the nation hit 100,000 deaths, artists including Marcel Dzama united to turn the front page of the New York Times into a critique of the president’s callousness.
5. White House Fence Art
Activists demonstrating on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement in June were unfazed when the president erected additional fences around the White House, turning the barricades into a billboard for messages in support of racial justice.
6. Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain, George Floyd Mural
Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McClain painted an instantly iconic portrait of George Floyd, later displayed at his funeral, on the side of the Minneapolis Cup Foods where police officers killed him. The site quickly became a memorial, and similar displays proliferated around the country, including a tribute wall in Harlem.
7. Ariel Sinha, Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor
Ariel Sinha’s moving image memorialized Breonna Taylor, an African American medical worker who police shot and killed while she slept in her own apartment in March.
8. Good Trubble and Bria Goeller, That Little Girl Was Me
Good Trubble and Bria Goeller, That Little Girl Was Me, combining a photograph of vice president-elect Kamala Harris with the shadow of Ruby Bridges from Norman Rockwell’s famous painting The Problem We All Live With. Following the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, you might have spotted this striking image of the vice president-elect shared on social media. It combines a photograph of Harris with the shadow of Ruby Bridges from Norman Rockwell’s famous painting The Problem We All Live With which became one of the Most Viral Instagram paintings.
9. Nikkolas Smith, Ahmaud Arbery
Nikkolas Smith paid tribute to Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was shot and killed by two white men while he went for a jog in February, with this emotional portrait.
10. Jon Henry, “Stranger Fruit“
Named after the Billie Holiday song and created in response to police killings of Black men, Jon Henry’s mournfully beautiful “Stranger Fruit” series of photographs poses Black mothers and their sons as the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Pietà.
11. Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi, Wear a Mask
In a reminder of the importance of wearing face coverings, Adrian Wilson and Heidi Hankaniemi each created a couture look from 150 masks and wore them around the city for a day-long performance art piece in September. This became one of the Most Viral Instagram paintings.
12. Sara Shakeel, “Wash Your Hands”
As hand-washing became a sudden obsession in the early days of the pandemic, Pakistani artist Sara Shakeel injected some glamour into the fearful moment in time with her glittery digital collages of sinks spouting sparking water.
13. Alessandra Lontra, PPE Rosie
Artist Alessandra Lontra illustrated the parallels between today’s women healthcare workers on the frontlines fighting the pandemic and the women factory and shipyard workers of World War II. The drawing is inspired by J. Howard Miller’s seminal We Can Do It poster, often identified as Rosie the Riveter which became one of the Most Viral Instagram paintings.
14. Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins, Coronavirus Illustration
Today, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) image of the virus’s morphology is instantly recognizable. That’s thanks in no small part to CDC medical illustrators and “biomedical artists” Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins, who created this widely disseminated image for official government use.
15. Stefanie Trilling, “Children’s Books for Pandemics“
In March, Stefanie Trilling, a mother of two, began painting quarantine-themed versions of popular children’s books. She ended up making 114 in total, featuring 2020 takes on beloved classics, such as Harold and the Purple Corona, Where the Viruses Are, and Cloudy With a Chance of Panic Hoarding.
Most Viral Instagram Paintings To Try