From incredible, immersive videos to thought-provoking sculptures, the year in art installations was certainly thrilling. In fact, 2023 proved that we've moved upward and onward, with several important installations finally emerging after long delays caused by the pandemic. With exciting openings like the Las Vegas Sphere, the contemporary art world had plenty to be excited about, and as our list of the top art installations of the year proves, many artists are ready to lead the way forward.
My Modern Met has been tracking the top 10 art installations of the year since 2013, and we're always amazed to see the new, innovative artwork that the world's leading artists come up with. On this year's list, we have KAWS' oversized bunny integrated with a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Anish Kapoor's sequel to a world-famous public sculpture. Alongside these big names, there are also intimate works by up-and-coming artists that touch on themes of ephemerality and displacement.
One thing is for certain: whether using digital displays or simple materials, each of the installations on this year's list has left a lasting impression. Scroll down to see the artists and artwork that made this year's “best of” list and click on the links within each description to learn even more about them.
Here are the top 10 art installations of 2023.
Las Vegas Sphere Installations by Various Artists
The art world was buzzing when the Las Vegas Sphere finally opened to the public. The 18,000-seat auditorium has revolutionized how people experience art and entertainment thanks to 580,000 square feet of exterior LED displays, a 16K interior wraparound interior screen, and 4D technology. Refik Anadol Studio was the first to step up to the creative plate by using the exterior to its fullest. Machine Hallucinations Sphere featured a mesmerizing animation using publicly sourced images and a computer algorithm.
Then, once legendary music group U2 started their residency, a host of artists collaborated for heart-stopping visuals to accompany the concert. As the band performed tracks from their seminal Achtung Baby album, they were surrounded by work by Marco Brambilla, Es Devlin, and John Gerrard. Their incredible work showed the way forward for other artists who will inevitably create art for the space. They also energetically stimulated the world, making people excited to see the other creative possibilities that await us.
KAWS: Holiday by KAWS
As part of his KAWS:HOLIDAY tour, American artist KAWS took over a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Indonesia. The historic Prambanan Temple was temporarily home to his largest sculptures ever—a 150-foot pink rabbit. Any fan of KAWS will recognize the rabbit at ACCOMPLICE, a character who first debuted in 2002. The work sat on the lawn in front of the 9th-century Hindu temple for just under two weeks in August.
“Mini Bean” by Anish Kapoor
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Nearly 20 years after the debut of Cloud Gate, colloquially referred to as “The Bean,” in Chicago, British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor unveiled its twin in New York City. The new reflective sculpture is smaller than its predecessor, and tucked into a corner of the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, underneath a condo called Jenga. Nicknamed the “Mini Bean,” it's Kapoor's first permanent installation in New York and has divided the public just as much as the original “Bean.” Located at 56 Leonard Street, people either love it or hate it.
Rising Up by JR
After being delayed for two years due to the pandemic, French artist JR installed Rising Up at the Hong Kong's Ocean Terminal Deck during Hong Kong Art Month. Part of the artist's Giants series, which started at the 2016 Rio Olympics, it shows an enormous 40-foot high jumper moving across a mass of bamboo scaffolding. “As an athletic gesture, ‘rising up' embodies taking the risk to separate oneself from solid earth, to resist the pull of gravity and feel the brief freedom of flight,” he explained. The installation stayed in place until April 2023 and caused a stir in the city, with some loving it and others complaining that it did not respect feng shui.
The Way of the Bird King by Thomas Dambo
Artist Thomas Dambo spent the summer traveling the United States for The Way of the Bird King. This massive tour saw him setting up 10 monumental sculptures made from upcycled materials in numerous states. The entire series took him 100 days to complete with the help of his crew and local community volunteers. Now, Dambo's friendly trolls will stay on site for three years, after which time each location will decide if they'd like to keep the sculpture. We have a feeling there will be a lot of votes to keep them permanently.
Evanscent by Atelier Sisu
Sydney-based studio Atelier Sisu has brought its whimsical Evanscent installation to numerous countries on four different continents. These giant, colorful bubbles inhabiting varied environments sit at the intersection of art and architecture. The immersive light and sound environments are meant to “capture the concept of ephemerality and transience in a visual form: the bubble.” The studio took inspiration from the pandemic when many of the world's familiar comforts suddenly disappeared. Now, when these bubbles pop up in different spaces around the globe, people are encouraged to engage with the installation in a childlike way.
Folies (Galeria) by Eva Jospin
French artist Eva Jospin creatively used cardboard to build a cave-like structure filled with architectural detail in an installation called Folies. Particularly stunning is her piece, Galeria, where the hallway of a gallery has been transformed into an immersive experience. The gallery's outer walls greet us with tree-like forms punctuated with the classical structure of a coffered ceiling. Cardboard frames with ornate inlaid elements display more of Jospin's work as you walk down the hall. Some of the framed compositions are also made of cardboard while others are created with thread or drawings. Together, the experience is a rich look into Jospin’s creative mind and makes a transitional space one that feels like a destination.
HOME by Matthew Mazzotta
Anyone who has traveled through the Tampa International Airport will recognize Matthew Mazzotta‘s giant flamingo, which is nicknamed Phoebe, that comes crashing through the transit hub. “Flights arrive and depart from Tampa International Airport, full of travelers leaving their homes, returning back home, going to a new home, or simply to a place that feels like home,” Mazzotta shared with My Modern Met. “The concept of ‘home' is not only for people—Florida is also home to an abundance of wildlife.” HOME is also a winner of a 2023 CODA Award in the Transport category.
Uprooted by Doris Salcedo
Colombian artist Doris Salcedo explores the concept of home and displacement in her installation Uprooted. This monumental installation, which saw her create an uninhabitable house from 804 dead trees and steel, was on view at the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates. A powerful meditation on irreparable loss, the work speaks to many issues, from Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the devastating effects of climate change.
Frozen Flowers by Azuma Makoto
This is the second time that Japanese botanical artist Azuma Makoto has created a towering sculpture made of frozen blooms. The aptly titled Frozen Flowers was set up at Notsuke peninsula in Hokkaido right when the climate was at its coldest. Makoto brought dozens of botanicals to a snowy clearing and assembled them atop a steel pole structure. After weaving the flowers into a cohesive form—all during the night and early hours of the morning—he poured water on top. Due to the freezing temperature, the water quickly froze over, preserving the plants and creating dozens of icicles hanging off each bloom and leaf. The visual power of the installation in the barren landscape is quite incredible. Check out this video to see the creation process and the final result.