In school, we learn about art history and some of the most famous artworks throughout the centuries.
However, rarely do we talk about modern art and the artists that break barriers and create art that challenges our perceptions and beliefs.
The mass media also pays more attention to the newest young pop star, and the gallery or museum sections take just a tiny fraction of most publications.
But just as any well-rounded person needs to know the best pop icons or athletes, she also needs to recognize the most impactful contemporary artists.
Here are the 6 modern artists you absolutely need to know.
Today the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is best known for his affiliation with various hip hop artists (including Kanye West) and his partnership with the luxury brands like Louis Vuitton.
However, before all the pop-culture fame, Murakami's work was focused on Japanese anime cartoons that he turned into a subject of existential contemplation. One of his most famous pieces is a life-size sculpture of a masturbating anime hero titled "My Lonesome Cowboy".
Murakami has also made his mark by critiquing Japan's culture, which he called infantile and blamed on the atomic bomb trauma.
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist. According to TheManual.com
, he rose to fame after a documentary on his life debuted in 2012, and the artist became an object of fascination in New York City.
But many say that Western culture doesn't truly understand the importance of his work because it's much more impactful than it may appear. Ai Weiwei's works are full of deeply political messages that have gotten him incarcerated for over two months by the Chinese government.
The artist is very outspoken about human rights and the surveillance state.
Ai Weiwei's best-known installation is "Sunflower Seeds," inspired by the Cultural revolution. It's a pile of miniature porcelain spheroids painted to look like sunflower seeds.
calls the American artist and former Wall Streed trader Jeff Koons one of the most controversial art world figures. He's also one of the most expensive ones.
Many people discredit him because he has a studio and isn't the sole creator. Koons also gets criticized for calling himself anti-modernist and for avidly promoting his own work.
His artworks are mostly inspired by popular culture. Koon's most famous series is of balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces. He sold Balloon Dog (Orange) for $58.4 million.
Damien Hirst is one of the most recognized British artists and has reached his career heights in the UK contemporary art scene in the '90s.
We can say that Hirst is to modern art, what LeBron is to basketball NBA odds in BetAmerica
right now: a name that always pops up!
He is currently the richest artist in the UK and has broken the record for one-artist auction in 2008. He sold his entire show "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" for $198 million.
Hirst's most famous for a series of artworks with dead animals preserved in formaldehyde.
British artist Cecily Brown is most known for her large-scale modern art paintings of faces. Brown's works are full of rich, bright colors and depict erotic and fragmented bodies.
The London born artist is also an important figure on the art market and has sold one of her works for $2.2 million.
Some critics give Brown credit for being the key influence in the resurgence of painting at the beginning of the 2000s.
Artist Cindy Sherman is famous for her work in feminism and has made a big splash in the 70s with a black-and-white photograph series "Complete Untitled Film Stills" of self-portrait photographs acting out pop culture female clichés.
In her work, Sherman looks at women's societal roles throughout history and is known for abstract paintings of faces. Many critics and fans call her a feminist symbol.
The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is one of the most prominent selling artists in the world. She does painting, sculptures, performances, film and is known for the repeating dot pattern.
Many young female artists find inspiration in Kusama as her journey and rise in the art world in the 60s was full of challenges yet successful.
The artists current most famous work is "Infinity Rooms"large-scale enclosed environments with endless reflections of reflections, polka-dotted surfaces, and glittering lights.