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Rediscovering Neo-Expressionism

on June 12, 2023

I want to take you on a journey back to the late 20th century, a time when the art world witnessed a powerful renaissance of emotional intensity and personal expression in art. The driving force behind this movement? Neo-Expressionism, an artistic movement that emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s, boldly breaking free from the minimalist trends dominating the era.

At the heart of Neo-Expressionism were a handful of visionaries who left an indelible mark on the art history of expressionism. Jean-Michel Basquiat, for example, once a graffiti artist, seamlessly transitioned into the realm of painting, infusing his works with a raw energy mirroring the bustling streets of New York City (I love his work and will write more about him in a future post).

Neo-expressionism artist jean-michel basquiat

'Glenn' by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1984.

German artist Anselm Kiefer, also a key Neo-Expressionist figure, explored history, mythology, and the human condition through monumental and emotionally charged pieces. I'm less a fan of his work, because of its more sombre colors and themes, but good is just good. And there's the Julian Schnabel, an artist renowned for his fearless approach to Neo-Expressionism, pushed the boundaries of traditional art forms with innovative materials and techniques.

neo-expressionist artist anselm kiefer
'Field of the cloth of gold' by Anselm Kiefer.
These artists, among others, rejected the cool detachment of minimalism, opting for unapologetic, visceral expressions of emotion. Neo-Expressionism, at its core, prioritizes subjectivity and individuality, inviting artists to dive headfirst into the chaotic spectrum of human emotions. While rooted in the expressive tradition of the early-/mid-20th century, Neo-Expressionism injected a contemporary flair in the the narrative of abstract art.
ne-expressionism artist Julian Schnabel
'Hope' by Julian Schnabel, 1982.

Fast forward to today and Neo-Expressionism is experiencing a revival. In a world dominated by ever-evolving technology and fast-paced living, this kind of art provides a cathartic outlet by encouraging viewers to engage with art on a profound, emotional level —for better or worse.
Amidst the complexities of our lives, Neo-Expressionism is a poignant reminder that, sometimes, the most impactful statements emerge from the unfiltered language of emotion.


Pete Stein
Founder, Galerie Stein

Galerie Stein will be presenting several contemporary Abstract Expressionist artists both virtually at and in our gallery in Montreal in 2024.
Contact: Pete Stein at