The XLR8R staff has polled our favorite labels, producers, graphic designers, clothing companies, and friends to find out which visual artists made waves and captured eyes during the past 12 months. Below are the undisputed artistic masterminds of 2006.

For those detractors who were put off by the hype (don’t worry, we know you’ve been into him for five years) ponder this: He had a painting which sold for $250,000 that said “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit.” That takes irony to a level not possible on the street and validates the gallery context in my book. Hipsters, note: Expect your heroes to evolve.
Nick Philip, Imaginary Foundation

He did a miraculous thing by keeping guerrilla art surprising, beyond clever, and–most importantly–by making a complete statement.
Kathryn Frazier, Biz3 Publicity

Barely Legal was the best show of the year, and I don’t feel like arguing about it with people who missed the irony.
Justin Maxwell, Volsoc/Palette Recordings

He could have come out on top for any of the past three years, but for sticking it to Paris Hilton, Banksy owned ’06 without a doubt.
Josiah Hughes, XLR8R writer

This crazy bastard has a video on his site where you can watch him walk into the Brooklyn Museum and
hang his picture on the wall. Nobody noticed for fucking weeks.
Derek Morris, Trophy Graphics

A few pieces that showed at Banksy’s Barley Legal exhibition.

Stanley Donwood
His London Views is a stunning medievalized and apocalyptic panorama of London that would eventually be used as sleeve artwork for Thom Yorke’s The Eraser. It shows the capital’s landmarks (such as the NatWest
Tower and Big Ben) engulfed in waves. That Donwood credited his website to the Department of Reclusive Paranoia seemed apposite.
David Hemingway, XLR8R writer

Ben Drury
Homeboy gets overlooked because of all the flashy designers out there, but between his Stockholm exhibition inspired by pirate radio, its related Nike pack, and his work for Wiley, Newham Generals, and a shout on the Lupe Fiasco record, he’s killing them right now.
Stephen Christian, Warp Records

Matthew Barney
Despite 20-odd years in the game, Barney’s Drawing Restraint series at the SFMoMA proved he’s still one of art’s major players. Scaling gallery walls in Douglas MacArthur garb can only force one to shift perspective on man as an upright-standing creature. Drawing Restraint proves we’re hardly the vertebrates we think we
Ken Taylor, XLR8R Managing Editor

Stanley Donwood, Matthew Barney, and Boris Austin.

Brian Jungen
His show at Musée D’Art Contemporain de Montréal was major. The masks made with Nike shoes were awesome, and the whale skeletons made with plastic chairs were just unbelievable.
Ghislain Poirier, Bounce Le Gros/Chocolate Industries

Friends With You
From plush and wooden toys to fine-art gallery shows, these two Florida artists are making work we love, but only they fully understand.
Dustin Hostetler/UPSO, Faesthetic

Boris Austin
This London-based documentary photographer has been shooting some of the most interesting and well-produced portraits and event photography around. Working for the likes of Hospital Records and Knowledge magazine, his energy and passion for photography is dizzying.
Georgina Cook, photographer

More of XLR8R’s Best of 2006:
Justice’s Best of 2006

Best Artists

Best Albums

Best Record Labels