Artists' choice

Twenty contemporary artists were asked to choose what they consider to be the most important works of art created since the Institute of Contemporary Arts opened in London in 1947. Here are six of the best from the ICA's resulting exhibition, which has just opened

Winner of the 1997 Turner Prize, Wearing studied at the Chelsea School of Art and then Goldsmiths. She is best known for 'Signs...', a series of photographs of the public holding placards on which they had written their thoughts and feelings.

GILLIAN WEARING

Selection: D'Est, 1993 by Chantal Akerman
Winner of the 1997 Turner Prize, Wearing studied at the Chelsea School of Art and then Goldsmiths. She is best known for 'Signs...', a series of photographs of the public holding placards on which they had written their thoughts and feelings.

"Akerman's film has a peculiar quality that has remained with me since I saw it in 1996. I was particularly moved by the parts of the film shot in Russia. She has captured the mood so acutely I don't know if I am remembering her film or my own memories of Moscow - it has blurred so much in my recollection."

CORNELIA PARKER

Selection: Fiato d'Artista (Artist's Breath), 1960 by Piero Manzoni
A former Turner Prize nominee, Parker is known for her unusual installations - including the glass case at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London inside which the actress Tilda Swinton slept

" Fiato d'Artista - lungfuls of air, encapsulated in rubber, that have long since escaped into the ether - is a particular favourite. Manzoni has monumentalised the fundamental act of breathing, his charismatic egoism allowing it to stand in lieu of every breath he took (few, considering his short life). He has subverted the idea of the 'monument' as a thing that lasts forever, replacing it with a reminder of mortality. The fact the breath isn't there any more seems simultaneously tragic and comic. We are left with a catalyst for thought in the guise of a deflated balloon."

SUSAN HILLER

Selection: Untitled (WA), 1947 by Kurt Schwitters
Florida-born Hiller settled in London where she had her first solo show in 1973. Her work often features strange phenomena and stories of how people live

"I can still feel the excitement of seeing, for the first time, how Schwitters recycled materials, how he slyly incorporated fragments of culture (traces of other people's work) into his work, getting them to say something different; maybe something they'd been wanting to say, giving them aesthetic weight. This means that things from the gutter didn't just biodegrade into the past's oozy compost heap, but stayed cut out, sharp and clear, to be resurrected in some kind of future.

"Through Schwitters, I discovered that words on paper were just things; that images, words, colours and textures could all be cut up, re-arranged and pasted together. I was growing up as an artist when purity, politics or pop seemed the only choices, and I wrote: 'The act of cognition is a form of collage' (1972). Schwitters was inconsistent, he didn't do 'political art', though some of his best friends did, and he pasted politics into late works such as A Finished Poet. Often his work was elegant, clean, exquisitely layered and subtle, but sometimes his best collages were enriched by disturbing blotches, miniature ceramic dogs or clots of dirt."

LUC TUYMANS

Selection: Untitled, 1976 by Narcisse Tordoir
Tuymans is comparatively unknown in Britain but he is considered one of the most influential painters at work today. He has also practised as a photographer and film-maker. His paintings are currently part of a major exhibition at Tate Modern

"This had an instantaneous impact on me when I first saw it nearly 25 years ago. At that time, the artist was exploring the idea of an image as a moment moving through time. It is about making things visible by means of comparison or pairing the actual object to a mental image. This work deals with the space between things, and no matter how static an image may appear, it can never be truly stable."

MARTIN CREED

Selection: Vesuvius, 1985 by Andy Warhol
Creed won the Turner Prize in 2001 for a subversive work in which his entire exhibit consisted of lights going on and off in his allotted gallery. He was born in 1968 and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. Music and sound are crucial elements in many of his works and he also works with texts

"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Andy Warhol are among my favourite artists. For me, their work is concentrated on the surface. It is beautifully shallow, superficial: the surface is all there is. It has a lightness, a decorative quality I like very much. It feels unburdened, fun, free. In their work, everything is treated in the same way with equal value. I like this all-overness. I remember seeing Warhol's Vesuvius for the first time and thinking it was beautiful, like an ice-cream. It was a relief."

LIAM GILLICK

Selection: Blown Away Under Certain Circumstances, 1977, by Lawrence Weiner
Gillick is another former Turner Prize nominee who is known for the intellectual theorising that underpins his work. He is regarded as much as a writer as a maker of objects. Born in 1964 in Aylesbury, he studied at Goldsmiths in London and now works in London and New York

"While the subtext of this exhibition may suggest something about notions of quality, choice or influence, it can also be used as an opportunity to recognise some parallel relationships: the artist as mediator between two people who are not linked except through the person who insists on both in order to reveal some processes that are normally repressed."

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