You'll want to read Ben Davis's Artnet write-up of the Noguchi Museum's exhibition, "The Imagery of Chess Revisited," whether you're a chess player or not. For an artist like Marcel Duchamp—for any number of thinkers—chess represents a conceptual framework for the world. As a concept rooted in an object, chess serves as an excellent template for artists.
I mined Davis's list and added a few other modernist and contemporary takes on the chess set:
- John Cage
- Alexander Calder
- Isamu Noguchi
- Man Ray
- Edgard Soares
- Marcel Duchamp (also: a carved knight from his Buenos Aires set)
- Max Ernst (don't forget his awesome chess-themed sculpture)
- Damien Hirst (close-ups: king, knight)
- Yayoi Kusama (close up, but more importantly, further out)
If you clicked through all those links and didn't find your favorite, be sure to leave a note in comments. If you followed those links and found a favorite, feel free to mention that, too.