What a year it has been. Over the last 365 days, we published more than 3,700 stories, from technological developments that are literally letting us see deeper into the universe than ever before, to the billions of dollars changing hands at auction. Here is a selection of our favorites.
A New Space Telescope Is Poised to Take Unprecedented Images of the Origins of the Universe, and Scientists Are Freaking Out
By Sarah Cascone
“The ambitious project carries a $10 billion price tag and has been in development for 30 years. (It was originally supposed to launch in 2010, with a projected cost of just $1 billion.) Scientific goals for the 13,700-pound spacecraft include finding other planets with Earth-like atmospheres and oceans, as well as observing the universe’s earliest-formed, most distant galaxies.”
A No-Nonsense Accounting Shows That Last Week’s $1.6 Billion New York Fall Auctions Were… Kind of a Dud
By Tim Schneider
“Our favorite way to judge any auction’s overall health is to compare its total hammer price to its total presale estimate. It’s the most ‘apples to apples’ method, since presale estimates exclude premiums. (And no, we don’t revise the estimate downward based on last-minute withdrawals, because those are essentially passed lots.)
“So, how did Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips do this week? Of the seven evening sales, the hammer totals in five missed their aggregate low estimates.”
Dozens of Ukrainian Artworks Were Secretly Rescued From Kyiv Hours Before a Russian Missile Attack. Now, They’re Going on View in Spain
By Vivienne Chow
“An exhibition showcasing 51 Ukrainian avant-garde artworks that narrowly escaped the recent bombing of Kyiv will go on view next week in Spain. The show will kick off what could be a series of traveling exhibitions to promote and safeguard Ukraine’s cultural heritage amid the ongoing war.”
The Anarchic Art Collective MSCHF Has Cut Up a Damien Hirst and Been Sued by Nike. Now, Can It Win Over the Respectable Art World?
By Taylor Dafoe
“The group’s blatant embrace of the commercial could make them easy to dismiss. But it also drives the central tension in their work. MSCHF not only participates in, but also exploits and profits from, the very systems they critique: vapid hype cycles and publicity stunts, the general machinery of commerce.
“Call it hypocrisy. It is. But in repeating that cycle of hypocrisy, they instantiate a kind of joke to which many of us in these the desultory days of late capitalism can relate: money is evil, but if someone’s going to make some, it might as well be me.”
Rooted in Miniature Painting, Lover’s Eye Jewels Enjoyed a Vogue 300 Years Ago Thanks to a Royal Affair. Now They’re Experiencing a Surprise Resurgence
By Katie White
“Now, these fascinating jewels are experiencing a popular resurgence. In season one of Bridgerton, the character Marina Thompson repeatedly appears wearing a Lover’s Eye jewel as a choker; here the jewel serves as a costuming clue into her conflicted romantic arc.”
The Biennial Stars: Meet the 24 (Perhaps Unexpected) Artists Who Have Defined Our Current Era of International Art Shows
By Artnet News
“If you could somehow see every biennial or triennial in the last five years, what patterns would emerge? Which stars would shine brightest? For this project, we analyzed the artist lists for 211 recurring international art events that have happened or been announced in the five years since the opening of Documenta 14 in April 2017.”
Why Isn’t Michelle Obama Smiling? What’s Barack’s Fashion Sense Like? The Artists Behind the New White House Portraits Reveal All
By Vittoria Benzine
“In Sprung’s painting of Michelle, the vivid colors are obvious—but pattern is a huge part of her thinking as well. ‘All of our world is patterns,’ she said. ‘If you look at the animal kingdom, if you look at nature, we’re inundated with patterns. I think they reflect, unconsciously, a lot about how we feel.’ While the patterned couch behind Michelle Obama draws attention, Sprung considers the pleats of the first lady’s blue dress her real tour de force.”
‘It’s All Art’: Legendary Gallerist Linda Goode Bryant on Why She Doesn’t Like the Term Social Practice, and How Feeding People Is a Creative Act
By Folasade Ologundudu
“Let me just say, JAM was a challenge. It was expressed a lot by Black, Latinx, Native American and Indigenous artists, that they won’t let us show in their institutions, they won’t let us show our work side by side with our white counterparts… and I found myself saying, ‘Fuck them, let’s do it ourselves.’ The purpose and the intent of JAM was not to be part of a market that wasn’t interested in what we were doing.
“I find it disturbing, quite frankly, that increasingly the artists who are being shown in major galleries are figurative artists painting, drawing, and producing Black figures. Only this time it’s being determined by galleries—white galleries. It’s not uncommon that I’ve heard artists say, ‘I’d rather be working abstractly right now but I’m making figurative work because that’s what they want.’ That hurts me.”
Matthew Brown, the 26-Year-Old L.A. Gallerist, Might Be the Breakout Star of Frieze Week. Just Don’t Ask Him to Confirm
By Annie Armstrong
“Is he a man-of-mystery savant, or does he just not have all that much to say? Regardless, the generational wealth behind Los Angeles gallerist Matthew Brown speaks volumes, as does his rapid climb through the ranks on the West Coast. As Clearing’s Olivier Babin put it in the piece, ‘I would go to dinners in Los Angeles, and people would be talking about Matthew Brown. But even more meta, people were talking about how many people were talking about Matthew Brown.’ Come for the intel on why his name was on everyone’s lips, stay for the photos he provided for the piece.”
Relive Foxy, the Legendary Late-1990s New York Queer Party, Through These Never-Before-Published Photographs
By William Van Meter
“Volunteers scrambled to come onstage to take part in a depraved and silly exhibitionist talent contest. After all contestants had exposed themselves or peed in a cup or performed whatever absurd skill they had, the audience would vote for the winner.”
We Went Behind the Scenes With the Ultra-Wealthy Attendees of Zurich Art Weekend, Now an Essential Stop Before Art Basel
By Naomi Rea
“On Saturday evening in Zurich, Switzerland, over a symphony of excited dinner chatter and the clinking of champagne glasses toasting to Zurich Art Weekend, a seasoned French art collector faux hesitated as he raised a glass to his lips.
‘If it’s not too vulgar to say,’—and, in the amber glow of table lamps on the balmy summer night, I knew he would say it regardless—‘Zurich is foreplay for Art Basel.’”
Sotheby’s Sold a Jean Prouvé Table for $1.6 Million Last Month—But Didn’t Mention It Might Contain Asbestos
By Sarah Cascone
“Believe it or not, in recent months, Sotheby’s New York has sold not one but two Jean Prouvé tables made from fibrated Granipoli concrete—a French trade term for a mixture of cement and asbestos, a fibrous mineral known to cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.”
NFT Artists Are Not Selling ‘Digital Art Objects.’ They Are Selling a Story—One That Requires Constant Retelling
By Ben Davis
“…the effect of the NFT-ization of art feels more like an intensification of the demands on creative life in the age of social media and the tyranny of feeding the algorithm, not a more wholesome, up-with-people alternative to it.”
Perceptions of Progress in the Art World Are Largely a Myth. Here Are the Facts by Julia Halperin & Charlotte Burns
“There has been much discussion in recent years about diversity in the art world. But statistics show that the perception of progress is largely a myth.
“The 2022 edition of the Burns Halperin Report examines representation in U.S. museums and the art market for work by Black American artists, female-identifying artists, and Black American female-identifying artists by tracking museum acquisitions and exhibitions, as well as auction results, over more than a decade.
“If you only read one piece from the report, make it this one.”
She Lived a Secret Life for Decades. Now, the Entrancing Psychedelic Art of Kali Is Finally Finding Its Audience
By William Van Meter
“Completely under the radar in her lifetime (Kali died in 2019), she is now being recognized for her ecstatic, experimental photography. Her style is unmistakable. No Kali work was complete without vivid colorization. She was known to combine as many as eight negatives to make a print, overlapping and layering images. Other times, she’d use spray paint or toss on sand. In some pieces, mosquitoes were trapped on the messy surface like flypaper, becoming part of the piece.”
‘Risks Come With the Concept’: Documenta 15’s Curators Reflect on a Controversial, History-Making Show
By Kate Brown
“Artnet News spoke with ruangrupa—a collective with a fluctuating cast of around 10 members—about the show that will likely change the course of Documenta. As the hundred days comes to a close on Sunday, September 25, one of the the group’s members reflected on the experience from Kassel. In keeping with ruangrupa’s ethos, they declined to be named and spoke for all of the members collectively.”
This 18th-Century Sculpture of Baby Jesus Looks Just Like Mark Zuckerberg, and Even Twitter’s Jack Dorsey Has Weighed In
By Caroline Goldstein
This baby Jesus sculpture at LA Museum of Art looks like Mark Zuckerberg pic.twitter.com/NLgmr7vNK3
— Arix (@Arix_Ki) August 14, 2022
“One user wrote that the sculpture was ‘more realistic’ than Zuckerberg himself, and yet another asked if perhaps Arix’s post was the result of a Dalle prompt… The best response, however, came from ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, another highly meme-able tech guru who simply responded to Arix’s post with the comment ‘Meta.’”
‘Fashion Is a Great Unifier’: How the Couture of Yves Saint Laurent Is Bringing Six Paris Museums Together in an Unprecedented Joint Show
By Christine Ajudua
“Never before have the French capital’s fine art institutions come together in this way—with minimalist scenography from designer Jasmin Oezcebi as a unifying thread—not even for the finest and most famous of French artists. (Henri Matisse? Claude Monet? Pablo Picasso? .)”
Euphoria’ Director of Photography Marcell Rév Unpacks the Art Influences That Shaped the Show’s Buzzy Aesthetic
By Taylor Dafoe
“At the end of a recent episode of HBO’s Euphoria, the camera looms on a character named Cassie, sick on love and lots of alcohol, crying amongst hundreds of hanging roses. As the shot zooms out, we see that she’s in her room, staring into a vanity mirror. It’s a moment that borders on magical realism. The flowers have no logical reason for being there, yet they make sense: a manifestation of the character’s own perception of herself, perhaps, an object of ephemeral beauty left out to dry.”
Mega-Collector Ronald Perelman is Suing to Recover $410 Million for Art He Says Lost ‘Oomph’ After A Fire At His Hamptons Estate. His Insurance Company Says It Looks Fine.
By Eileen Kinsella
“Asked what changes he noticed in the Twombly, Perelman responded: ‘All of the pictures lost their luster, lost their depth, lost some of their definition and lost a lot of their character.’
“Asked for more specifics, he continued: ‘It just didn’t have its spark. It didn’t have its distinctive definition in the lines, in the swirls. It just lost—it just lost its oomph.’
“He compared it to a piece of music. ‘I mean if the piano is out of key, and you’ve heard the piece performed on a piano that’s in tune, you know the difference.’”
Did This Man Really Burn a $10 Million Frida Kahlo on Camera Just to Sell NFTs? We Did a Frame-by-Frame Analysis of the YouTube Video
By Ben Davis
“Here’s a very contemporary art-world brain puzzle: An entrepreneur burns his Frida Kahlo drawing in a scheme to sell NFTs. What’s worse: If it’s a total scam, or if it’s totally real?…
“In any case, if you are looking for something that looks like a parody of every bad idea in crypto of the last year and a half, go watch the FridaNFT launch video.”
I Can’t Believe It’s Butter: 7 Delectable Artworks That Pay Homage to the Beloved Dairy Product by Annikka Olsen
“Butter. It’s a beloved ingredient found in households around the world—and it has frequently been the source of inspiration for artists. By some accounts, the history of butter dates back to 8000 B.C.E. in ancient Africa. Over the centuries, it has been used as a healing unguent, for cosmetic purposes, and, of course, for cooking and baking. High in fat, it adds flavor and richness to dishes, but in the artistic realm, it has taken on a symbolic and thematic life of its own. From sumptuous 19th-century still lifes to 21st-century performance art, butter has served as a key element for many artists’ work.”
Information Is the Most Valuable Currency in the Art Business. So Is It Any Surprise That Art Galleries Bend the Truth?
By Katya Kazakina
“There are famous cases of lies getting dealers into legal trouble… But these are extreme cases.
“The lies most dealers tell aren’t illegal—or even close to illegal. They are simply part of doing business in an opaque industry where information is the most valuable currency. While often whispered about, they are usually impossible to dispute.
“But in at least one case of a quotidian—and, it should be said, not illegal—misrepresentation, we have receipts.”
‘The Pain Is Part of the Process’: Why Two Artists Are Pushing Body Modification to the Extreme
By Sarah Cascone
“My own conceptual art is my body art. I’m a walking and breathing work of art myself—I use my own body as my canvas as I turn myself into a human dragon through body modification.”
There Has to Be a Better Way to Argue About the Climate-Activist Attacks on Art
By Ben Davis
“But because these actions are based on shocking people into paying attention, the campaign has only two ways to go—to peter out as the media begins to treat them as PR stunts, or to escalate to keep up the momentum. The food-attack-on-art tactic was already an escalation from the earlier glue-yourself-to-art method, as that became less newsworthy.”
Crypto Investor and NFT Creator Pak on Why They Don’t Identify as an Artist, and Their Recent Collaboration With Julian Assange By Vivienne Chow
“A few months ago, I was contacted by Julian’s brother, Gabriel [Shipton]. I had the chance to learn the story of Julian in depth. At the time, I was working on a drop with the theme of freedom because of my personal problems as a creator in art space: I constantly feel gatekeeping and censorship. I am in love with creating different mechanisms to communicate my messages. For ‘Censored,’ the drop needed a good reason to exist and Julian was just the perfect fit.”
‘The More You Shut Up, the Better’: Painter Adrian Ghenie on Giving Up Trying to Control His Frankenstein’s Monster of an Art Market
By Naomi Rea
“Money first, art second. That’s how conversations about Adrian Ghenie usually go.
“In the art industry, the Romanian painter is a celebrity. Collectors have been clamoring for his semi-abstract compositions since he burst onto the international scene around a decade ago. Today, primary access to Ghenie’s work is tighter than ever, and flippers are having a fiesta. In the first half of this year, his total sales at auction reached $39.3 million, according to Artnet Analytics. In May, his record was busted twice in quick succession, when a painting sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s New York and then, seven days later, another hammered down for $10.3 million at Christie’s Hong Kong.
“Outside of the art world, few people know who he is. And there’s a reason for that.”
‘It’s the First Step in Trying to Tell My Narrative’: Anna Delvey Tells Us How Minting 2,000 NFTs Will Help Her Reinvent Herself
By Eileen Kinsella
“I used to own annadelvey.com, but then the domain expired because I went to jail.”
“She decided to make an effort to regain control of all Anna Delvey-related domains, and then tweeted: ‘I own myself across the board.’
“That’s when the NFT suggestion came in.”
Hannah Levy Makes Sculptures That Look Like the Unholy Union of Corbusier and Cronenberg—and the Art World Can’t Get Enough
By Taylor Dafoe
“Levy’s forms appear recognizable at first—a coat rack, a swing set, an inverted umbrella—but look again, and you aren’t sure what you’re seeing. Most are made of fleshly silicone that’s stretched over, or punctured by, machined metal—the membranous squish of the former totally at odds with the industrial heft of the latter. Think Le Corbusier by way of Cronenberg.”
How the Semi-Retired Model Known as FoundbyLouis Went From Social Media Prankster to Semi-Serious Artist
By William Van Meter
“’This is my proudest moment in modeling, being on a Mexican McDonald’s bag.’ At 23, Louis has become a hard-to-quantify downtown It-Boy malgre lui. He was a model, but also kind of a fake one. Every so often he pops up, Zelig-like, in a fashion campaign or magazine—an impish Waldo with a front-tooth gap and a unibrow starter kit.”
There Will Never Be Another Art Critic Like Peter Schjeldahl
by Ben Davis
“That’s the other thing I notice reading a lot of Schjeldahl—for all his authority, he is often reconsidering, circling back, comparing present experience with past. Every piece is a record of how thought and perception met on some occasion, and what new things they had to say to each other. I think that sense of constant, uneasy, honest aliveness is what he thought art writing could offer.”