ARTSY UPS AND DOWNS 2018
It’s been fun! But wait, are you sure you haven’t missed anything? Here’s a pithy summary of what happened in the art world this year. From the heavily covered and significant to LOLs and WTFs – catch up on the artsy ups and downs 2018.
New auction record for a living (male) artist: David Hockney
Let’s kick off in style and talk about making a splash. Records are meant to be broken after all. And this one is jaw-dropping. David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) eclipsed £45.4m record set by Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog and was sold for £70.3m in a New York auction. The masterpiece has featured on the cover of a number of monographs about the painter and was part of Tate Britain’s blockbuster retrospective celebrating artist’s 80th birthday last year. David Hockney also revealed his iPad-designed stained glass creation at Westminster Abbey this year. Showing blue skies and a red country path through blossoming Yorkshire Wolds hawthorn, the work has been created in artist’s characteristically vibrant colour palette. ‘It’s a celebration,’ Hockney says, and indeed it looks as though champagne has been poured over the bushes. Just imagine how expensive that one would be!
The sunniest exhibition: Manifesta in Palermo
Who didn’t envy their friends who spent that week (or month) exploring Manifesta this year? Great art, splendid weather, and wonderful cuisine – all inclusive! Palermo is a truly fascinating and intriguing city: shaped over millennia by multiple migrations and occupants – from the Ancient Greeks and Romans to Arabs and Normans, to name just a few. The nomadic European art biennale took over an array of piazzas, palazzos, and churches with some of its most provocative political statements. I wish I had been there. Luckily, the Venice Biennale is coming up soon! Salute!
The big-scale disappointment: Tania Bruguera at Tate Modern
No one really knows what’s going on. There is some music, vast black surfaces and peppermint scent in the air. One of the most prestigious exhibition spaces in the world opened a show that couldn’t have been more misplaced. Some say it’s about migration, some say it’s about refugees. Others call it a playground and slide around on the slippery floor. The sign reads that you should cry, but in fact most people laugh. Fortunately, Tate decided to limit the confusion and shortened the exhibition period. Olafur, bring the sun back please!
The real deal: The Price of Everything
Film time! Would you expect to read about the new Suspiria or Gaspar Noe’s Climax now? No way, Jose, we’re too artsy today. But if you haven’t seen those two yet, they will keep you on the edge of your seat, I promise. What’s truly entertaining though, is watching a bunch of heavyweights coming up with arguments why art objects cost zillions. In the turbulent times, when one can be sure that Brexit means anything but, it’s pretty comforting to hear that great art is great because it tells you it’s great. Hats off to the reasoning behind it. The film is an amusing commentary for the insiders and a bewildering introduction to the staggering mechanisms of the art market for the Philistines. Jeff Koons, George Condo, Amy Cappellazzo, Simon de Pury, Gerhard Richter, and many others take you onboard a bumpy rollercoaster and reveal juicy bits of the (art) market’s backstage. Dizziness guaranteed. The Price of Everything is in cinemas now: take a break from your Christmas shopping frenzy and get to know what real shopping means.
The undiscussed one: 10th Berlin Biennale
So what happened in Berlin last summer? Have you heard something about the BB? I haven’t either. After the rebellious 7th curated by Artur Żmijewski, the mediocre 8th, and the much-spoken-about 9th, this year’s edition went somehow unnoticed or at least memories didn’t last long. The curators seemed to ask ‘how civilised is the world’s current state of affairs?’. No doubt it’s an overriding concern of our times and an issue worth discussing. Although over 100k people visited the 10th BB, its promotion and presentation left a lot to be desired. Those who went were more eager to discuss the beautiful summer rather than exhibitions they saw. Besides, Berlin peeps complain about the ever-growing cost of living in the capital and – like gallerists – consider moving to Vienna. Perhaps the city where Wes Anderson curated his very first art show is the place to go.
The good-all-days show: Wes Anderson in Vienna
We’ve had them a lot throughout centuries. Yet, there is always something beguiling about Wunderkammers. Those mystical rooms filled with extraordinary specimens and outlandish objects manage to catch our attention no matter what. The celebrated filmmaker teamed up with his partner, writer and illustrator Juman Malouf, to present another charming microcosm, a theatre of the world, if you will. Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures presents hand-picked gems from the vaults of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The curators were given carte blanche to explore the collection. Anderson and Malouf used their imagination and flair to pick and choose forgotten artefacts from museum’s storages. The results are incredible indeed. No time to waste – just book your flight to Vienna today. The show is on view through April next year.
The red-carpet prank: Banksy at Sotheby’s
The list wouldn’t be complete without this one, would it? Was it staged? No-one really knew? They must have known, right? Anyway, who cares? It was a win-win situation all around. Sotheby’s got the best PR since organising Damien Hirst’s two-day auction extravaganza in 2008 and Banksy, well, he set the bar for another prank even higher. The discussion who made who look foolish continues. Or does it?
The hottest art fair: Frieze New York
It was tropical! So hot that when stepping inside the tent, you thought you had just crossed the door to hell. Staff sweltered in the oppressive environment watching collectors desperately searching for emergency exists to escape the blaze. No surprise the sells were rather unsatisfactory. Following a heated debate with gallerists and being threatened with a number of lawsuits, Frieze decided to compensate for the conditions. Phew! It was over half a year ago and now the real winter is about to kick in. Who’s going to make up for our time in the cold?
New auction record for a living (female) artist: Jenny Savile
Female artists are ultimately being given greater exposure in museum collections, art fairs, gallery exhibitions, and auction houses. This year, Jenny Saville takes title of the world’s most expensive living female artist. Propped, her 1992 nude self-portrait, sold at Sotheby’s New Bond Street salesroom for more than twice its estimated value. After an intense and prolonged battle between five determined bidders, the fleshy painting was sold for £9.5m. Whoa! It’s a lot, isn’t it? But still, the record-breaking price is nowhere near the amount paid to the male holder of the title. Let’s hope the high price wasn’t just a blip. No-one knowns what lies in store next year but hey, it’s about time to reevaluate women in the arts and see the prices evening out.
The place to keep an eye on in 2019: UAE
Everything they do is in the future. Since Louvre Abu Dhabi opened last year, UAE has only been reinforcing its status as a magnet for state-of-art innovation. The most extraordinary and inspiring museum in the world is currently under construction and will open its doors to the public in 2019. Designed to transport visitors deep into the future of the 21st century, Dubai’s Museum of the Future aims to offer real experiences of futuristic technologies. The much-awaited institution will act as a platform to demonstrate and test the latest inventions and prototypes bringing together art, science, and technology on an unheard-of scale. You’ll be literally taken on a fully immersive trip to the future including a journey under and above the water. How cool is that?
Written by Marek Wolynski