Home Art Magazine 2018's Artistic Highlights

Another year is come and gone, let’s take a retrospective look at some of the art world highlights from 2018. As always the art world revolves around top level auctions, exhibitions and art fairs.

The art fair calendar opened with BRAFA, Brussels Art Fair, running from January 27th – February 4th. Their contemporary section was only opened two years ago, to supplement what originated as an antique and design fair, but due to its immediate success the fair can now be used as an accurate barometer of the art market going into a new year. This year’s fair was shown to be particularly robust, with strong sales across the board and the whole event buoyed by land artist Christo being the guest of honour. If you would like to read more about Christo's work and the practice of land art, try our article: Landscape Art

In January, it was also reported that the White House had requested to be loaned Van Gogh’s 1888 “Landscape With Snow” from the Guggenheim, but having been denied the Van Gogh were instead offered Maurizio Cattelan’s solid gold toilet, entitled “America”. Perhaps unsurprisingly the White House declined to host this work, either because they felt uncomfortable with the piece’s comment on the wealth inequality and cultural excess in the present-day US, or maybe Donald Trump already has one.


Maurizio Cattelan, "America", 2016


Moving into Spring, the Armory Show in New York did not fail to deliver in being one of the biggest events in the art fair calendar. Running 8th-11th March, this year the gallery numbers were reduced so that the usually packed fair hall gave this year’s exhibitors a bit more breathing room, and hence space to show off larger works. Forbes described it as

“A tight, high quality, Armory Show in a strong art market.”

The Armory Show was also followed up by Art Dubai, March 21st-24th, which saw the trend of the growing market in the Middle East continue to hold true. In their biggest ever fair, 78 contemporary galleries from 48 countries exhibited, including first time entrants from Iceland, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan. Enjoyably, because new hubs such as Dubai are quickly ascending the ladder to participate at the highest levels of the art market, they are able to inspire and include many other young and new galleries and artists from areas of the world where art has not been so much of a focus previously. In this way the market expands and is democratised. As they say themselves,

“Art Dubai aims to broaden the conversation on art outside of the traditional art centres.”


In May, the record breaking auction of the David and Peggy Rockefeller collection began at Christies. All sales from the billionaires’ estate went to selected charities to continue the family’s philanthropic mission as laid out by David before his death last year. Christies simply described the collection as ‘vast’, and spanning sectors from Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work all the way through to ceramics, furniture, American art and decorations, the sale realised $832.6 million, the highest auction total in history.


Claude Monet, "Nymphéas et Fleur", 1914-17, sold from the Rockefeller collection for $84.6 million


In June, the Royal Academy in London held its annual Summer Exhibition, however this year was particularly special as it marked their 250th anniversary. As well as the exhibition, curated by RA Grayson Perry, numerous celebrations and activities were organised throughout the capital such as a parade and numerous talks and lectures, all to coincide with their anniversary. The RA has also just completed renovating and expanding its buildings, connecting their historic Burlington House to the Burlington Gardens complex behind it, a process which has been widely praised and celebrates the Academy’s history as a school for architects as well as artists.

Also in June, in a historic moment for the art market, the first ever multi-million dollar artwork was successfully auctioned using blockchain technology. Andy Warhol’s “14 Small Electric Chairs” was tokenised by Maecenas, a trading platform, and $1.7 million was raised to cover 31.5% of the work, which was valuated at $5.6 million. The move towards using blockchain technology as a means of securely unlocking an artworks financial liquidity, and distributing that value as shares of an artwork, is a major step towards decentralising the power of the art market away from auction houses and the secondary market. To read more about the finer details of blockchain and how it works, read our article: The Big Question Of Blockchain For The Art Market


The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition, 2018


As the year moved into autumn, excitement and expectations began to rise as the twin auction house giants Christies and Sotheby’s prepared for their biggest sales of the year at London Frieze Week. At Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale on October 5th the hype materialised into fantastic sales, as Jenny Saville set a new record for the highest price paid for a work from a living female artist – her “Propped”, a fearless 1992 self-portrait, sold for £9.5 million.

Yet amidst this backdrop, British street artist Banksy pulled a stunt that would make headlines worldwide. As soon as the hammer had dropped on his own “Girl With Balloon”, the final lot of the evening which went for a personal record of £1.04 million, an alarm sounded and the canvas was drawn through a shredder hidden in the frame of the work, partially shredding it. The shockwaves sent through the auction room and the art world in general were considerable, and even though Banksy was planning for the work to self-destruct he has actually doubled its value according to one estimate. The piece has now been renamed “Love is in the Bin”, a new artwork inadvertently created through attempted destruction.


Banksy, "Love is in the Bin", 2018, courtesy Page Six


Continuing the streak of sales records seemingly being broken year by year, last month in November David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” became the highest price paid for a work by a living male artist. At Christies this time, the elegant piece was at the centre of a nine-minute bidding war before the price settled at £90.3 million including buyer’s premium. This means Hockney has overtaken the previous record set by Jeff Koons in 2013, for his $58.4 million “Balloon Dog”, again sold through Christies.

Closing the year in style was of course the extravaganza that is Art Basel Miami. Sales were again through the roof, with highlights including a $50 million Rothko offered by Helly Nahmad, and a double bill of Keith Haring heavy displays at neighbouring booths Lévy Gory and Barbara Gladstone. With the art fair scene now closed for the rest of the year, until BRAFA art fair again in January, the art world and its key players can take a couple of weeks off now, to rest and prepare themselves for whatever 2019 will bring.


Stay Tuned on Kooness Magazine for more exciting news from the art world.