Where to begin? This year, artnet News published stories on everything from the eclectic art collection of Robin Williams to the rediscovery of a painting by Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna. Some of these have been hugely popular (make sure to check out our list of most-read stories of 2018). Then there are the staff favorites, the stories we’re especially proud of, and the ones we most enjoyed reporting and writing. Below is a selection of 20 of those items to catch up on during your holiday break.
Do You Need to Be Naked to Truly Appreciate a Work of Art? We Joined a Nudist Museum Tour to Investigate
by Naomi Rea
artnet News’s intrepid UK reporter goes… what’s the opposite of undercover?… with a subculture of people who love to look at art while nude, and finds it to be an enlightening experience.
Is It Even Possible to Comprehend a Work of Art Without Seeing a Woman Next to It (for Scale)?
by Ben Davis and Julia Halperin
It’s always gratifying when the work we do changes minds. In this case, we picked up on a very specific trend in auction preview photography that you’ll never be able to ignore now—even as the practice is fading, in part due to this story.
Meet the Beretta Family, the Art-Savvy Gun Makers Who Back the NRA and the Venice Biennale
by Rachel Corbett
As the art world ramps up scrutiny of the sometimes dark sources of institutional funding—from the Sackler family’s opioid wealth to a Whitney Museum board member’s ties to a tear-gas manufacturer—few people in the US knew about the first family of Italian arms manufacturing, the Berettas—who are also supporters of the Venice Biennale.
African American Artists Are More Visible Than Ever. So Why Are Museums Giving Them Short Shrift?
by Julia Halperin and Charlotte Burns
We teamed up with In Other Words to examine how museums have integrated work by African American artists over the past decade. Three months, dozens of spreadsheets, and thousands of data points later, we found progress was extremely recent—and more limited than is popularly believed. For more from this project, see our examination of the market; case studies on artists from three different generations; visualizations of our findings; and our methodology.
How One Woman’s Punishment for Putting Up a Mural Has Exposed a Deep, Bitter Divide in the Los Angeles Art Community
by Catherine Wagley
Most of the drama of running an art institution happens under the radar, at smaller, local institutions caught between the pressures of donors, the government, and their constituents. This story traces the suspension and reinstatement of Rosie Lee Hooks, the longtime director of the Watts Towers Arts Center—and how her story reveals deeper divisions in the city’s art world.
Behind the Frieze Art Fair’s Secret Plan to Create an Art Utopia in the Bronx
by Danielle Jackson
Overlooked in January as the art world emerged from holiday hibernation was an audacious (and eventually shelved) proposal by Frieze to establish a “new model for housing and development that creates a permanent home for galleries, artists, and cultural institutions”—one that would have covered 280 acres (!) of the Bronx’s Port Morris district, which is part of one of New York City’s most impoverished communities.
People Across the Globe Want Their Cultural Heritage Back. Canada May Offer a Blueprint for How to Get There
by Kate Brown
artnet News’s Berlin contingent spotlights an elegant solution for facilitating the repatriation of Indigenous works of art in Canada. To boot, the piece received compliments from the office of Canada’s beloved prime minister Justin Trudeau!
Decades Before Judy Chicago’s ‘The Dinner Party,’ Virginia Woolf’s Sister Made a Set of Dinner Plates Celebrating 50 Historic Women
by Sarah Cascone
Shown publicly for the first time ever at London’s Piano Nobile gallery, The Famous Women Dinner Service is a proto-feminist masterpiece from 1932–34 depicting 50 important women, historic and contemporary, on a set of ceramic dishes. Delving into the history of this great work of art, once considered lost, artnet News discovered that the artistic partnership between its creators, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, was perhaps even more fascinating than the Dinner Service itself.
Downtown Legend Richard Hell Interviews Nan Goldin About Art, Opioids, and the Sadness of Life on the Fringes
by Richard Hell
In one of her most in-depth interviews to date, Nan Goldin explores her evolution from a photographer of 1980s downtown New York to a leading figure in the fight against opioid addiction.
How the Dana Schutz Controversy—and a Year of Reckoning—Have Changed Museums Forever
by Julia Halperin
The battle over how to respond to Dana Schutz‘s postmortem painting of Emmett Till, the black boy lynched by white supremacists in Mississippi in 1955, forced museums to do some reckoning. And for the first time since the Culture Wars in the 1980s and ‘90s, they need to be prepared to defend every single decision they make.
Introducing: The artnet Intelligence Report
In our first-ever artnet Intelligence report, we use artnet’s unparalleled market data to examine the development of the art market—and tell you where things are headed.
Art Industry News, Weekend Edition: Trump Awards National Arts Medal to Himself + More Must-Read Stories
Our April Fool’s edition of our Art Industry News digest had real world effects: It inspired at least one guy to take a potted “Art Basil” to an art fair and call it art. No joke.
Can We Just Admit That Banksy Art Shredding Stunt Was Really Good?
by Ben Davis
Banksy fatigue be damned! For those of us who have been reporting on pricey blue chip trophies at high-end auctions, this cheeky stunt took the cake for sheer audacity. The art market “can of worms” it opened up forces us to consider questions of risk, market value, and authenticity.
That Ex-Christie’s Staffer Accused of Being a Spy? One of His Jobs Was Guarding Salvator Mundi
by Caroline Goldstein
When news broke that the former CIA officer suspected of leaking classified information to China was a former Christie’s staffer, one of our eagle-eyed reporters had the uncanny feeling she had seen his face somewhere before… .
To Celebrate Easter, Here Are 10 Art-Historical Easter Eggs Hidden Inside Famous Works of Art
by the artnet News staff
It came out over the Easter holiday, so you probably missed it. But this is a fun look at hidden details in historical works. We learned a lot in writing it—sometimes things that chilled us to the bone!
A New Cy Twombly Biography Mentioning His ‘Assistant’ Has Dismayed the Late Artist’s Supporters
by Rachel Corbett
One job of an artist’s foundation is to guard his or her legacy. But that can make research difficult for outside parties. In this report, we looked at Joshua Rivkin’s recent biography of Cy Twombly—and the author’s claim that the painter’s foundation tried to inhibit his research.
Christie’s Acquisition of a Cutting-Edge Art Startup Was Supposed to Change Everything. Instead, It’s Become a Big Headache
by Eileen Kinsella
When Christie’s bought a startup firm that promised to help collectors securely store and manage detailed collections information, while also giving them access to extensive auction records, it looked like a coup for the auction house. So why did the initiative dissolve so suddenly?
The Gallery System Is Struggling. Here’s What It Can Learn About Sustainability From the World of Professional Sports
by Tim Schneider
Every day seems to bring another announcement that a modestly sized gallery has decided to call it quits. On top of that, mega-galleries such as Hauser & Wirth regularly poach artists that smaller dealers have nurtured. Perhaps athletic organization can provide a model for a sustainable path forward.
‘Everybody Owes Him a Debt of Gratitude’: How Mitchell Algus Became New York’s Most Beloved, Least Successful Art Dealer
by Rachel Corbett
You’ve probably never heard of Mitchell Algus. But this pioneering dealer often showed artists—among them, Barkley Hendricks, Betty Tompkins, Martha Wilson, and Lee Lozano—long before they were famous. So how did Algus manage to stay hidden in plain sight for so long?
‘The Rest Is Herstory’: How Eliza Douglas Went From Being Anne Imhof’s Closest Collaborator to a Rising Star Herself
by Taylor Dafoe
This profile of performer and artist Eliza Douglas digs into how this self-effacing American found herself in Germany (free schooling was a big draw), how she met Anne Imhof (whom she had a crush on), and what she hopes people get out of her paintings.
How a Little-Known Nonprofit Is Bringing Social Practice Art to New York’s Most Elite Museums—and Beyond
by Eileen Kinsella
A quote from the assistant executive director of the William R. Kenan Jr. Trust, which is the focus of this story, sums it up best: “We’re not an institution that just focuses on charity. We need to be an institution that focuses on justice.”
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