Dec 19, 2016

The 2016 Art Year in Review

After a turbulent year in art, we take a look at 2016’s highlights.
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2016 was a tumultuous year in art. Art fairs continued their unrelenting globalisation and their increasing importance in the art world showed no sign of abating. At the same time, investors in art became more cautious and auction results proved underwhelming. Even Brexit had it’s say in the art world, as some investors flocked to take advantage of the weakened pound while others held back, moving away from marquee names to more reasonably priced mid-level emerging artists.

Here we take a look at some of the year’s highlights:

Artist of the Year: Adrian Ghenie

The Cluj School and Pace Gallery artist and apparent successor to Francis Bacon as the darling of the art world continued to go from strength to strength at auction. At a time when art investors were generally being cautious, Ghenie’s auction results were nothing short of astounding.

The highlight of the year saw an early Ghenie work sell for £7.1 million against an estimate of £1 million - £1.5 million. This bettered the Sotheby’s auction of his work earlier in the year, which saw the hugely ambitious ‘The Sunflowers in 1937’ sell for £3.1 million against an estimate of £400k-£600k.

It is perhaps a market overreaction to this extremely talented artist. Yet with a limited output (10 to 15 paintings a year), and a long line of interested collectors, Ghenie’s stock in the art world may well continue to increase rapidly in 2017.

Show of the Year: Robert Rauschenberg, Tate Modern

The Tate Modern put on a spectacular retrospective of this prolific and continuously important artist with the most comprehensive survey of his work in 20 years.

Covering a career spanning six decades is not easy, but curators Achim Borchardt-Hume and Leah Dickerman excellently captured the whirlwind that is Rauschenberg’s work, somehow managing to combine painting, sculpture, print-making, technology, stage design and performance into a cohesive and suitably fast-paced exhibition.

The show runs until 2nd April 2017 at Tate Modern in London and anyone lucky enough to be able to make it should.

Influencer of the Year: Ai Weiwei

Any followers of Ai Weiwei on Instagram will be distinctly aware of Ai’s focus in 2016: the refugee crisis.

In January, on the front lines of the crisis in Lesbos, Greece, Ai was prolific on Instagram, sharing his experiences as he travelled amongst the refugees and provided aid for them. He has been damning of the EU’s reaction to the crisis and later in the year pulled out of two Denmark shows after they passed a law restricting immigration and requiring refugees to forfeit their valuables.

His exhibitions since have been impactful and harrowing, using found objects from the camps he visited to make strong political statements. He continues to stand as one of the most influential artists around and a figurehead for the power of art to influence political change.

Moment of the Year: Discovering Da Vinci

In March this year, a retired doctor walked into a French auction house with a number of loose drawings in a folder. One of those works stood out from the rest. Thaddée Prate, Director of Old Master Pictures sought a second, and third opinion. Now, in the first such discovery in 16 years, that work has been attributed as being created by Leonardo Da Vinci somewhere between 1482 and 1485. The value of the work - approximately $15.8 million.