2018: the year in review

Our London and New York teams ponder 2018's biggest art stories. Produced in association with Bonhams, auctioneers since 1793.

Royal Academy of Arts' Charles I exhibition was one of the best shows of the year © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Photo: David Parry

Royal Academy of Arts' Charles I exhibition was one of the best shows of the year © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Photo: David Parry

In this week's podcast we look back at the biggest stories of the art world in 2018.

We speak first to our art market editor-at-large Melanie Gerlis and correspondent Martin Bailey who discuss everything from crypto-currency to Posh Spice, before turning to our New York editors Nancy Kenney and Margaret Carrigan who looked back at the biggest stories from the Americas in 2018.

Salvator Mundi

One of the biggest stories not only of 2018, but 2017 too, the sale of Salvator Mundi to the Louvre Abu Dhabi for $450m and the subsequent questions over its provenance continue to puzzle the art world and Melanie Gerlis reflects on the profound effect of the sale on the art market. With Leonardo Da Vinci's quincentenary celebrations set to take place this year the patchwork provenance of the painting will undoubtedly be a major news story in 2019.

Declining museum figures

Analysis of government data and The Art Newspaper's own figures reveals a steady decline in visitors since 2014. However, the plummeting attendance figures at the National Portrait Gallery was revealed to be due to faulty counting equipment at the museum's entrance.

France is estimated to hold at least 90,000 African artefacts in its museums, as many as 70,000 alone in the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris © WikiCommons

Restituting colonial art

An ongoing story which The Art Newspaper has covered is the increasing pressure on former colonial powers to return artworks taken without consent back to their country of origin following President Emmanuel Macron's restitution report. However the legality of restituting these artefacts has been challenged, prompting calls for entirely new and specific procedures for restitutions. While some African countries have now openly called for a return of objects, many European dealers and galleries have rejected the report as "outrageous". Read the response from three major gallery directors on the restitution report here

Morality of museum boards and sponsors called into question

Dozens of employees at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York have signed a letter expressing “outrage” over the ties of the vice chairman of the museum’s board to a company that supplied tear gas used against asylum seekers along the US border with Mexico.

Meanwhile, Nan Goldin has led a group of artists in boycotting the Sackler family's funding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Sackler family own Purdue Pharma, the company which developed the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin responsible for the opioid crisis in the USA. After eight members of the family were sued by the state of Massachusetts, many museums are now reconsidering whether they can still accept Sackler funding.

Rio de Janeiro fire

In September a massive fire engulfed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, which held more than 20 million artefacts. The fire destroyed many of the works held in the museum, many of which were deemed irreplaceable

Efforts to restore the museum's works have seemingly faced pushback by Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro— who has been referred to as the 'Trump of the tropics'.

Trump's wall

8 prototypes for President Trump's infamous Mexican border wall have been petitioned to be turned into a national monument by Swiss-Icelandic artist Christopher Büchel.

Portrait of Edmond Belamy was created using an as-yet-unrevealed source code and hits the auction block this month Courtesy of Christie’s

Artificial Intelligence

Christie's announced in early fall that they were going to sell the first AI generated portrait by collective Obvious. Despite its low price, this "generated work of art" sold of 40 x its estimate. Questioning the status of whether it was a watershed moment or a marketing ploy for the auction house. Margaret Carrigan writes

You can read all our biggest stories from our 2018 Year in Review here

The Art Newspaper Weekly podcast is available every Friday on our website and all the usual places where you find podcasts including iTunes, Soundcloud and TuneIn. This podcast is brought to you in association with Bonhams, auctioneers since 1793. Find what defines you. bonhams.com/define