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The 2015 Art World in 10 Breaking News Stories
Artstyle 16 Dec 2015

The 2015 Art World in 10 Breaking News Stories

The end of the year is coming very soon, and it is time to take good resolutions for the next one, but also to draw some conclusions on the year just passed. As you might already know, between international art fairs, sulfurous performances, and star artist scandals, the art world never sleeps.

Artsper goes back on 10 controversies or astonishing facts of the art world in 2015!



From last June 12th to August 1st, the Gagosian gallery presented the last Richard Prince exhibition entitled “New Portraits”. For this project, the artist extended his appropriation process to social media and drew inspiration from random Instagram pictures. There were pictures of stars like Pamela Anderson and Kate Moss, but mostly of unknown people, with a majority of glamorous selfies taken by young women. The artist used their picture without asking any consent.

These “New Portraits” were reproduced big scale and sold for as little as $90,000, which immediately rose controversy, and to start with, among the people whose pictures where used so liberately.

However, it was not a first for Richard Prince: he has spent the last 40 years appropriating other’s images and work, from Marlborough adverts to JD Salinger’s novels Catcher in the Rye. He was sued for copyright infringement several times.  His legal defense is generally based on the modification he brings to the original pictures. In this case, the alteration is rather minimal and consists in a few lines of comments added to the pictures.


© 2010 Scott Rudd www.scottruddphotography.com scott.rudd@gmail.com

High priestress of extreme performance art, Marina Abramovic started her career collaborating with Ulay in 1970 (Frank Uwe Laysiepen), her partner in art and life. With Ulay, she performed some of her most famous performances like “AAA AAA” in 1978 or “Relation in Time” in 1977. The duo split up in 1988 : Marina continued her career solo and became a world-known artist.

Visitors of the MoMa had witnessed an intense moment of reunion between the two when Ulay made a surprise appearance at Marina’s performance-exhibition entitled “The Artist is Present”, but today their relationship is turning sour.

Ulay is now sueing his ex-partner and accusing her to not have paid him royalties for the works they created together – therefore violating the terms of a contract they signed in 1999 about the shared proceeds of their work in common, which is now considered art history work.



This year, the bill proposed by German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters led to a wave of anger in the art world. The purpose of this bill was to limit the international sale of artworks worth more than 150,000 euros and over 50-years old. Intended to protect German heritage, this bill would lead to the expropriation of private collections. Every owner of an artwork created over 50 years ago and estimated above 150,000 euros would have to declare it to the Ministry of Culture to obtain an export license.

When the bill was announced, the German art world was shaken up: international artist Georg Baselitz immediately took off his work on loan at the National Collections of Dresden, billionaire Hasso Plattner threatened to move his future private foundation to the United States, and Gerhard Richter to also retrieve all of his artworks on loan in German museums.


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One cannot look back at 2015 without tackling the controversy rose by International Anish Kapoor’s installations in Versailles.

During several months, Anish Kapoor installed 6 sculptures in the Versailles estate in order to question the history of the place: a pool of swirling water and a cannon shooting red was cannonballs were among the pieces on show.

But the most scandalous work was a gigantic rotten steel sculpture (10m high and 60m wide) placed in front of the castle and entitled “Dirty Corner”. This artwork had already been presented in Milan without rising any polemics, but this time Anish Kapoor gave it a strong sexual connotation. The floral shape of his work and the very own comments of the artists led visitors to think it was for a metaphor of vagina, the queen’s vagina.

The sculpture was vandalized several time over the last months and the controversy culminated with the anti-Semitic writings last September.



The art world knows no boundaries, that we know! The rules and codes of normal life does not seem to apply: A fire extinguisher can be a pîece of art and a woman sitting on a chair for hours a performance!

It seems like this momentary leap of critical judgement has reached its peak during the last Miami Art Basel edition early December since a woman got publicly stabbed by another visitor without anybody moving an eyelash. The reason was that people thought it was an art performance, blood, fake blood, and the police fencing an installation!



At the end of August, start contemporary artist Ai Weiwei announced that, after 4 years of being forbidden to leave Chinese territory, his passport was finally given back to him. Since his quarantine, Ai Weiwei has become the epitome of the artist victim of Chinese political censorship, yet it did not really prevented him to have exhibitions everywhere in the world over the last years.

His confinement actually boosted his international career by turning him into a myth: during 4 years, Ai Weiwei defied the Chinese law, and broke the silence that the government wanted to impose him through social media.

Besides the news of the end of his exile happily coincided with the opening of his retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy of London.



Another breaking news of 2015 was the announcement of Banksy’s parody amusement park project (“Bemusement Park”).

It is on the English coast of the Somerset County that the famous anonymous street artist Banksy decided to build his own version of Disneyland open to the public for only 5 weeks.

Weston-Super-Mare inhabitants, all of a sudden under the spotlights, were the first to be invited to visit Banksy’s park. During 5 weeks, over 150,000 visitors visited Dismaland, which created an unprecedented wave of tourism in the area.

After a few weeks of touristic craze, Banksy closed the park and announced that its dismantlement would serve to build shelters for refugees – since most of his installation are immigration related.



The art world is often perceived as a succession of cocktails and VIP events at the margin of everyday life. However this year, this bubble was badly hit by reality. Before being a tragic terrorist attack week-end, November 13th week end was supposed to be one of Paris highlights moments for the contemporary art world. Less than a month after FIAC, the Grand Palais opened its door for PARIS PHOTOS. Planned and organized months in advance, with dozens of galleries paying thousands of euros-worth booths and a couple thousands visitors expected, the fair closed prematurely on the following day of the terrorist attacks on Paris.

A couple of weeks later, AKAA art fair (Also Known As Africa) dedicated to African arts and scheduled to open on the first week of December announced its cancellation due to the gloomy Parisian context, but more to the tragic events in Bamako -which prevented numerous galleries from coming to the fair.



Ai Weiwei hit the headlines quite often in 2015! After the announcement of his returned passport, he made the news again on the occasion of his battle with LEGO last October. The reason was that LEGO refused to honor a bulk order by the artist for political commerce. LEGO answered that the company could not approve the use of Legos for politically controverted artworks.

Ai Weiwei immediately accused the company of protecting its commercial interests in China since it just announced the opening of a Legoland in Shanghai in the context of a golden era between UK and China. LEGO denied it. However, the Guardian revealed that the company had also planned to open a factory in China by 2017 employing about 2,000 local workers.



Last mid-November, a unique exhibition opened at the Museum of contemporary arts of Teheran that revealed the unexpected quantity of modern masterpieces hold in the storage of this museum. From Jackson Pollock to Rothko, Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon, 42 famous western artists were exhibited. The artworks mostly came from the private collections of the Shah of Iran who was overthrown in 1979.

This collection holds big names like Gauguin or Picasso, and quite a number of nudes that the Islamic law of 1979 forbid to exhibit -which makes this event worthy of notice.

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