View of the Glenstone Water Court area.
Photo: Iwan Baan/Glenstone Museum

8 of the Biggest Moments in Art in 2018

Galerie looks back at the things that made us take notice

In 2018, art seemed to push past the traditional confines of the art world, branching out in all directions, infiltrating unlikely mediums from a Beyoncé video to space travel. In a year that was packed full of shocks and surprises, we take a look back at the eight biggest moments in art.

Banksy’s Love Is in the Bin, formerly known as Girl with Balloon. Photo: Sotheby's

1. The Banksy Shredding

In early October, an otherwise normal contemporary art auction at Sotheby’s in London turned infamous when a Banksy painting spontaneously shredded itself moments after being sold. After Girl with Balloon was sold for $1.4 million—a new auction record for the artist—an alarm went off and the painting self-destructed, hanging in tatters out of the bottom of the frame. The buyer kept the work, and Pest Control, Banksy’s official authentication body, issued a new authentication certificate and gave the work a new name, Love Is in the Bin.

A portrait of President Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley. Photo: National Portrait Gallery

2. The Unveiling of the Obamas’ Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

In February, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery unveiled portraits of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, making them the first African-American artists to be commissioned to create an official portrait of a U.S. president or first lady. The country went wild. Some 176,700 visitors came to see the paintings in the first month they were on view. The volume of visitors was so intense that the gallery had to move the works to a bigger room to accommodate the traffic.

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3. The Reopening of Glenstone

After a five-year expansion, Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, reopened in October. Set on 230 acres, the Glenstone Foundation has a collection of some 1,300 pieces by more than 200 artists, with particular depth in works by Roni Horn, Ellsworth Kelly, and Louise Bourgeois, among others. The stunning new additions to the museum include a 204,000-square-foot gallery building called the Pavilions, which was designed by Thomas Phifer.

David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Figure with Two Pools), 1972. Photo: David Hockney

4. David Hockney Becomes the Most Expensive Living Artist

David Hockney, the 81-year-old British artist, became the most expensive living artist in November, when his painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) sold at Christie’s for $90.3 million. The final figure shattered the piece’s presale estimate of $70 million. The massive sale meant that Hockney dethroned Jeff Koons, who had held the title of most expensive artist since the 2013 sale of his orange balloon dog for $58.4 million.

5. Max Hollein and Thomas Campbell Switch Jobs

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announced in October that it had appointed Thomas P. Campbell, the former director and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as its new director and chief executive. It was a surprising move, as it meant that Campbell would be replacing Max Hollein, who had left the San Francisco institution to take over Campbell’s job as director at The Met earlier this year.

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Exterior of the newly opened Menil Drawing Institute. Photo: Richard Barnes

6. The Opening of the Menil Drawing Institute

The Menil Drawing Institute opened in November, becoming the first freestanding facility built expressly for the acquisition, exhibition, study, conservation, and storage of modern and contemporary drawings. It is also the first building added to the Menil campus—which, in addition to the Renzo Piano–designed Menil Collection (1987) and the Rothko Chapel (1971), includes the Cy Twombly Gallery (1995), the site-specific Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall (1996), and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel (1997)—in more than two decades.

7. “Heavenly Bodies” Becomes The Metropolitan Museum’s Most Successful Exhibition of All Time

In October the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York released its final attendance figures for the blockbuster exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” the most recent show from the museum’s Costume Institute. According to the museum, 1,659,647 people visited the exhibition, making it the most visited show in The Met’s history.

Loic Gouzer stands next to Untitled, by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Gouzer announced this week that he’s leaving his post at Christie’s. Photo: Kena Betancur / AFP / Getty Images

8. Christie’s Rainmaker Loic Gouzer Announces Surprising Departure

Christie’s announced in late December that Loic Gouzer, the postwar and contemporary art cochairman who led historic sales of Leonardo da Vinci, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and David Hockney, is leaving the auction house at the end of the year. Known for his dynamic themed sales and for being aggressive at a time when people are willing to spend increasingly absurd amounts on art, Gouzer created a successful series of stand-alone auctions like “If I Live, I’ll See You Tuesday,” “Bound to Fail,” and “Looking Forward to the Past,” which saw new records achieved for Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti.

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