In 2023, ARTnews published over 2,300 stories. Below is a look back at 10 of the top ones from 2023, as selected by the publication’s editors.
For end-of-year coverage, we’ve also got lists of the year’s defining art events, exhibitions, and artworks, as well as roundups of under-recognized artists who got their due and assessments of the year’s major news stories, from the Israel-Palestine conflict to the British Museum’s various controversies.
Thank you for reading, as always, and we look forward to seeing you in 2024.
At New York Fashion Week, Designers Tapped into the Arts at the City’s Temples of Wealth
In September, reporter Angelica Villa parsed the shows at New York Fashion Week to track the ways in which fashion has become intertwined with the art world and how designers are increasingly collaborating with artists or leveraging art history to underline the themes of their collections. This year, more than a few artists even made their way onto the runway as models.
Lisa Schiff Faces Millions of Dollars Worth of Claims from Collectors
In August, senior editor Alex Greenberger uncovered court documents for two pending lawsuits against art adviser Lisa Schiff. The documents revealed that a range of collectors and galleries have also filed claims against her, some for nearly $1 million. It was just the start of a trying time for the adviser, who has since filed for bankruptcy and begun selling off works in her inventory.
Artists to Remove Work from National Gallery, Protest Israel Funding
In early November, after weeks of fallout over various artists, dealers, and curators’ responses to the Israel-Hamas war, artists Nicholas Galanin (Lingít/Unangax) and Merritt Johnson announced that they had asked the National Gallery of Art to remove their 2017 sculpture Creation with her Children from a show of Native American art “due to US government funding of Israel’s military assault and genocide against the Palestinian people,” as they wrote on Instagram.
Why Is Boston’s Monument to MLK and Coretta Scott King Controversial?
The January unveiling of a much-anticipated Boston monument honoring civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King was to be a crowning achievement for artist Hank Willis Thomas. Then it took a turn. The sculpture, titled The Embrace, almost immediately became an unintended viral meme, drawing jests and mockery across social media platforms. Senior editor Alex Greenberger went deep on the controversy.
Man Filmed Himself Defacing Stone Age Relic in Wales
There seemed to be no shortage of cultural vandalism this year, and that’s not including the acts done by environmental activists. The worst instance may have been when Julian Baker, a 52-year-old Welsh man, filmed himself unearthing a 4,500-year-old relic in Wales, posted the video to Facebook, and then left it to the elements. He has since been ordered to pay for its restoration.
Jamie Lee Curtis Deletes Instagram Post with Artist’s Photo of Child
In January, actress Jamie Lee Curtis became the subject of controversy after she posted an Instagram that included photographer Betsy Schneider’s image of a child in a makeshift bathtub. A few days later, Curtis explained that she understood the initial Instagram, a view of an office that she had furnished with chairs used in her recent film Everything Everywhere All at Once, may have “disturbed some people.” While that since-deleted post may have been intended to focus more on the chairs, as senior editor Alex Greenberger wrote, conservative pundits latched onto the Schneider photograph hanging on a nearby wall.
Smithsonian Often Collected Brain Specimens Without Consent: Report
A new investigation into the Smithsonian that was published in August highlighted the significant volume of human remains in their collections, and what was impeding the repatriation process of these bones and organs. Many of the Smithsonian’s brain specimens and other human remains were obtained without consent, including via looting from graveyards. The investigations prompted Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III to announce a task force and issue an apology.
College Severs Ties with Florida Charter School Over ‘David’ Sculpture
In March, art re-entered the culture wars when a Michigan college ended its relationship with a Florida charter school whose principal was pressured to resign after parents complained about her Renaissance art syllabus, which included a picture of Michelangelo’s David that they said was inappropriate for sixth-graders. As associate editor Tessa Solomon wrote, the school follows the “classical education curriculum model” popular in Florida primary education, which stresses the “centrality of the Western tradition,” or, as the Tampa Bay Times described it, “a historical focus on white, Western European and Judeo-Christian foundations.”
Yayoi Kusama Expresses ‘Deep Regret’ for Anti-Black Statements
In October, ahead of the opening for an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, art mega-star Yayoi Kusama finally issued an apology for racist statements that appeared in her 2003 autobiography. The long-overdue apology, as senior writer Karen K. Ho wrote, “prompted a serious conversation about why Kusama’s racist language—which is not inherent to Japanese culture—had been missing from so many discussions, publications, and exhibitions about the artist.”
Hannah Gadsby’s Disastrous ‘It’s Pablo-matic,’ at the Brooklyn Museum
If critics don’t like large-scale New York exhibitions, they’ll usually keep their opinions to themselves. But few held back when it came to the Brooklyn Museum’s “It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby,” an exhibition greeted with such ferocity that the curators even responded to the mudslinging on social media. Senior editor Alex Greenberger had one of the defining reviews on the exhibition, describing it as “disastrous” and “disengenuous,” with a disregard for art history that ironically ended up centering Picasso despite its overtly revisionist ambitions.
The Whitney Is the Latest Museum to Utter the D-Word
In April, art business reporter Daniel Cassady broke news that the Whitney Museum was intending to deaccession eight works from its collection, including an oil painting by Edward Hopper, Cobb’s Barns, South Truro (1930–33), with estimate of $8 million–$12 million. While the news was intriguing, the real story was the way in which the museum’s decision tracked with shifting attitudes in the deaccessioning debate, which reached an inflection point in 2020. This year marked another major shift in that conversation.
Bonus: The Year in Review
Senior editor Alex Greenberger addresses how this year’s flood of Picasso exhibitions marking the 50th anniversary of his death taught us absolutely nothing new. Greenberger also highlighted 10 under-recognized artists who got their due in 2023.
Associate editor Tessa Solomon wrote on how the war in the Middle East has, perhaps irrevocably, shattered art world consensus. Solomon also wrote about this year’s gallery migrations and closures in downtown New York.
Senior writer Karen K. Ho explored the British Museum’s decisive and disastrous year filled with scandal and halting change.
Art business reporter Daniel Cassady noted the shaky markets for blue-chip artists and had an overview of the art market’s very uncomfortable year.
Associate digital editor Francesca Aton collected this year’s most impactful discoveries in archaeology.
Contributing writer Gameli Hamelo explored the surge in demand for African art and the continued growth of art scenes in Lagos, Accra, and other African hubs.
Contributing writer Shantay Robinson praised myriad major exhibitions of Black artists at the New Museum, the Whitney, the Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere.
Contributing writer Reena Devi offered a group of art market trends in Asia to watch in 2024.