The good, bad, and the ugly: 2018 in review

The good, bad, and the ugly: 2018 in review
© Dominic Robinson

As the year draws to an end, it feels like the best time to look back at the art world’s highs and lows. So, we’ve summed 2018 up for you here.

The good:

Banksy, Banksy, Banksy…

This year, it seems like Banksy just hasn’t stopped. Whether it was when he shredded his own artwork minutes after it sold for $1.4 million at auction or when an ‘Unauthorized’ retrospective of his works owned by former gallerist Steve Lasarides was detained by a Belgian court, the artist has continuously made headlines. Most recently, news of his public auction for his sculpture How heavy it weighs has swept through the media with proceeds going to Help Refugees.


Women in art…

In addition to being the centennial of the signing of the Armistice, this year has been a monumental year for the history of women’s rights. February 6th was the hundredth anniversary for the Representation of the People Act in England. The year saw a number of exhibitions and shows to highlight this event including the National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Votes for Women’ display. Additionally, a database seeking to comprehensively highlight forgotten Italian women artists was also announced by the Advancing Women Artists foundation in November.


BMA: Changing the narrative for underrepresentation…

Women artists, artists of colour, and others who don’t fit neatly into the traditional Western male artist mould have begun to see small shifts in representation this year. In April, the Baltimore Museum of Art announced it would be deaccessioning a number of artworks by artistic strongholds, like Warhol and Rauschenberg, to obtain works by underrepresented and younger artists with a particular focus on women and artists of colour. Then, in December, the museum announced a monumental new biennial commission and curator fellowship that will continue to diversify their collection and museum.


‘Le Dejeuner’ (Painting Rendition), Mickalene Thomas, detail. Courtesy Flickr Commons.

The bad:

The saga continues…

2018 also saw more twists and turns in the ongoing feud between Russian billionaire and previous owner of the now famous Salvator Mundi Dmitry Rybolovlev and his former art dealer Yves Bouvier. These developments broke in late September when Rybolovlev filed a lawsuit – to the tune of $380 million – against Bouvier. Rybolovlev claimed that Bouvier conned him out of $1 billion through the sale of artworks. Then, in early November, the billionaire was detained on suspicions of corruption. Frankly, it doesn’t seem that this dispute will be settled before 2019 kicks off.



Fakes and forgeries are a mainstay in the art world and market. This year, it seemed that no one was safe. From reports that fakes hung alongside authentic artworks in St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum to a third party research group finding that a number of Dead Seas Scrolls fragments belonging to DC’s Bible Museum were, in fact, forgeries, it felt like no museum was untouchable. Additionally, a number of art forgers made headlines as it was found that collectors and museums were swindled out of millions of dollars through multi-year schemes. This has left buyers on alert and a bad taste in the art market’s mouth. However, this means the technology to detect such forgeries will only improve as well.


The Late Rob Indiana…

In the last few years, a number of influential 20th century artists have passed, including Robert Indiana famous for his LOVE sculptures. This year, though, lawsuits surrounding his treatment in later years by those meant to protect him made way for a FBI investigation. Before Indiana’s estate can be settled, the investigation will need to be completed. To cover the costs of mounting legal fees, two artworks in the artist’s collection were sold at auction to lighten the burden. Indiana’s legacy hangs in the balance as these issues are sorted.

Fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were studied at BAM between 2006 and 2010. Courtesy of BAM.

The Ugly:


Taking this year’s spot in the ‘ugly’ category is the issue of repatriation – not because the subject is ugly but because it’s such a grim facet of the art world. Much like fakes, restitution of artworks continues at the top of the art world’s list of recurring topics. While talks have progressed or begun concerning the return of a number of artworks (i.e. the British Museum has begun talks with Rapa Nui to return their Moai head sculpture), there is still much grey area to muddle through. Though French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to return artworks after an in-depth study, Italy has demanded the return of a sculpture the Getty Museum in LA deems to be rightfully its own.

Moai, Rapa Nui. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.