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A Year End Appraisal of the Visual Arts

Assessing the Year 2012 in Fine Art


Updated December 22, 2012

Fine Art takes a look at the top stories, including both the high and low moments in art, during the year 2012. Here are the top ten notable art stories from around the world, with a couple of trends thrown into the mix.

Art conservation made international headlines in 2012 with two dynamic stories: one for an amazing discovery, and the other for an outrageous failure.

  • As there is a finite amount of Leonardo da Vinci's work out in the world, it is incredibly exciting and news shattering that another Mona Lisa was discovered. When Prado Museum's painting conservators were removing a murky background during a routine cleaning, they discovered an original by one of Leonardo's top apprentices.
  • And then there was that much-parodied art restoration of a Spanish church fresco done by a well-meaning, but grossly incompetent church lady.

Art auctions also made global headlines with the obscenely high amount of US$ 120 mn paid for the pastel work Scream by Edvard Munch, and the much-hyped sale of the Eric Clapton-owned painting by Gerhard Richter, which sold at $34.2 million, a new record for a living artist.

Art was not only sold for high prices during 2012, but high-priced works were stolen, such as the robbery of the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam. The thieves stole several famous paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Monet.

And talking about thievery, China's auction houses and art market got scrutinized in a Forbes article discussing China’s $13 Billion Art Fraud.

The Los Angeles art world also made headlines for the logistically challenging installation of Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass and for the behind-the-scenes warfare at LA MOCA as they fired its Chief Curator, causing much controversy.

A trend emerged this year with established art critics such as Dave Hickey, and Sarah Thornton deriding the current art scene as being saturated with vapidness and dirty money.

Not all the art news was dire in 2012. Europe's major contemporary exhibition: documenta held in Kassel, Germany every 5 years won over critics and art audiences with the recent edition curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakagiev, proving that art and Big Ideas can still prevail.

Disasters seem to be an annual occurrence and this year was no different, as the year ended with a major natural disaster. Hurricane Sandy, hit the Atlantic East Coast, from the Caribbean to New England. It struck the Chelsea area of Manhattan, wreaking havoc, causing homelessness, flooding and damaging art galleries and stored works. Yet, the disaster brought the art community together to pick up the pieces.

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