The year just ended saw some typical and not so typical events happening in the art world.


Typical would be the now familiar hammer dropping to record a new highest price for the work of a living artist, in this case English painter David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1972, sold for $80m, more with auction fees, on November at Christie’s, New York.


This set a new mark beating that held by Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange), which sold for $58.4m in 2013.


Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons - Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash

 Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons - Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash


Similarly, though sadly not with such fanfare, there was also a record set in 2018, on the 5th October, for the highest value at auction placed on the work of a living female artist when Jenny Saville’s Propped (1992) sold at Sotheby’s in London for £8.25m. At around 9 times less than the value placed on the Hockney, perhaps this is because in such markets, it is simply the money that talks.


Likewise, in May Past Times, 1997 sold for $21.1m at auction making the Alabama born artist Kerry James Marshall the highest valued living black artist, but remains scarcely recognized beyond the gallery set.


Untypical, and perhaps part of the lack of attention for the Saville sale, was because of the antics a little under 2 weeks later, of the increasingly media friendly although still apparently anonymous Banksy.


Banksy - Girl with Balloon Mural

 Banksy - Girl with Balloon Mural


The artist formerly known on the streets, now gaining more and more prominence in the auction room, instigated an instantaneous buzz of chatter that resonated across the art world and beyond when upon the sale of his Girl with Baloon (2006) at London’s Sotheby’s on 18th October, the work promptly began to shred itself within its own frame.


So the legend goes that the shredding mechanism was built in from the inception of the work for precisely such an occasion with the intention to make some suggestion of devaluing immediately the artist’s own work in order to somehow stick it to the man, or woman, who was willing to offer such a sum of money for the piece.


 Colour Swirl Silk Tie


That the image was only partially destroyed, that the mechanism required a mains electricity input to function and that the increased publicity did nothing to diminish the value of the work, in fact likely the precise opposite, does little to add to any truly radical messages. Not that the artist cares about that or indeed my opinion on the event either.


One artist, if in fact that is at all an apt title, who truly doesn’t care for the critics is ‘Obvious’ whose contemporary portrait made in 2018 of one Edmond de Belamy sold for a not to be sniffed at $432,500 in October at Christie’s New York, in a debut sale.


Not to be sniffed at, but for some to be scoffed at not because of the price tag, or the smudgy rendering or indeed the likeness of the sitter, but because ‘Obvious’, a Paris based art collective, used an artificial intelligence program or AI to create the work.


Some notable exhibitions in 2018 included;


  • Charles II: Art and Power at the Queen’s Gallery in London which continues at the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh until 2 June 2019.


  • A Dream of Italy: the Marquis Campana’s Collection, which also continues until 18 February 2019, at the Musée du Louvre.


Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House

  • Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection continuing until 24 February 2019, featuring more than 200 objects reunited and hung in their original locations in the once home of the former Earl of Orford.



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