The Art World Naughty List of 2016

From one lump of coal to ten, the art world's naughtiest, ranked.

An actor playing Donald Trump as part of an Alison Jackson performance art piece. Courtesy of Sarah Cascone.

Since time immemorial, this has been the part of the year when the kiddies hear that Santa is making a list and checking it twice, and that he’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. And not everyone in the art world, or even those who affect the art world from high places, has been nice this year.

Who are the art world’s most rascally wrongdoers? We’ve ranked the top 10 wickedest this year, determining just who gets the most lumps of coal in their stocking this Yuletide.

1. Stop breaking works of art, you guys.

From Shanghai to Milan, whether it’s kids roughhousing or supposed adults taking a selfie, people just don’t get that art is fragile and they need to treat it with care. For your heedlessness, all you art-breakers will wake up to one lump of coal.

Peter Brant Jr. and Harry Brant. Photo: Paul Bruinooge/

Peter Brant Jr. and Harry Brant. Photo: Paul Bruinooge/

2. Get it together, brothers Brant.
Harry Brant and Peter Brant Jr., socialites and sons of art collector/magazine publisher Peter Brant, seemingly can’t stay out of trouble. The latter was arrested at JFK airport for reportedly being “drunk and belligerent,” while the former was busted in Greenwich for, of all things, trying to stiff a cab driver. For general disorderliness unbefitting your privilege, boys, you’ve earned two lumps of coal—one for each of you.

Magnus Resch shows off the eponymous app in a promotional video.

Magnus Resch shows off the eponymous app in a promotional video.

3. Eyes on your own exams, everyone. No cheating!
Data theft was rampant this year, with wayward startups like Magnus and Collectrium accused of subterfuge and data scraping, including, in the latter case, lifting data with a fake account registered under the name Jason Bourne. So, to all the (alleged) data scrapers out there, you just earned three lumps of coal.

4. Joseph Corré, there’s such a thing as too punk.
When Britain declared that it would celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk (for some reason), Joseph Corré, son of designer Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, set light to some $6 million worth of punk memorabilia. Look, we get it, maybe we shouldn’t institutionalize a movement that was about iconoclasm, but plenty of people would have really enjoyed seeing that stuff. For not playing nice, Joseph Corré, you’ve earned four lumps of coal (just don’t use them to start a fire to burn anything with, okay?).

5. Social media censors, seriously, up your art game.
We know Facebook really isn’t part of the art world proper, but its tentacles reach into the art world, most notably in its repeat instances of censorship of art. At the end of the year, self-described “international art promoter” Hamilton Moura Filho had his account suspended for posting a Caravaggio nude, while the social media giant started the year off by nixing images of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid. Instagram has gotten in on the act too, taking down artist Phillip Kremer’s account over his very strange portraits of politicians. For itchy fingers on the censorship trigger, social media titans get five lumps of coal.

Fake Frans Hals portrait of An Unknown Man - it was reassessed by Sotheby's as a fake

Fake Frans Hals portrait of An Unknown Man – it was reassessed by Sotheby’s as a fake

6. Fakers, scammers, forgers, you guys are so bad.
You know who’s pretty naughty? Art forgers. This year, the art market has been rocked by an Old Master forgery scandal whose scope may outstrip even the Knoedler forgeries. And, on a smaller scale, art dealer Eric Spoutz may have secured spots for his forgeries in major museums. And what’s more, even art thieves are sometimes fooled. So, for trying to cash in on the art market, all you scoundrels get six lumps of coal—and we hope your stockings turns out to be fakes, too.

7. Peter Bartlow and Robert Fletcher, you stand accused of falsely accusing Peter Doig.
Many in the art world were aghast at accusations against Scottish artist Peter Doig, whom dealer Peter Bartlow and corrections officer Robert Fletcher accused of disavowing one of his own works, and thus robbing them of profits. Observers were shocked that an artist’s word about whether he created an artwork wasn’t final, and that he was forced to try to prove a negative (which he succeeded in doing). For dragging poor Peter Doig through the courts, Mssrs. Bartlow and Fletcher, you’ve just been served with papers…wrapped around seven lumps of coal.

The Mercedes Benz Maybach Pullman.Image: via

The Mercedes Benz Maybach Pullman.
Image: via

8. Hammer, don’t scam ’em.
While on the subject of forgeries and courtroom battles, let’s remember that Michael Hammer, owner of the aforementioned Knoedler & Co., bought himself two cars for a total of $1 million with the gallery’s (allegedly) ill-gotten gains. One of those cars was so loved by despots that it earned the punning sobriquet ”the dictator ship.” What a (purported) malefactor! So for this extravagance, Michael Hammer, you are (definitely!) driving off with eight lumps of coal.

9. Jeff Koons, union-busting is seriously not cool.
When you’re on top, you can afford to be a little generous. That’s one lesson Jeff Koons seemingly has yet to learn, as evidenced by his dismissal of some 14 of his staffers after they reportedly tried to unionize. When you’re one of the top-selling living American artists, can’t you spread the wealth even a little? For being such a Scrooge, Mister Koons, we’ve just had our studio assistants cast nine lumps of coal, just for you.

Election Issue cover. Art by Barbara Kruger for New York magazine. Photograph by Mark Peterson/Redux.

Election Issue cover. Art by Barbara Kruger for New York magazine. Photograph by Mark Peterson/Redux.

10. Donald J. Trump. Just, ugh, Donald J. Trump.
You knew you weren’t going to get through a naughtiest list without reading about a certain real estate magnate and reality TV star, did you? The one who lost the popular vote for president by nearly three million votes and is tweeting his way toward the Oval Office? He paid for paintings with foundation money; he got an art dealer embroiled in politics by picking his son as his Treasury Secretary; he was rumored to be considering a celebrity for NEA head; his minions branded Marina Abramović a Satan worshipper; and he’s made life hell for his art-dealing Midtown neighbors.

For all this and more, the president-elect earns the title as the naughtiest of the year, and in his stocking at Trump Tower this Christmas, he’ll find ten lumps of coal. We just hope he can even pick them up with his tiny little hands.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics