The 15 Most Popular Artnet News Stories of 2020, From Miserable Restoration Fails to the True Purpose of Stonehenge

Plus, the story behind a smashed $64,000 glass sculpture and the (possible) discovery of Jesus's childhood home.

Stonehenge. Photo by Andre Pattenden courtesy of English Heritage.
Stonehenge. Photo by Andre Pattenden courtesy of English Heritage.

Your clicks have spoken.

As in years past, readers came to our stories looking for insights and analysis, but also a good ol’ bit of fun. Whether in search of news, intelligence, or in the hopes of coming upon a joyous surprise, readers flocked to our coverage this year.

Here are the 15 most popular stories of the year.

Left, the original sculpture and right, the "restored" version. Courtesy of Facebook.

Left, the original sculpture and right, the “restored” version. Courtesy of Facebook.

15. Who Did This? Yet Another Amateur Art Restorer in Spain Has Absolutely Demolished a Once-Beautiful Artwork

“In this case, the results resemble a failed facelift undertaken on some poor, unwitting snowman. It’s almost as if a child was tasked with the job.”

The original, from a copy of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s work, and two attempts. Courtesy of CEDIDA / EUROPA PRESS.

The original, from a copy of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s work, and two restoration attempts. Courtesy of CEDIDA / EUROPA PRESS.

14. Spain Has Been Hit by Yet Another Bungling Restorer, Who Turned This Beautiful Virgin Mary Painting Into an Unrecognizable Blob

“An attempt to restore a copy of baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables has turned its beatific Virgin Mary into a misshapen lump with red lips.”

American architect Philip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, New York, circa 1932. Photo: Keystone-Underwood/FPG/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

American architect Philip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, New York, circa 1932. Photo: Keystone-Underwood/FPG/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

13. Bowing to Pressure, Harvard Will Remove Philip Johnson’s Name From a Building He Designed Because of His Support for Nazism

“Harvard University will rename a house designed and once occupied by the modernist architect Philip Johnson after an anonymous collective of architects and artists drew attention to his white supremacist views.”

Promo image featuring Marina Abramovic wearing the HoloLens 2 headset Photo: Microsoft.

Promo image featuring Marina Abramovic wearing the HoloLens 2 headset Photo: Microsoft.

12. Some Believe Marina Abramovic Is the Satanic Ringleader of a Global Political Conspiracy. That’s Ludicrous. But Here’s What They Get Right

“The immediate cause of the flame-up appears to be a blog post on Alex Jones’s Infowars site. On his broadcast, Jones referred to ‘a two-and-a-half minute [Microsoft] ad literally worshipping the head of the Church of Aleister Crowley,’ referring to Abramović.”

The mural that one "Nate Comte" commissioned from Peoria artist Joshua Hawkins. Courtesy of the artist.

The mural that one “Nate Comte” commissioned from Peoria artist Joshua Hawkins. Courtesy of the artist.

11. Impersonating a Property Owner, a Man Paid an Artist to Paint a Cookie Monster Mural in Peoria. The Town—and the Internet—Have Questions

“The artist wasn’t too suspicious when he was approached last month by a man who identified himself as Nate Comte and offered to pay him to paint the mural.”

No. No no no no no no.

No. No no no no no no.

10. A UK Museum Challenged Bored Curators Worldwide to Share the Creepiest Objects in Their Collections. Things Got Really Weird, Fast

“What’s a museum social media manager to do with no exhibitions on the horizon? The Yorkshire Museum recently put out a call on Twitter asking for museum experts to submit pictures of the creepiest objects in their collections. And things got weird—fast.”

Acoustical engineer Trevor Cox works with a scale model of Stonehenge in a sound chamber at the University of Salford, Manchester. Photo courtesy of the Acoustics Research Centre/University of Salford, Manchester.

Acoustical engineer Trevor Cox works with a scale model of Stonehenge in a sound chamber at the University of Salford, Manchester. Photo courtesy of the Acoustics Research Centre/University of Salford, Manchester.

9. A Remarkable New Study Suggests That Stonehenge Was Built to Amplify Sound During Ancient Ruling-Class Rituals

“We may never fully solve all the mysteries of Stonehenge, the monumental prehistoric circle of stones built on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. But a new study suggests that it may have been designed to amplify sound in very specific ways.”

Archaeologist Martha Williams, a volunteer with the First Colony Foundation, assists with shovel testing during excavations. Photo courtesy of the First Colony Foundation.

Archaeologist Martha Williams, a volunteer with the First Colony Foundation, assists with shovel testing during excavations. Photo courtesy of the First Colony Foundation.

8. Archaeologists May Have Finally Solved the Mystery of the Disappearance of Roanoke’s Lost Colony

“In 1585, the English settlers reached the New World and established a colony on the island of Roanoke, in what is now part of North Carolina, only to mysteriously disappear. The colonists’ fate has become one of American history’s most enduring mysteries.”

The glass sculpture of the Disney castle on view at the Shanghai Museum of Glass. Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group/Getty Images.

The glass sculpture of the Disney castle on view at the Shanghai Museum of Glass. Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group/Getty Images.

7. Breaking News: Two Boisterous Kids Smashed a $64,000 Glass Sculpture of a Disney Castle at the Shanghai Museum of Glass

“A pair of rambunctious children became every parent’s worst nightmare when they accidentally knocked into a display case at the Shanghai Museum of Glass in China, shattering a $64,000 sculpture of the Enchanted Storybook Castle from Shanghai Disneyland Park.”

Okmok Caldera, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.

Okmok Caldera, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.

6. It Wasn’t Just Pompeii. Archaeologists Say the Roman Republic and Even Ancient Egypt’s Ptolemaic Kingdom May Have Been Ended by Volcanoes

“What led to the demise of the Roman Republic? Experts now believe that the eruption of a remote Alaskan volcano may be partly to blame.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel and culture minister Monika Grütters. Photo: Christian Marquardt/Getty Images.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and culture minister Monika Grütters. Photo: Christian Marquardt/Getty Images.

5. Germany Has Rolled Out a Staggering €50 Billion Aid Package For Small Businesses That Boosts Artists and Galleries—and Puts Other Countries to Shame

“The ministry of culture will spend a staggering €50 billion ($54 billion) to support small businesses and freelancers, including those from the cultural, creative, and media sectors.”

Mural of the Notorious B.I.G at 5Pointz in June 2011. Photo courtesy of P.Lindgren via Wikimedia Commons.

Mural of the Notorious B.I.G at 5Pointz in June 2011. Photo courtesy of P.Lindgren via Wikimedia Commons.

4. The Developer Who Painted Over the 5Pointz Graffiti Mecca Must Pay an Additional $2 Million to Cover the Artists’ Legal Fees

“The hits just keep coming for G&M Realty, the Queens real estate company that lost a landmark case against a group of graffiti and aerosol artists for whitewashing their work on a sprawling set of buildings it owned in Long Island City, Queens. The developer must now pay more than $2 million in attorney fees on top of the $6.75 million initially awarded to the artists who sued the company for violating the Visual Artist Rights Act in 2018.”

The 1st-century house at the Sisters of Nazareth site. It may have been the childhood home of Jesus Christ. Photo courtesy Ken Dark, copyright K.R. Dark.

The 1st-century house at the Sisters of Nazareth site. It may have been the childhood home of Jesus Christ. Photo courtesy Ken Dark, copyright K.R. Dark.

3. It’s a Christmas Miracle! An Archaeologist May Have Just Found Jesus’s Childhood Home in Nazareth

“An English archaeologist may have just made one of the most intriguing discoveries of the last two millennia: the childhood home of Jesus Christ.”

The pre-Columbian rock art at Cerro Azul in Guaviare state, Colombia dates back around 12,000 years. Photo by Marie-Claire Thomas, courtesy Channel 4.

The pre-Columbian rock art at Cerro Azul in Guaviare state, Colombia dates back around 12,000 years. Photo by Marie-Claire Thomas, courtesy Channel 4.

2. Archaeologists Just Discovered Tens of Thousands of Ultra-Realistic Ancient Rock Paintings in the Colombian Amazon

“In a discovery that will take generations to fully unpack, archaeologists have uncovered tens of thousands of Ice Age paintings of wild animals and humans on a series of rock faces in the Amazon.”

A still from the Banksy segment of "Antiques Roadshow."

A still from the Banksy segment of “Antiques Roadshow.”

1. A Man Brought a Banksy Stencil Onto the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ Hoping for a Big Payday. Instead, He Got Scolded

“A man appeared on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow this weekend hoping to score a favorable appraisal on a unique piece of art: a rat stencil on a steel plate, purportedly painted by Banksy. The segment did not go as he hoped.”


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