Here Are the 15 Most Popular artnet News Stories of 2018, From Jay Z’s Illuminati Riddles to da Vinci’s Hidden Art

Plus, the future of body modification, Diddy's art-buying extravaganza, Damien Hirst’s fake documentary, and much more.

A still from Jay-Z and Beyoncé's video for "Apeshit."

It was a busy year of change in the art world, but some things have remained the same as ever. Not unlike years past, controversy and a splash of fun have driven our most-read stories, proving, once again, that the art world is as much a locus for serious conversation as it is a place to have a chuckle. Sometimes the two are indistinguishable. Should we laugh or cry at the botched restorations carried out this year out by amateur painters in Spain? Whatever we feel, conflict and outlandish situations always draw us in, as our list proves. Below, revisit 15 stories that captured our readers’ attention in 2018 and made the year at once joyful and painfully absurd.


Art from 5Pointz by Kid Lew, as included in Google’s Street Art Project.

15. ‘Appalled’ by 5Pointz Developer, a Judge Upholds the Massive $6.75 Million in Damages Awarded to Graffiti Artists

June 14, 2018 — “Make no mistake: Judge Frederic Block is firmly convinced that the graffiti artists of 5Pointz deserve every penny of the $6.75 million in damages he awarded them in his February decision ruling against developer Gerald Wolkoff.” Read more.


Jean-Michel Basquiat Flesh and Spirit (1982-83). Courtesy Sotheby's.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Flesh and Spirit (1982–83). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

14. The Woman Who Sold a Basquiat for a Cool $31 Million Is Now Suing Her Dad for Causing the ‘Disappointing’ Result

June 8, 2018 — “Belinda Neumann Donnelly filed a lawsuit against her father Hubert G. Neumann, alleging that Hubert engaged in a ‘greedy, malevolent, fraudulent, bad-faith and (unfortunately) successful scheme to financially devastate [her mother’s estate, of which she is the agent] and, indirectly, Belinda, by destroying the value of the Estate’s most valuable asset,’ Basquiat’s large painting Flesh and Spirit (1983).” Read more.


A still from Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s video for “Apeshit.”

13. Art History, or the Illuminati? What Jay-Z and Beyoncé Are Really Up to With Their Viral New Louvre Video

June 18, 2018 — “The video begins with the image of a fallen angel… Could it be, Lucifer??” Read more.


“The Pinnacle” by A. Human. Photo courtesy of BFA.

12. Is Body Modification the Future of Fashion? This New Pop-Up Museum Envisions a Creepy Craze

September 5, 2018 — “The museum’s models—who, with incredible stamina, hold as still as mannequins—are displayed as if they were for sale, suggesting that such exotic cosmetic enhancements could one day be as commonplace as jewelry or handbags.” Read more.


This mysterious black granite sarcophagus has been found in Alexandria and excavated by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

This mysterious black granite sarcophagus was found in Alexandria and  excavated by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

11. Have They Found Alexander the Great’s Tomb? Speculation Runs Rampant Over a Newly Discovered Sarcophagus in Egypt

July 13, 2018 — “The find is especially intriguing because its mortar seal is completely intact, meaning that tomb raiders and treasure seekers haven’t gotten their hands on it over the centuries, leaving the contents untouched.” Read more.


Installation view of the "Banksy" show at the Central House of Artist Museum.

Installation view of the “Banksy” show at the Central House of Artist Museum in Moscow.

10. Banksy Learns About a Bootleg Show of His Work in Moscow and Responds in a Very Banksy Way

August 15, 2018 — “Upon being told it’s a ticketed exhibition in Moscow, Banksy replied, ‘You know it’s got nothing to do with me right? I don’t charge people to see my art unless there’s a fairground wheel.’” Read more.


Before and after a misguided restoration on the statue of St. George at Navarre, Spain's Church of San Miguel de Estella. Photo via Twitter.

Before and after a misguided restoration on the statue of St. George at Navarre, Spain’s Church of San Miguel de Estella. Photo via Twitter.

9. A New Restoration Fail in Spain Is Drawing Comparisons to the Beloved ‘Beast Jesus’

June 26, 2018 — “Unfortunately, the 500-year-old artwork now resembles something out of a Disney cartoon: The uniformity of the paint distribution has left Saint George with a pink face, beady eyes, and a garish red and gray suit of armor.” Read more.


Former U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and artist Kehinde Wiley unveil his portrait during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Artist Kehinde Wiley and Barack Obama unveil his portrait during a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

8. Here’s the Bad News About Kehinde Wiley’s Presidential Portrait of Barack Obama

February 13, 2018 — “Somewhere, deep down, on the level of subtext and unintended meanings, this strange, strange political portrait ends up being about how the man must be abstracted from the nitty-gritty of his legacy to become the symbol that his followers desire him to be.” Read more.


Anthony Bourdain. Photo by Paul Bruinooge, ©Patrick McMullan.

Anthony Bourdain. Photo by Paul Bruinooge. © Patrick McMullan.

7. Anthony Bourdain Bought This John Lurie Painting Days Before He Died

June 8, 2018 — “‘We were just becoming friends,’” Lurie wrote. “‘One of the few people I have been remotely interested in becoming friends with in years. I am supposed to see him on Wednesday.’” Read more.


At left, the 15th-century statue of Virgin Mary before being “restored” (right) by a local woman in Asturias, Spain. Photo DSF/AFP/Getty Images.

6. ‘The Statues Really Needed Painting’: An Amateur Artist Defends Her Neon ‘Restoration’ of a 15th-Century Religious Shrine

September 10, 2018 — “‘I’m not a professional painter but I’ve always liked painting and the statues really needed painting,’” she told El Comercio. “‘I painted them as best I could using what I thought were the right colors. The neighbors liked them too. Ask around here and you’ll find out.’” Read more.


Sean Combs arrives for the 2018 Met Gala. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images.

5. Diddy Revealed as the Buyer of Kerry James Marshall’s Record-Breaking $21 Million Painting

May 18, 2018 — “The result is a world auction record for the artist, and is thought to be the highest price ever paid for an artwork by a living African-American artist.” Read more.


Photo of the Roman horse’s head pre-restoration. Photo: J. Bahlo, German Archaeological Institute

4. A German Farmer Was Just Awarded Almost $1 Million for an Ancient Roman Bronze Found on His Property

July 30, 2018 — “Initially, the state had paid the farmer just €48,000 (about $55,946) for the head, which was found on his property. But the man, whose name has not been made public, sued the government after reading news reports about the gravity and value of the discovery.” Read more.


Leonardo da Vinci’s The head of a youth (c.1510). Courtesy the Royal Collection Trust.

3. Leonardo da Vinci Hid Invisible Drawings in His Sketches. Now High-Tech Scanners Have Brought Them to Light

February 8, 2018 — “Most striking of all are two blank sheets of paper that are now known to hold invisible studies for hands.” Read more.


French artist Orlan in 2016. Photo by Herbert Neubauer/AFP/Getty Images.

2. French Artist Orlan Must Pay Lady Gaga and Universal $18,000 in Fees Following Unsuccessful Lawsuit, French Court Rules

May 25, 2018 — “In her appeal, filed earlier this month, Orlan dropped the charge that the singer had counterfeited her work, but maintained that Lady Gaga was guilty of ‘free-riding’—delightfully called ‘parasitisme’ in French—meaning that she purposefully took advantage of Orlan’s ‘notoriety or investments’ without compensating her.” Read more.


Still from Damien Hirst's documentary, courtesy of Netflix.

Still from Damien Hirst’s documentary, courtesy of Netflix.

1. Damien Hirst Created a Fake Documentary About His Fake Venice Show—and Now You Can See It on Netflix

January 5, 2018 — “According to the 90-minute mockumentary, the vast Venice spectacle was not the 52-year-old artist’s highly anticipated comeback exhibition, which took 10 years and cost a reported $65 million to produce. Instead, the film suggests the show was the debut presentation of long-lost treasure discovered by a team of archaeologists and divers off the coast of east Africa.” Read more.

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