2020 Was a Blur. Here Are 30 Notable Things That We Completely Forgot Happened This Year

From the bankruptcy of gallery Blain Southern to the viral restoration of a lamb in the Ghent Altarpiece, here's what we forgot.

Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo: Gabe Hopkins.
Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo: Gabe Hopkins.

Time was a little, um, weird in 2020. January feels like eons ago. And more than in almost any other year, it feels like stories that were major topics of conversation one day just—poof!—evaporated the next.

To offer you a trip down memory lane, we searched back in our archives (sometimes not that far back!) to resurface stories from this year that felt like they must have happened long before 2020—or, maybe, you forgot they even happened at all.

ART MARKET

Glimcher. Photo © Axel Depuex.

From left to right: Arne Glimcher, Bill Acquavella, Larry Gagosian, and Marc Glimcher. Photo © Axel Depuex.

Posh Contemporary Art Gallery Blain Southern Is Closing Its Doors Amid Financial Troubles on February 12, 2020
The gallery went under even before lockdown—and went on to leave artworks in limbo and artists out of pocket.

Phillips’s Contemporary Art Sale Fetched a Middling $27 Million, Led by a Shocking Six-Figure Price for Young Star Amoako Boafo on February 13, 2020
It feels like Amoako Boafo has been a market star for years, but in fact his auction sales only went haywire in February, when his painting The Lemon Bathing Suit (2019) shocked the world by selling for $881,432. And the story only got wilder from there.

The $450 Million Marron Collection Is the Art Market’s Ultimate Prize. Now, Three of the World’s Top Rival Galleries Are Joining Forces to Sell It on February 19, 2020
This new alliance seeking to go toe to toe with auction houses has already become the boogeyman for traditional sellers—and it’s only been around since February!

Facebook, a Longtime Hub for the Illicit Antiquities Trade, Bans the Sale of Historic Artifacts on the Platform on June 24, 2020
This was back when Facebook was only in trouble for small-time things, like selling looted artifacts.

Takashi Murakami Announces That His Business Is on the Brink of Bankruptcy in an Emotional New Video Posted to Instagram on July 1, 2020
This one is just wild.

 

CRIME

Inigo Philbrick's arrest on the front cover of the Vanuatu newspaper, The Daily Post

Inigo Philbrick’s arrest on the front cover of the Vanuatu newspaper, The Daily Post

Billionaire Banker Jaime Botin Gets an 18-Month Prison Sentence and a $58 Million Fine for Smuggling a Picasso Out of Spain on January 16, 2020
This was back when Picassos could travel.

Opportunistic Thieves Just Stole a Prized Van Gogh Landscape From a Locked-Down Dutch Museum Under Cover of Night on March 30, 2020
The first in a spate of art thefts taking advantage of newly locked-down museums.

Fugitive Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick Has Been Arrested on a Pacific Island and Charged With Orchestrating a $20 Million Fraud Scheme on June 12, 2020
The dealer who spawned a globe-spanning scandal was missing for most of 2020. He was found on an island that once served as the set of Survivor.

Legendary Dealer Mary Boone Is Out of Prison Early on June 4, 2020
Boone had petitioned for early release due to outbreaks of COVID-19.

 

CELEBRITY

Britney Spears painting. Courtesy of Britney Spears, video still via Instagram.

Britney Spears painting. Courtesy of Britney Spears, video still via Instagram.

The Internet Is Abuzz With the News That Britney Spears Is Getting Her First Gallery Show. But It’s All a Lie on January 14, 2020
We were so innocent then.

Jeff Bezos Reportedly Spent More Than $70 Million on a Kerry James Marshall and a Record-Shattering Ed Ruscha at Auction Last Fall on February 6, 2020
Back then, we were excited to find out Bezos was becoming a major collecting force. Now, our relationship with the man and his company has become more complicated.

The Winkelvoss Twins, Bitcoin Billionaires and Foes of Facebook, Just Launched a New Blockchain Art Marketplace on March 18, 2020
Fun fact: the week this article was published, one Bitcoin was equivalent to just under $5,000. Today, it’s approaching $23,000. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all?

What Kind of Art Does Drake Collect? The Singer’s New Music Video for ‘Toosie Slide’ Lets Viewers See Inside His Artwork-Filled Mansion on April 3, 2020
This just feels like 100 years ago.

Grimes Is Selling Her Soul to the Highest Bidder—Among Other Works of Art—in Her Debut Gallery Show at Maccarone on May 28, 2020
“I see myself as a visual artist first and foremost, and I’ve always felt strange that people know me for music,” Grimes said.

 

POLITICS

The original photograph of 2017 Women's March on Washington, later edited by the National Archives. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The original photograph of 2017 Women’s March on Washington, later edited by the National Archives. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Pentagon Has Rejected Trump’s Threat to Bomb Iran’s Heritage Sites. Here’s What May Have Been Saved on January 7, 2020
The threat, which Trump said would come to pass if Iran retaliated against the US’s killing of a top Iranian military leader, sparked widespread outrage before the administration walked it back.

How the National Archives’ Notorious Alteration of a Women’s March Photo Is Part of a Long American Tradition on January 24, 2020
The National Archives in Washington, DC, was forced to issue a public apology for altering a photo of the 2017 Women’s March to obscure slogans written on four of the posters that referred either to President Trump or women’s genitalia.

Nan Goldin, Kara Walker, and the DIS Art Collective Are Among the Hundreds of Cultural Figures Endorsing Bernie Sanders for US President on February 24, 2020
Remember the primaries? That was this year!

Reclusive Artist Cady Noland and Photographer Catherine Opie Are Among the 2,200 Creatives Endorsing Elizabeth Warren for US President on March 3, 2020
See above.

 

CONTROVERSY

Lita Albuquerque, NAJMA (She Placed One Thousand Suns On The Transparent Overlays Of Space), installation view at Desert X AlUla, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy the artist, RCU and Desert.

Lita Albuquerque, NAJMA (She Placed One Thousand Suns On The Transparent Overlays Of Space), installation view at Desert X AlUla, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy the artist, RCU and Desert.

Yale Is Eliminating Its Art History Survey Course Over Complaints That It Prioritizes a White, Western Canon Over Other Narratives on January 27, 2020
The news that launched 1,000 op-eds on conservative websites.

‘I Am Not Part of Some Propaganda Machine’: Artists and Curators Defend Their Participation in the Saudi-Backed Show Desert X AlUla on January 29, 2020
It’s hard to remember that high-wattage, controversial international art festivals happened at all in 2020, but indeed, they did.

The Cooper Hewitt Director Who Was Ousted Over Her Wedding Fires Back, Claiming She Fell Victim to a ‘Discriminatory’ Investigation on February 24, 2020
The Smithsonian launched an investigation into Baumann’s 2018 wedding, and whether or not she had used her influence to get a discount on her dress and a free venue for the event at the LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton.

ODDITIES

A picture taken on December 17, 2019 shows a detail of the restored original of Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece (1432) by the brothers and Flemish artists Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) in Ghent, Belgium.(Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP via Getty Images.

A detail of the restored original of Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece (1432) by the brothers and Flemish artists Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) in Ghent, Belgium. Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP via Getty Images.

A Lamb in the Newly Restored Ghent Altarpiece Is Going Viral Because the Internet Thinks It Looks Like Zoolander on January 22, 2020
This was back when we thought we had a shot of seeing the bizarrely restored work in person in a once-in-a-lifetime Jan van Eyck exhibition in Belgium.

This Ceramic Artist Survived the Australian Wildfires by Crawling Inside His Kiln on January 24, 2020
You should really just click through and read this one in its entirety.

Students at NYU’s Art School Are Demanding Refunds of Their Tuition. The Dean Just Responded With This Astonishing Homemade Dance Video on March 27, 2020
Can you remember what song she danced to? (Hint: It rhymes with “Losing My Tuition.”)

The Nelson-Atkins Museum Is Still Closed for Humans, But Three Sophisticated Penguins Just Got a Private Tour (and the Photos Are Adorable) on May 15, 2020
It was a simpler time, when we were all just trawling the internet for cute photos of animals.

An Out-of-Control Train Was About to Plunge 33 Feet to the Ground—Until a Giant Sculpture of a Whale Miraculously Saved It on November 2, 2020
This wasn’t even that long ago, but we bet you forgot about it too.

 

STORIES THAT AGED POORLY

Even an elbow bump was a bad idea! Photo: Getty Images.

Even an elbow bump was a bad idea! Photo: Getty Images.

We’ll See You at the New York Art Fairs This Week. We Just Won’t Shake Your Hand (or Touch Your Face) on March 2, 2020
Considering how rapidly the virus was spreading through New York at this particular moment, this is not one of our prouder pieces.

A Dealer Barred a Curator From Her Art Fair Booth Because Asians Are ‘Seen as Carriers’ of Coronavirus. A Firestorm Erupted on March 5, 2020
This was always embarrassing for the dealer, who should have been ashamed—but in retrospect, it seems even more ill-informed. (If she were going to bar out anyone, it should have been people coming from Europe!)

Basel’s Trois Rois Hotel Is Already Sold Out for September on March 27, 2020
“Sources say that collectors and advisors, unclear on which week of September would be the new Basel dates, went ahead and booked a room for the entire month, perfectly OK with eating the steep cancellation fees.” Bon appetit!


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