The 10 Art News Stories of 2014 You Need to Know

Stories on Richard Prince, Kara Walker, James Franco, and Kim Kardashian all made the list.

James Franco, New Film Still #21 (2013). © 2014 Pace Gallery, All Rights Reserved. © the artist; all images © Pace Gallery.

Installation view of Richard Prince, “New Portraits,” at Gagosian
Photo: Paddy Johnson

Looking back on some of the most popular stories from our first year in business (since March, that is), some of the stories that turned up surprised us, while the appearance of others at the top of the list heartened us. In an effort to share some of these, we began with the top 50 stories that drove the most traffic on the artnet News website all year long. From there, we sifted the pickings down to our top 10 favorites. To our minds, these are the stories that most had people talking. Thus, without further ado, here are the top 10 stories from artnet News in 2014:

1. Beloved Illustrator Blasted by Fans Over Ferguson Artwork: When illustrator Mary Engelbreit departed from her normal fare of cartoon depictions of apple-cheeked children to post a work on her Facebook page that reflected the turmoil in Ferguson, her fan base turned on her.

2. Ways of Seeing Instagram: In his nifty piece about Instagram and art theory, Ben Davis explores how Instagram, an app that’s only four years old, is “dominating the art conversation as no purely art-related topic has.”

3. Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx Spawns Offensive Instagram Photos: One of the most buzzed-about exhibitions of the year was Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,” a mammoth Sphinx-like figure coated in sugar that was commissioned by Creative Time and staged at the Domino Sugar Factory. Intended to comment on the sugar cane trade, and to serve as a cultural critique of representations of black women throughout history, the work, which had exaggerated breasts, bottom, and vagina, created an unintentional uproar on Instagram—viewers took selfies sexualizing the work for their followers.

4. We Asked 20 Women “Is the Art World Biased?” Here’s What They Said“: The art world is presented as an industry where its professionals, both women and men, have more freedom to express themselves and share equally in the ability to take advantage of opportunities. But is that true? artnet News canvassed women collectors, dealers, curators, and advisers to find out.

5. World’s Biggest Art Collector Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani Dies at Age 48: Once held to be the wealthiest and most powerful art collector in the world, Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar’s ruling family died suddenly at his home in London in November. Since then, stories have been unfolding about the enormous debt he has left in his wake.

6. Richard Prince Sucks: When Richard Prince took over the space behind the Gagosian gift shop with his Instagram portraits taken from the Instagram feeds of various celebrities (and created a new twist to his practice of appropriation), many critics had something to say about it. But none lambasted the lazy and simple artworks quite as deliciously as Paddy Johnson.

7. Meet 20 of the World’s Most Innovative Art Collectors: From Theo Danjuma to Maria Baibakova, these collectors were chosen for their ability to set themselves apart in the practice of collecting artworks, whether for their highly specific focus, their environmental activism, or their Renaissance qualities.

8. Have Art Fairs Destroyed Art? Zombie Abstraction and Dumb Painting Ruled in Miami: With his hilarious spot-on observations, critic Christian Viveros-Fauné takes Art Basel in Miami Beach to task for catering to the “connoisseur class” and loading up on “shiny surfaces, stacks of joke paintings, and enough zombie abstraction to inspire several remakes of World War Z.” A must-read for anyone who went down to Miami, and even a must-read for just anyone.

9. Why James Franco’s Cindy Sherman Homage at Pace Is Not Just Bad But Offensive: “James Franco’s new exhibition at Pace is bad.” That’s how former artnet News staffer Ben Sutton starts off his piece about James Franco’s exhibition of works in which he recreated the well-known images of artist Cindy Sherman. And the skewering only gets more intense from there.

10. Kanye West Gives Kim Kardashian Nude Portrait as Wedding Gift: Kanye commissioned British street artist Bambi, the so-called female Banksy, to create a wedding gift for his Internet-breaking bride: a nearly-nude portrait titled Perfect Bitch, depicting Kardashian posing from behind wearing nothing but a tiny G-string and Louboutin heels. The artist’s instructions were to create “something regal but typically Kim.”

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