The Art World Winners and Losers of 2014

Because you can't win 'em all.

Jeff Koons: Roll your eyes if you must, but America’s shiniest art star has had a banner year. From the Whitney restrospective that dominated conversations for weeks, to the sky-high and steadily climbing market for his work, to that time he magically turned a bunch of Birkin bags into readymades for charity, things don’t seem to be turning down for Koons anytime soon.

Kara Walker and Creative Time: Walker’s massive sugar sphinx sculpture inside the Domino Sugar Factory, which was produced with the help of Creative Time, was swarmed with crowds from its opening in May until its closing in July. It stirred up a frenzy on social media, but also addressed some important issues about race, femininity, and African-American history.

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum: After being shut down for renovations for almost three years, the Cooper Hewitt reopened its doors in December to what is, by all accounts, a stunning interior. The revamped design museum also boasts a 60% increase in exhibition space, which currently houses an impressive slate of ten opening exhibitions and installations.

Prada Marfa: When a vandal attempted to transform the conceptual storefront erected by Elmgreen & Dragset into a TOMS store, things didn’t look good. But the vandal, Joe Magnano was ordered in court to pay Ballroom Marfa $10,700 to restore the piece, as well as a $1,000 fine.

George Lucas: After spawning an all-out bidding war between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago over where to place his museum, Lucas finally tapped the Windy City to house his collection of movie and popular culture memorabilia. Despite a few small hurdles, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts is scheduled to open in 2018, and may cost as much as $700 million to build.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: It’s been a rough year for the arts in Washington, DC what with the dissolution of the beloved Corcoran Gallery. But  following a year with no leader at the helm, the Hirshhorn is in a great spot with the appointment of former Asia Society director Melissa Chiu as director of the institution.

Performa: The performance art organization helmed by RoseLee Goldberg turned ten this year with a major Renaissance-themed blowout attended by the likes of Marina Abramović and Cindy Sherman.

The Rockaways: After a devastating 2013 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaways earned some major love from MoMA PS1’s hip director Klaus Biesenbach and his coterie of famous friends like Patti Smith, Lana del Ray, and James Franco, making the beach town the summer’s It destination for day tripping.

Daniel Arsham: As W Magazine noted, Arsham and his experimental art and architecture practice Snarkitecture had quite a busy week this year in Miami—he hosted four different events, and was spotted at countless others. Just another day in the life of a hip young artist and prolific party host.

Miley Cyrus: Thanks to Jeffrey Deitch, Miley is one step closer to achieving art world acceptance. In addition to tapping her to perform at his annual Art Basel in Miami Beach extravaganza, Deitch went as far as to compare her work to that of Mike Kelley.

Daniel Loeb: Sotheby’s shareholder Dan Loeb and his hedge fund Third Point Capital triumphed when they ended a contentious, year-long proxy battle with the auction house just one day before a conclusive shareholder vote was set to be tallied. Sotheby’s announced it would expand its board of directors to combine its own slate with the names nominated by Loeb (one of which was his own).

Georgia O’Keeffe: The astounding sale of an O’Keeffe painting for $44 million in November at Sotheby’s not only tripled the work’s high estimate, it shattered the record for the sale of a work by a woman artist. If only the seminal painter were alive to witness the impact her work has had on the market for female artists.

Perry Rubenstein: Two years after moving from New York to LA, the art dealer filed for bankruptcy in March of this year. Rubenstein, who owes money to a range of people including artist Shepard Fairey, has promised to fulfill his financial obligations, but obviously it hasn’t been a great year for the would-be champion of the LA art scene.

Maria Baibakova: While we pegged Maria Baibakova as one of our most innovative art collectors, this daughter of a Russian oligarch also revealed herself to be shockingly out of touch in an article she penned for Russian Tatler in which she attempted to drop wisdom on how to run a household of servants. The story, which was eventually picked up by Buzzfeed, included gems like “we forget that, although [Filipinas] don’t speak Russian, they’re still not deaf, dumb, and blind.” Baibakova later apologized for the piece and claimed some of her more crude comments were the fault of poor translation, but we’re not sure we buy it.

The Frick Museum: The historic museum’s ambitious expansion plans have gotten serious flack from both art lovers and city dwellers alike, who especially take issue with the removal of the beautiful gated garden that was supposed to be a permanent feature of the institution. There’s even a petition.

Jonathan Jones: The perpetually publicity-hungry Guardian art critic raised some eyebrows when he wrote in an editorial that photography is “technology, not art.” He also penned a tasteless, yet SEO keyword-packed “review” of the crash site images from the Malaysia Flight MH17, causing us to ask: is this what art criticism has come to?

Helly Nahmad: Though he had a stroke of good luck (or good lawyering) that resulted in his getting out of jail early, the fact that art dealer Helly Nahmad spent most of the year behind bars, had his illegal gambling ring exposed, was accused of hiding a Nazi-looted Modigliani, and wasn’t even able to make it out in time for Art Basel clearly places him in the loser column. Better luck next year, Helly!

Tony Shafrazi: The art dealer and former Picasso vandal is not only losing his Chelsea gallery space to the wrecking ball, he’s possibly also being evicted from the Soho loft where he’s lived for two decades. What can we say? That’s New York real estate for you.

Ron Perelman: Since 2012, Perelman has been attempting to take on both former pal Larry Gagosian and the whole “ugly” art market, and this year, he pretty much failed at both. His charges against the uber-dealer were dismissed, and as for the whole art market? We’re pretty sure it’s still as ugly as ever.

Richard Prince: Jerry Saltz may have penned a strangely positive review about Prince’s creepy conceptual Instagram art full of celebrities and pretty girls, but everyone else, from Klaus Biesenbach to artnet News columnist Paddy Johnson despised it. Oh wait, we hear James Franco liked it too? Do with that info what you will.

MOCA North Miami: After months of controversy, and a possible merger with the Bass Museum of Art, MOCA North Miami finally shut its doors. In November, it was announced that the institution’s assets will be divided between the city and the former board members, who in August decamped to Miami’s Design District and set up shop under a new name, the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Oscar Murillo: Oscar Murillo may still be performing well at auction, but his chocolate factory stunt at David Zwirner was largely regarded as…well, just that: a stunt. It may have even been damaging to Zwirner’s blue-chip brand (though we suspect probably not).

Bill Ruprecht: The longtime Sotheby’s CEO got pushed out as part of a “mutual agreement” between himself and the auction house, that came just a little too close on the heels of Dan Loeb’s winning those three seats on the board. To be fair, he did receive a $4 million severance package, so it’s a gilded loss.

Steven Murphy: The former Christie’s CEO didn’t fare much better this year. He was mysteriously pushed out of his position at the helm of the company for reasons that no one is quite sure about yet.

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