We Published More Than 3,000 Stories This Year. Here Are 22 of Our Favorites

We take a look back at some of the most serious, most joyful, and most exciting stories of 2021 with a selection of staff favorites.

Halsey at the base of the Met main stairs with the album art of
Halsey at the base of the Met main stairs with the album art of "If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power." Courtesy of the artist's Instagram.

So here we are, at the end of another long year that went by too fast.

A lot happened (when does a lot not happen?), from the emergence of NFTs (nothing dominated the conversations like those did) to the sputtering re-opening of galleries and museums worldwide.

We covered it all. Below, we present some of our favorite profiles, interviews, analyses, and op-eds of the year.

Damien Hirst with works from "The Currency." Courtesy of the artist.

Damien Hirst with works from “The Currency.” Courtesy of the artist.

Meet the Bros Scooping Up Damien Hirst NFTs, What’s Behind Downtown’s Latest Artist-Gallery Split, and More Art-World Gossip

by Annie Armstrong

“The NFTs sold for a modest $2,000 a pop, but Hirst raked in over $22 million in the process. What he may not have anticipated is that the project would give birth to a new type of collector—one that knows next to nothing about art and a lot about finance.”

Artist Otto Muehl and his wife. MAK. Vienna. Photograph. 1998 Photo: Imagno/Getty Images.

Artist Otto Muehl and his wife. MAK. Vienna. Photograph. 1998 Photo: Imagno/Getty Images.

How Should the Art World Handle the Dark Legacy of Viennese Actionist and Convicted Sex Offender Otto Muehl? His Victims Have a Few Ideas

by Kimberly Bradley

“Muehl’s legacy was wrought by a controversy that was exceptional even among his peers. In the early 1970s, and well known in Austria’s art avant-garde scene and beyond, Muehl founded a commune called the AAO. What began as an anti-capitalist project, liberated from societal and even artistic stricture, over time became increasingly authoritarian—the authority being Muehl.”

Photo courtesy Roxane Gay.

Photo courtesy Roxane Gay.

Author Roxane Gay, Who Loves Art But Dislikes the Art World, Has Some Advice for Galleries: ‘Stop Being Terrible’

by Noor Brara

“I think how they treat their employees is really terrible. I’m not particularly interested in spending my money in a place that exploits people. So I think just fixing themselves up would help”

Thomas Houseago. Courtesy the artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels.

Thomas Houseago. Courtesy the artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels.

‘I Didn’t Think I’d Survive’: Sculptor Thomas Houseago on His Mental Breakdown, Recovery, and How Facing Trauma Transformed His Art

by Kate Brown

“I think we have to be careful about romanticizing trauma or viewing it as essential to all art. I think it is often more crippling, limiting, and crushing. Trauma has to be taken way more seriously, and its impact on us personally and socially.”

Madeline Donahue in her studio. Photo courtesy of Madeline Donahue.

Madeline Donahue in her studio. Photo courtesy of Madeline Donahue.

‘My Practice Looks Very Different Today’: 15 Artist-Mothers on Balancing Work and Family After a Year Like No Other

by Sarah Cascone

“The events of 2020 turned the world upside down for everyone. But the burden of life in lockdown has predominantly fallen on women, and on mothers in particular, with many pressured to leave the workforce entirely to focus on childcare while schools are virtual, relying on a husband’s typically higher income.”

Wu Chi-Tsung and his Cyano-Collage series. Photo by Jason Wyche. Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery.

Wu Chi-Tsung and his Cyano-Collage series. Photo by Jason Wyche. Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery.

Wu Chi-Tsung Is Drawing Global Notice for Revamping Chinese Landscape Painting With Video, Light, and a Big Dose of Chance

by Vivienne Chow

“When the artist Wu Chi-Tsung decided to take a leap of faith and seek representation outside his native Taiwan five years ago, he might have only hoped that it was the start of a global adventure.”

A still from Candyman (2021). © Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures.

Why Are So Many Contemporary Horror Flicks Set in the Art World? Spoiler Alert: It’s a Metaphor About Power

by Taylor Dafoe

Candyman located something similar in its setting, as did Velvet BuzzsawGet Out got there indirectly. In all these films, the art world and its power dynamics stand in for a litany of specific fears that—not coincidentally—bear a strong resemblance to those animating society at large.”

Auctioneer Theo Goodman at the Mint Gold Dust auction. Photo by Ben Davis.

Auctioneer Theo Goodman at the Mint Gold Dust auction. Photo by Ben Davis.

Inside the NFT Rush: Speculators Offer Up the Literal Formula for Success, Plus Other Lessons From ‘Crypto Coachella’

by Ben Davis

“A combination of disillusion with America’s crapshoot economy and a hope—sometimes sincere, sometimes defensively ironic—of riding this technological wave to Elysium, flutters in the conference’s air.”

Princess Diana at the Museu Izidoro Armacollo. Courtesy of Twitter.

Princess Diana at the Museu Izidoro Armacollo. Courtesy of Twitter.

Does This Look Like Princess Diana to You? The Internet Is Melting Down Over the Absurd Wax Figures in a Brazilian Museum

by Caroline Goldstein

“Unlike Madame Tussauds, which goes out of its way to present lifelike sculptures, the Izidoro Armacollo wax museum has… different standards. Forget about visual faithfulness. What we have here are enormous claymation monsters.”

Hunter Biden at work. Courtesy of the artist.

Hunter Biden at work. Courtesy of the artist.

We Spoke to Hunter Biden About His New Life as a Full-Time Artist, and His Personal Quest for ‘Universal Truth’ Through Painting

by Katya Kazakina

“He’s 15 minutes late for our interview because the house doesn’t have mobile service yet. ‘I’m wondering how many people are trying to get in touch with me and then failing,’ Biden, 51, told me over the phone. ‘Which is kind of nice actually. Usually, I just don’t answer the phone.’”

John Cleese. Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images.

John Cleese. Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images.

We Asked Comedic Legend John Cleese Why He Decided to Reinvent Himself as an NFT Artist. His Answer Was Rather Silly

by Eileen Kinsella

“Comedian John Cleese, who is now a young, anonymous digital artist, is finally (finally!) putting an NFT up for auction.”

Courtesy of B.

One of B’s uber-rare CryptoPunk Apes, which marks her as an OG player in the NFT space.

‘We’re Told It’s Not Really for Us’: NFT Mega-Collector The Beauty and the Punk on Her Quest to Empower Women in the Crypto Sphere

by Henri Neuendorf

“As a woman in the almost exclusively male crypto community, B admits that she’s something of a unicorn.”

Alex Hay, on the right, with Robert Rauschenberg. The two were close friends and collaborators throughout the 1960s. Richard Avdeon, Robert Rauschenberg and Alex Hay, artists, New York, January 19, 1965. © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Alex Hay, on the right, with Robert Rauschenberg. The two were close friends and collaborators throughout the 1960s. Richard Avdeon, Robert Rauschenberg and Alex Hay, artists, New York, January 19, 1965. © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

A Maverick Who Captivated the ’70s New York Scene, Alex Hay Seemed Bound to Become a Famous Artist. Then He Just Walked Away. Why?

by Pac Pobric

“Well, I never had the idea that I was giving up art,” Hay said. “I just saw what happens to an artist in New York. It changes you, being an artist and having some success. I saw it with all my friends.”

Guest at ART X Lagos 2021

Guest at ART X Lagos 2021. Courtesy ART X Lagos.

‘We Sell for the Same Prices Here That We Sell at Basel’: Nigerian Collectors Hunt for West Africa’s Next Art Stars at Art X Lagos

by Rebecca Anne Proctor

“Nigeria’s exhilarating economic capital of more than 14 million people, which is also home to one of the largest pools of art collectors on the continent, is increasingly becoming a significant cultural hub.”

Courtesy Simon de Pury.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Simon de Pury. Courtesy Simon de Pury.

In Pictures: Art-World Veteran Simon de Pury Looks Back on an Extraordinary Year of a Locked-Down Art Industry

by Simon de Pury

“I acknowledge that I have been luckier than most, and that I cannot hope to fully chronicle a period that has brought so much sadness, sorrow, and misery to so many. What I can do is show you how my world, which is the art world, changed and responded to the challenges of the moment.”

Tracey Emin on Margate beach, September 2021.

Tracey Emin on Margate beach, September 2021. Photo by Robert Diament.

‘This Is My Swan Song’: After a Brush With Death, Tracey Emin Has Returned to Her Hometown to Build a Museum and Write Her Legacy

by Naomi Rea

“‘I have all these ailments that I’ve got to get over and learn to live with, and that’s what I’m doing,’ Emin said. ‘I’m getting better at it. I don’t feel whole, because I had parts of me taken away, but I’ve been given something else that I didn’t have before.’”

Mr. Doodle at the launch of "Sense of Space" a multi-room sensory art experience in Exchange Square in London in 2018. Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Broadgate.

Mr. Doodle at the launch of “Sense of Space,” a multi-room sensory art experience in Exchange Square in London in 2018. Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Broadgate.

How an Artist Named Mr. Doodle Became a Multimillion-Dollar Auction Sensation With a Bunch of Squiggles and ‘Like’-able Branding

by Tim Schneider

“His name has never graced the wall of a New York gallery, blue-chip art-fair booth, or major Western museum program. In fact, Mr. Doodle didn’t even register his first public auction result until March 25, 2020.”

Adam Pendleton. Image courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery. Photo by Sang Tae Kim.

Adam Pendleton. Image courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery. Photo by Sang Tae Kim.

‘I Want to Get People’s Attention’: Artist Adam Pendleton on Taking Over MoMA’s Atrium With a Monumental Tribute to Black Dada

by Hilarie Sheets

“Scaling three sides of the soaring atrium space, modular black 60-foot scaffolds support black-and-white text-based paintings as big as 10 by 20 feet; large-scale drawings; a massive screen for moving images; and speakers projecting a sound collage.”

Chuck Close sits in front of his painting. Courtesy of Getty Images.

Chuck Close sits in front of one of his paintings. Courtesy of Getty Images.

Chuck Close Was a Celebrated Art Star Until MeToo Exposed Him as Toxic. Can His Supporters Stage a Posthumous Comeback?

by Zachary Small

“Close, who became famous in the 1970s for his distinctive, monumental paintings and self-portraits that toyed with viewers’ perceptions, has been largely out of the spotlight since 2017, when several women accused him of sexual harassment. Fallout for the artist included canceled exhibitions, lost business opportunities, and a retreat from public life.”

Sculptor Karon Davis. Photo: Aleen Jaghalian.

Sculptor Karon Davis. Photo: Aleen Jaghalian.

How Artist Karon Davis’s Tour-de-Force Portrayal of Black Panther Leader Bobby Seale Reveals a Cruel Blind Spot of American History

by Melissa Smith

“That’s why artists are so important. I think Nina Simone even said that it’s our job to tell the truth, to tell stories of history, to capture these moments. You might not get it in school, but if you walk through a museum or gallery, you’re probably going to get this education. And that’s real.”

Artemisia Gentileschi's Esther before Ahasuerus. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gallery 621.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Esther before Ahasuerus (1628-30). Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gallery 621.

We Did an Art Historical Analysis of Halsey’s Cryptic 13-Minute Metropolitan Museum of Art Video. Here’s What We Discovered

by Katie White

“Halsey’s video is unique in that its focus is primarily on the artworks—not as a backdrop to her own musical performance. The strangeness of the video had us wondering what it all means.”

Britney Spears arrives for the premiere of Sony Pictures' "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California on July 22, 2019. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP)

Britney Spears arrives for the premiere of Sony Pictures’ “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California on July 22, 2019. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP)

Britney Spears, Allegory of the 20th Century? How the Misunderstood Pop Star Has Inspired Visual Artists as an Avatar of the Early Aughts

by Janelle Zara

“As Framing Britney Spears and the copycat documentaries that followed examine this startlingly toxic behavior, they join a project that artists had already started: a kind of cultural reckoning where Spears’s likeness becomes a vehicle of serious cultural critique.”


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