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Top 10 Arts Stories of 2013

Looking back at 2013 as reported by HuffPost Arts & Culture:

Image: Associated Press

1. Francis Bacon Sets Auction World Record
In early November a 1969 painting by Francis Bacon set a world record for most expensive artwork ever sold at auction. “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” was sold for $142,405,000 at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art sale. The triptych depicts Bacon’s friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud. The buyer of the work remains unknown. Jerry Saltz memorably called the piece “A middle-brow painting by a middle-brow painter painting another middle-brow painter.”

Jin Lee, a student designer from New York, experiences Random International’s "Rain Room" at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on Friday, July 19, 2013, in New York. Visitors wait as much as four hours to interact with the field of rain-like water, which pauses wherever a human body is detected, allowing visitors "the experience of controlling the rain." (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

2. The Rain Room Makes Money, Breaks Hearts
rAndom International’s Rain Room conquered the art world this summer, luring the masses to MoMA to experience the aesthetics of rain without getting wet. The magic is done through a series of body-mapping cameras, nine controllable spouts, and 2500 litres of water falling at 1000 litres per minute, filtered and cycled back to the spouts from whence the water came. The result is as unnatural a version of a natural phenomenon as one can imagine. You’ll feel like Moses parting the Red Sea, explained the Guardian. Lines formed around the block, children cried and eventually the exhibition closed.

Image: Associated Press

3. The Tragic Bolshoi Ballet Acid Attack
The drama and suspense of “Black Swan” paled in comparison to the drama that clouded the Bolshoi Ballet this year. Artistic director Sergei Filin fell victim to an acid attack, a plot which was instigated, it was later revealed, by Pavel Dmitrichenko, primo ballerino and the face of the company’s on-stage bad guy, Ivan the Terrible. From there things only got more twisted. Read a play-by-play of the characters involved here.

Image: Associated Press

4. James Turrell Lights Up
Light artist and cosmic Santa Claus James Turrell cast a glowing light over the art world this year with major exhibitions in both the Guggenheim in New York and LACMA in LA. Turrell transformed the entire Guggenheim rotunda into one of his signature Skyspace, alluring New Yorkers to lie down in the middle of the iconic museum and gaze upwards. In Los Angeles viewers got the change to experience perception in a closed cell, where pure light invaded the space and the senses for an entire 12 minutes. At the end of this summer, many finally realized Turrell’s message when he famously said light “is not the bearer of revelation — it is the revelation.”

Image: Christof Stache via Getty Images

5. Nazi Looted Art Trove Uncovered
A massive hoard of more than 1,400 artworks found by tax investigators in a Munich apartment this November. The uncovered paintings included works by Pablo Picasso, Max Liebermann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Marc Chagall, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Gustave Courbet, Auguste Renoir and Canaletto. Meike Hoffmann, an expert on “degenerate art,” commented on the find: “When you stand in front of the works, see the ones that were long thought to have been lost or destroyed and in a relatively good state — some of them dirty but not damaged — you have an incredible feeling of happiness.”

Image: John Moore via Getty Images

6. Banksy’s New York Takeover
The world’s most mysterious and omnipresent street artist, Banksy, spent the entire month of October surprising New Yorkers and Instagram followers with an open-air exhibition titled “Better Out Than In.” Throughout the month Banksy delivered his signature stencils and familiar brand of art-inspired pranks, including selling his original pieces for $60 a pop in Central Park. For his final act, Banksy altered a second-hand painting from thrift store Housing Works, selling it back for a whopping $615,000… Until the buyer backed out.

Image: YouTube AECOM

7. Zaha Hadid’s Stadium
Architect Zaha Hadid designed a football stadium in Qatar that seats 45,000 spectators, costs around $140 billion and looks a lot like a giant [female body part.] Hadid called the allegations “ridiculous,” the internet was on a roll and would stop making vagina-like GIFs for nobody. We think the Guardian summed the affair up best: “In a world where sport and vaginas very rarely come together with such prominence (see every UK female footballer’s salary versus every UK male footballer’s salary), [the stadium design] can only be a good thing. And after all, why not have 45,000 people crammed inside a woman’s reproductive system? It’s not like they haven’t been there before.”

Still from ‘Picasso Baby,’ Jay-Z’s Performance Art Film/Music Video

8. Jay Z Makes A Music Video With Lots Of Artists In It
In what was perhaps the end of performance art, rapper and mogul Jay Z created a performance-art project really long music video featuring anyone and everyone related to the art world in the New York City Area. One fateful day Marina Abramovic, Mickalene Thomas, Jerry Saltz and some of the cast of “Girls” danced with Jay as we waxed poetic about all the art he owns.

Art by Mike Kelley

9. Mike Kelley’s Retrospective Wows Everyone
The art world was devastated when multimedia artist Mike Kelley ended his own life last year. This fall a 40,000 square foot retrospective at MoMA PS1 immortalized the experimental and influential artist, turning his dirty jokes and low culture explorations into one massive conceptual exploration. Kelley’s ability to combine sugary sweetness with the dark and sticky stuff below the surface is unparalleled, and his vision has shaped the formation of contemporary art. “My entrance into the art world was through the counter-culture,” Kelley said of his work, “where it was common practice to lift material from mass culture and ‘pervert’ it to reverse or alter its meaning… Mass culture is scrutinized to discover what is hidden, repressed, within it.”

Image: Emmanuel Dunand via Getty Images

10. 5 Pointz Removed Overnight
Despite the efforts of many to save Long Island City’s 5 Pointz from demolition, the renowned graffiti haven disappeared one night without warning. The massive warehouse that served as Queen’s biggest street art canvas was whitewashed, erasing nearly 30 years of New York art history. The iconic building and art landmark will be transformed into high-end condos, and the building was whitewashed before its demolition to prevent a last-minute landmarking initiative. Street artist Meres One dubbed the tragic occurrence “the greatest art murder in history.”

Runners Up: Tilda Swinton’s “The Maybe,” Nick Cave’s “Herd NYC,” Paul McCarthy’s “Snow White,” Lady Gaga’s Art Rave, the strange case of “Renoir Girl.”


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