2016 in Review – The Landscape of Contemporary Art

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If we are to take upon ourselves to pick a word that would describe 2016, in terms of the state of our world and art itself with it, we could certainly say it was memorable. What we’re surely bound to remember are all the legendary individuals from different spheres of culture who lost their lives this year, from the great David Bowie, Prince and Mohamed Ali to architect Zaha Hadid and photographers Bill Cunningham and David Hamilton. The days behind us have also been marked by a series of political and social turbulences which have inevitably reflected on art, as well as its international sales market which once again made it out, shaken up but still standing. All of these events have had an impact on the contemporary artistic production in one way or another, nurturing the artists’ long-standing social engagements and their relationship with politics. The powerful message of their artworks, initiatives and projects struck us as a timely wake-up call which will echo throughout 2017 as well, which awaits us as a challenging and, perhaps, a brighter one. Of course, not all of the year behind us was gloom and doom, as we’ve witnessed one of the most remarkable public installations ever made, created on the surface of a lake in Northern Italy by a legendary artist, and we’ve celebrated the centenary of arguably the most influential avant-garde movement in art’s history - DADA. As usual, our focus remained on the fields of contemporary and urban art as well, whose trends we followed through a number of interviews and visits to renowned art fairs such as Berliner Liste, ART.FAIR Cologne and Artissima, providing our viewers with an extensive coverage of the latest tendencies. We shall not promise nothing less of high-quality content in the year to come as well.

It is no secret that since 2000, the Contemporary art market has multiplied in value almost 14 times. Today, we can talk about sales that are easily accessible, mainly due to the internet which has become the primary medium in discovering and exchanging artworks, as well as the higher number of art collectors from all over the world, and the expansion of the global museum industry: approximately 700 new museums are opening around the world every year. The whole of 2016 has been reflecting on a steady slowdown of the economy, which in turn influenced the same state of the art market. Nevertheless, the sales at auctions of big houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips have remained somewhat stable, even though they haven’t reached the unforgettably booming prices of 2015. Photography, too, is still sailing calm waters, which mirrors well in the most expensive photographs sold in the last 365 days. Furthermore, the sales reports from the biggest fairs such as Art Basel in Miami Beach held this December suggest an optimistic forecast for 2017, and Widewalls will certainly be there once again, with our comprehensive and timely auction analyses.

In 2016, we have had many wonderful opportunities to meet some of our favorite creatives and get to know the stories behind their works, their inspiration, their long but worthy path towards success and their plans for the days to come. To learn about an artist, and the contemporary art scene at large, in all its glorious forms, styles, techniques and intentions, we must pick the brains of those who make up its essential parts, those that start a revolution, stir controversy, elicit a kind of emotion that only observing and experiencing a work of art can produce. From today’s most renowned names in urban and contemporary art to gallerists and curators, art fair and museum directors, art collectors and enthusiasts, we got the remarkable stories that shape the present and influence the future and shared them for our readers’ enjoyment. We got to discuss the state of Austrian art scene with Tomak, street art in Italy with Christian Omodeo, the great new initiatives undertaken by Magda Danysz… Without further a do, here are our best interviews of 2016.

That art often imitates life is a well-known fact, and the year behind us perhaps proved that saying best. Looking back, we can’t help but dwell on the rising conflicts in the Middle East and further expansion of the refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and the Presidential elections in the United States, both of which left many in shock due to rather unexpected results. It was art and its ability to fight for freedom that reflected on these issues and gave voice of those who needed it through numerous interventions, projects, installations and initiatives by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Banksy. But apart from socio-political influences, the arts have also brought on and revived some new interesting trends for us to get to know as well, including the Dansaekhwa art movement of South Korea, which emerged in the 1970s and is having a moment as we speak, or the thriving creative atmosphere in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, who saw the opening of many new spaces, galleries and even museums. With great expectations, we are looking forward to what 2017 will bring while we take a look at the highlights of the art world this past year.

From urban and street artists to the prodigies of contemporary arts in the field of painting, sculpture, installation, design, digital artwork and new media, many talented individuals came to define the artistic scene and contribute to its versatility, richness and growth. With numerous events, festivals and exhibitions taking place around the planet, we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the very best of creative production this year, which set new standards and defined the trends in spectacular new ways. At the same time, we are looking forward to all the extraordinary shows awaiting us in 2017, bringing back the works of art history masters and fresh, inspiring pieces by emerging and established artists working today. But who were the remarkable ones among them who you chose as your personal favorite in 2016? Without further ado, let us find out!

The way Ai Weiwei drew the world’s attention to the humanitarian crises and the ongoing migrant plight reached our hearts and minds, and sent a strong message of unity, responsibility and change. The Chinese artist continues his fight for freedom of speech and expression through poignant installations and meaningful collaborations with fellow creatives around the planet. Ai Weiwei’s engagement to the addressing of burning social and political issues, both in his homeland China and the Western scene marked the year behind us in quite a memorable way, which is why one of the most famous dissidents out there is our very own Artist of the Year 2016.