The Big Idea

Critter Art, Object-Oriented Ontology, and Donald Trump: 21 Big Ideas From 2016, the Year We Loved to Hate

Critter Art, Object-Oriented Ontology, and Donald Trump: 21 Big Ideas From 2016, the Year We Loved to Hate
2016 in a nutshell. Image via the Daily Dot

It's been quite a year! In the shadow of the rolling social and political controversies that dominated the news cycle (not to mention our conversations), the art world has gone through its own series of shifts over the past 12 months. New gallery hot-spots were born even as the commercial art system itself came under increasing fire; obfuscating art theories new and old were elucidated; the Post-Internet age has arrived in force as artists and curators use, abuse, and overuse the term; we’re still arguing about the political nature of art; and, as always, painting’s death was declared too soon. Explore these big ideas, and others, in the 21 major Artspace pieces we’ve gathered below.

1. How I Would Change the Art Market: Two Dozen Expert Suggestions For a Saner Industry  

Auctions vs. Art Fairs

To take a reading of the current climate, and to allow an opportunity to vent, we've asking curators, journalists, collectors, and other art tastemakers to weigh in on a single question.

2. How to Understand Hal Foster, Godfather of Postmodern Art Theory

The art historian and critic Hal Foster. Image courtesy

A guide to the work of the brilliant art historian and critic, whose writings are key to understanding artistic production from the "Pictures Generation" to our post-9/11 era.

3. The Museum "Non-Finito": How the New Met Breuer Reflects the Digital Disruption of Art History

met breuer

As its inaugural exhibitions reveal, the Met's newest physical branch is just one part of a larger, web-based strategy.

4. What Is Object-Oriented Ontology? A Quick-and-Dirty Guide to the Philosophical Movement Sweeping the Art World

Pierre Huyghe’s Zoodrama (2010)

If you're wondering why artists are trying to turn themselves into turtles and filling rooms with flesh-toned liquids, this is the guide for you.

5. Everything You Need to Know About Harlem’s Newly Indispensable Art Scene

Martha Moldovan and Harry Schleiff's Rear Window art space in Harlem, with art by Carlos Reyes

With some of the city's best galleries taking residence above 96th Street, prepare to add a whole new destination to your monthly art schlep.

6. Why Won’t Artists Leave Animals Alone? On the Questionable Ethics, and Rising Popularity, of Critter Art

A donkey performing in Maurizio Cattelan's piece Warning! Enter at Your Own Risk. Do Not Touch, Do Not Feed, No Smoking, No Photographs, No Dogs, Thank You at Frieze New York 2016. Photo by Jonah Rosenberg via W Magazine

The past few years have seen a marked uptick in the number of artworks featuring live animals, even as Seaworld and the Ringling Bros. phase out their critter performers—what gives? 
A portrait of Donald Trump, art cheapskate
In our special feature on the aesthetic preferences of the then presidential hopefuls, Alexandra Peers investigates the Donald’s unpromising run-ins with the art world, pitted against Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’s support of the arts. 

8. Respect Your Selfie: Why the Portrait Reigns Supreme, From Van Dyck to Ed Atkins

Still from Ribbons (2014) by Ed Atkins. Image via Gavin Brown's Enterprise.

Karen Rosenberg reflects on the recent spate of diverse portrait-positive exhibitions in museums and galleries around New York.

9. In Search of a More Equal Art History: Curator Adrienne Edwards on the Upending Power of "Blackness in Abstraction"

Curator Adrienne Edwards. Photo by Whitney Browne.

Curator Adrienne Edwards discusses the heady ideas animating her latest group show, which features 29 A-list artists from Robert Rauschenberg to Wangechi Mutu.

10. How to Understand Rosalind Krauss, the Art Critic Who Made Theory Cool (and Inescapable)

The critic Rosalind Krauss. Photo by Judy Olausen, c.1978

The influential critic went up against the biggest thinkers of her day in an effort to provide a new language for talking about modern art—here's how she did it.

11. Only Connect: 7 Visions of the Future From the New Museum's Seven on Seven Conference

only connect

The avant-garde net art organization Rhizome's art-and-tech event contained some surprising predictions for the years to come.

12. Secrets to Post-Internet Success From DIS's Scary Berlin Biennale

A view of the gloomy Berlin Biennale

Embedded within the absorbing, unsettling, sometimes utopian exhibition taking place across the German capital are some tips for thriving in end times.

13. How to Make EFFECTIVE Political Art: 6 Rules of Thumb

Pussy Riot in Moscow

After looking at some truly useful political art projects, we’ve reverse engineered a how-to guide for creating—and disseminating—art as a form of activism.

14. Hank Willis Thomas on How His Artist-Run Super PAC Will Disrupt the 2016 Election

Dread Scott's A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday outside of Jack Shainman Gallery. All images are courtesy of the given artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, unless otherwise noted

The For Freedoms political action committee currently has a group show at Jack Shainman Gallery, but its founders (and the 50-some-odd artists already involved) hope to see the project extend far beyond the white cube.

15. Art's New Wave? An Insider's Guide to the Secrets of the Rockaway Beach Art Scene

Boatel at Marina 59

From sand sculptures and houseboat installation, to sunken ships and abandoned airports, Rockaway is much more than sand and sun.

16. Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist on What Makes Painting an “Urgent” Medium Today

The curator Hans Ulrich Obrist

Artspace editor-in-chief Andrew M. Goldstein spoke to the renowned exhibition-maker about why the ancient art form remains strikingly relevant in the digital era.

17. The Ballet of White Victimhood: On Jordan Wolfson, Petroushka, and Donald Trump


In this essay, the artist Ajay Kurian considers one of the year's most attention-getting sculptures in light of the changing political situation in the United States.

18.  From Kisses to Cool Remove: MoMA Curator Laura Hoptman on the Recent Revolution of Painting in New York


With an intimate perspective, this longtime art world insider reflects on the characters and ideas that brought the medium from critical disdain to its current popularity.

19. The Art Dealer for the Apocalypse: Stefan Simchowitz on How to Sell Artworks in a Chaotic World


The controversial collector/dealer explains his Darwinian approach to the art market, and why a generation of Zombie Formalists fell to "greed and stupidity."

20. The Artists Have Been Set Free: Post-Internet Star Joshua Citarella on How the Web Can Disrupt the Gallery System


Here, Artspace’s Loney Abrams racks the brain of an artist who’s not only speculating on the future of the art market—he’s making it.

21. Is the Art World Responsible for Trump? Filmmaker Adam Curtis on Why Self-Expression Is Tearing Society Apart

adam curtis

In this interview, the iconoclastic BBC producer explains why individualistic self-expression may be at the center of liberalism's current woes.


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