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The Biggest Topics That Rocked The Art World In 2021 – Part One

The year 2021 began with the hopes of recovering from the strike of the pandemic, but that didn’t come to pass. Besides that, some old controversies kept plaguing the art world, while some new ones also rose. Here are the biggest debates and controversies that spanned in the art world this year.

The Rise Of The Crypto-Rich

Cryptocurrencies were one of the defining trends of the previous decade. While critics keep calling them a bubble about to burst, the prediction didn’t come to pass at least this year. The Crypto-Rich – people who made their fortune creating or trading in crypto – were a new class of people in the world of blue-chip art. One such instance was the sale of a rare copy of the US Constitution at Sotheby’s in November. ConstitutionDAO, a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts, raised over $47 million to buy the copy and put it on public display. Unfortunately, they were outbid by billionaire art collector Kenneth Griffin, who purchased the copy for $43.2 million. In the same month, Le Nez (1947) by Alberto Giacometti was sold for $78.4 million at another Sotheby’s auction. The winning bid came from Justin Sun, tech billionaire and founder of cryptocurrency platform TRON.

Instances like these have made art pundits wonder if the crypto-rich are the new home for blue-chip art.

Copy of the US Constitution auctioned at Sotheby’s

Feasibility of Art Fairs

When the pandemic first struck in early 2020, almost all art fairs were canceled. As the situation became more dire, many galleries decided to move towards online, virtual art fairs for their viewers. When the situation improved in mid-2021, institutions pondered if normalcy was resuming. But the rise of the Omicron variant has once against led to closures and cancellations. This has made many art institutions wonder if on-premise art fairs are even a sustainable model anymore. The interest shown towards online fairs and auctions has also strengthened the opposing argument. In 2022, galleries would need to decide whether to return to physical art fairs or continue with the new, virtual medium.

One of the works by Joseph Wopfner, restituted by the Bavarian State

A Focus on Repatriation

One of the highlights of 2021 was an increased focus on the repatriation of stolen art. Most of these artworks were stolen during the colonial era or during wars, like the Benin Bronzes. This year, Germany, Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, and Jesus University in the UK decided to repatriate the sculpture to their home country. Repatriation of Nazi-looted works was also a theme, like the return of paintings collection at the Bavarian State to the heirs of the original Jewish owner.  With an increased focus on the provenance of artworks, we can see more such repatriation in the coming year.

Also Read: The Biggest Topics That Rocked The Art World In 2021 – Part One