Arts & Culture

Our favourite art stories this year

By Sekka

2021 has been a challenging year for art institutions around the world as they continue to navigate the restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. Our partners at Art & Object, a fine art news website, shared insightful stories about artists, art institutions, and events that took place this year, and helped us all remain connected to the global arts scene.

 As we wrap up this year, our team reflects back and we share 5 of our favourite 2021 stories by Art & Object.

Art & Object is a fine art news website that brings readers the latest art news and most important art stories. Its mission is to inform collectors and drive the conversation about art. Founded in 2017, Art & Object is based in Chapel Hill, NC, USA.

What You Might Not Know About the World’s Oldest Photograph

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, View from the Window at Le Gras (enhanced version by Helmut Gershein), c. 1826-7. Oil-treated bitumen. 20 × 25 cm. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Via Art & Object.

Taken in 1826 or 1827 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the world’s oldest surviving photograph was captured using a technique Niépce invented called heliography, which produces one-of-a-kind images on metal plates treated with light-sensitive chemicals.

Not particularly impressive at first glance, Niépcein’s View from the Window at Le Gras is a grey-hued pewter plate with the blurred shadow-shapes of treelines and buildings―a digitally retouched copy makes the images easier to discern. Despite its unprepossessing appearance, this photograph was integral to the development of modern photography. Read more.

2) Art 101: Gothic Art & Architecture

Close view of decorated buttresses supporting the Cologne Cathedral, 1248–1573. Cologne, Germany. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photo By Mkill. Via Art & Object.

At the root of all Gothic art and architecture was the desire to construct something close to heaven on Earth, a place where congregations could feel the presence of the divine. High, vaulted ceilings coupled with towering, pointed spires represented the celestial aspirations of devout medieval Christians, with these new heights all made possible by advancements in architectural engineering like pointed arches and flying buttresses.

From about the mid-twelfth century to the sixteenth century—all across Western, Northern, and Eastern Europe—grand cathedrals with the aforementioned characteristics were constructed with fervor as countries and cities vied to establish symbols of their unrivaled wealth and piety. Read more.

3) Napoleon in Rome and the Origins of Archeology

rançois Gérard, Detail of Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1805. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Via Art & Object.

Of the many invasions of Rome by foreign powers, the French occupation is often overlooked. On February 10, 1798, soldiers of the French Republic marched into Rome, temporarily removing the Pope from power and imprisoning him. Eleven years later in 1809, on the order of Napoleon Bonaparte, the troops of what had now become the French Empire returned to the Eternal City, where they remained for the next five years. Read more.

4) What was Dada Art?

Marcel Duchamp, Detail of L.H.O.O.Q., 1919. Originally published in 391, n. 12, March 1920. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Via Art & Object.

Dadaism or Dada is an art movement of the early twentieth century characterized by irreverence, subversion, and nonsense. Dada art, performance, and poetry emerged in Zurich as a reaction to the horror and misfortune of World War I. The founder Hugo Ball stood before a crowd in 1916 and proclaimed the meaning of Dada, “in French it means ‘hobby horse.’ In German it means ‘good-bye,’ ‘Get off my back,’ ‘Be seeing you sometime.’ In Romanian: ‘Yes, indeed.’”

Artists in this movement were largely anti-war, anti-bourgeois, and radically leftist. The work they made was designed to question society at large, which they believed was falling apart. They did not aim to make beautiful art but rather to make statements and start conversations. Read more.

5) “Banksy: Genius or Vandal?” is a Money Grab Unendorsed by Banksy

Installation view of Banksy: Genius or Vandal? in Los Angeles, 2021-2022. Via Art & Object.

No one knows the true identity of Banksy, but one thing’s for sure, he’s all about exploiting artworks out of context against the wishes of their creators. That’s not really what Banksy believes, but it’s what the good people at Exhibition Hub and Fever would have you believe he believes. They’re the ones behind the sold out exhibit, Banksy: Genius or Vandal? in Los Angeles through January.

Curated by Moscow-based Alexander Nachkebiya, the show features over eighty genuine works belonging to private collectors including numerous screen prints from Banksy’s studio. It premiered in 2018 in the Russian capital, triggering a response from the artist on Instagram saying, “You know its (sic) got nothing to do with me right? I don’t charge people to see my art unless there’s a fairground wheel.” Even so, the public adores the new exhibit, drawn irresistibly to its Instagramability. Success has spawned copycat shows around the globe, and triggered scorn from an art community already besieged by hypercapitalism. Read more.