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Top 5 Defining Moments in the Arts 2016

Posted on January 03 2017

By Anna Souter


2016 was a year of turmoil both in the art world and in international politics.

We’ve drawn together the top five most significant art world events that took place in 2016....who knows what’s to come in 2017!





  1. Frances Morris becomes director of Tate

When Frances Morris was appointed the new director of Tate Modern in January, it heralded a new direction for the eponymous museum. As the institution’s first female director, her appointment has been hailed as a significant step forward for gender equality in the arts. Since the inauguration of her directorship, she’s pushed an agenda for exhibiting overlooked female and non-Western artists, including Mona Hatoum and Wifredo Lam.





  1. Sotheby’s declares Frans Hals painting a fake

In October, Sotheby’s told the world that a painting sold through the auction house for £8.4 million had been proved a fake. The revelation that the work supposedly by Frans Hals could not possibly have been painted by the artist sent shockwaves through the Old Master market, and prompted fears that a specialist art forger is at work. In response, Sotheby’s has set up its own forensic art unit to deal with any potential fakes.




  1. Ai WeiWei draws attention to the plight of migrants

Many artists have been concerned about the state of the world this year. Ai WeiWei has always been a champion of those whose voices aren’t heard by the government or media, and he took on the cause of migrants and refugees. In a controversial move, he recreated a viral photograph of a drowned Syrian refugee on a beach in Greece, bringing the crisis to the attention of the media once more.





  1. The Tate Modern extension opens

It’s been a bit year for Tate Modern. Its £260 million extension opened in June, increasing the museum’s square footage by 60% and allowing for a new range of galleries, exhibition spaces, offices, shops and a restaurant. The extension allows for more of the Tate’s vast holdings to be put on show, and now has designated spaces for performance and installation art.




  1. Virtual Reality comes to Frieze

When Oculus Rift technology was launched in March, it was inevitably only a matter of time before artists began exploring it. Post-internet artist Jon Rafman used the latest VR tech to take his audience on an immersive journey, with installations at both the Berlin Biennale and Frieze London. Does this point to a new direction for mainstream art?



Anna Souter is an arts writer and editor based in London. Read more on her website.


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