Bowie and the online revolution

2016 was a year tinged with sadness as we lost some of our brightest stars from the arts and culture world, with David Bowie passing away following a battle with liver cancer on 10th January. Bowie transpired beyond the stage, his costumes and music videos were works of art in their own right, the singer was also an art collector and writer.

London, November 2016. The Bowie/Collector auction totalled $41.1 million. 62% of bidders participated online and 71% were new to Sotheby’s. London, November 2016. The Bowie/Collector auction totalled $41.1 million. 62% of bidders participated online and 71% were new to Sotheby’s.

In the beginning of November, Bowie's contribution to art was marked with the Bowie/Collector auction at Sotheby's. No one had predicted just how outstanding the results would be, but after Part 1 of the sale of Bowie's personal art collection, it was obvious this was history in the making.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Air Power, 1984 Estimate: £2 500 000-3 500 000 Hammer price: 7 093 000 Jean-Michel Basquiat, Air Power, 1984
Estimate: £2 500 000-3 500 000
Hammer price: 7 093 000

47 works, 11 records for British artists, bidders from 46 countries and 100% of lots sold with high estimates doubling to reach a total of £24.3 million.

Provenance was clearly king at Sotheby's in 2016, but there was also a revolution coming up triumphs. The auction house reported the incredible figures that have come from their online innovations. In 2016, online only buyers spent $155 million at Sotheby's, with 19% of all lots sold at Sotheby's bought via online bidding. And it's proved that this is a winning formula for gaining new buyers as 52% of all online bidders were new to Sotheby's in 2016, meaning the year saw a record of new Sotheby's clients.

Trump art

There's no escaping the changes to the political landscape witnessed in 2016. The art world reacted to this by reimagining political heavyweights, perhaps no one was more captured in sculpture, street art and pencil than Donald Trump.


Illma Gore’s controversial Donald Trump artwork, Make America Great Again made headlines around the globe after it was famously censored in the America.


After Gore's depiction of Trump, we quickly learnt that the now President Elect in the buff was a hit with artists. The Emperor Has No Balls, a sculpture by artist Joshua ''Ginger'' Monroe from a series of five.

At the time each statue was erected in Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Cleveland and Los Angeles, a spokesperson told Rolling Stone: ''We started thinking a lot about how dictators and tyrants, all though history, were memorialized through statues."

"Go to any major park in America, you've got some rich white general with a sword.''

Artist Saint Hoax has depicted the soon-to-be-President as both a drag queen and a piece of meat, not to mention the countless street art 'murals' that popped up throughout the election campaign.

Image: Lushsux Image: Lushsux

And let's not forget his opponent, Hilary Clinton. Back in August, street artist Lushsux found his Instagram account deleted after he shared a photo of his latest work: Hilary Clinton scantily dressed in a swimsuit decorated with the American flag.

Hull strips off


From one nude to thousands, in July, Spencer Tunick brought his nude visions to the Yorkshire city of Hull. American photographer Spencer Tunick invited 3 200 to paint themselves in shades of blue totally in the buff. The piece was inspired by Hull's maritime history. The New York-based artist had body paints made in four shades of blue taken from Hull's Ferens gallery's collection.


Tunick was astounded by the turn out of locals, he had called for around 2 000 volunteers to gather at Hull's city centre, so you can imagine his delight and amazement when 3 200 locals turned up at 3am to strip off.

The work also marked the fact that Hull is 2017's UK City of Culture. Sea of Hull will be on display at the Ferens gallery next year.

Kahlo reigns supreme


Across the pond, New York's inaugural 20th Century Art Week was a roaring success. The week totalled £456 million, with Christie's leading the way, both in terms of figures and for Latin American art.

Frida Kahlo's Dos Desnudos en el Bosque sold for $8 005 000 at Christie's. Not only was this a world auction record for Kahlo, it was also the highest price paid for a work by a Latin American artist.

Frida Kahlo's "Two Nudes in the Woods," is displayed on a video screen as workers take bids for the painting during Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art spring sale Thursday, May 12, 2016, in New York. The Kahlo painting broke the world auction record for the artist, as well as for any Latin American artist sold at auction. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Picasso does it again

Amedeo Modigliani Jeanne Hébuterne (au foulard) and Pablo Picasso Femme assise Amedeo Modigliani Jeanne Hébuterne (au foulard) and Pablo Picasso Femme assise

No list of records is complete without a mention of Picasso, who continues to dominate the art world in the 21st century. In 2015, Les Femmes d'Alger became the most expensive piece of art ever bought at auction when it sold at Christie's for $179.4 million.

This year, at Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art sale in London, the artist's 1909 work Femme Assise set a record price for any Cubist work at auction as it sold for $63.6 million. It was also the highest price to be paid for a painting in London in over five years.

Iranian artist Atena Farghadeni is freed

Atena Farghadani Image via Global Voices Atena Farghadani
Image via Global Voices

Art focusing on Western politics was not the only thing to make the headlines this year. Iranian artist Atena Farghadeni who was serving a 12 years and 9 months prison sentence after being sentenced last June for a satirical cartoon of the Iranian government, was freed on 3rd May.

In August 2014, Farghadeni was arrested for creating a cartoon which depicted Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats. Farghadeni created the piece in protest against two bills that proposed to outlaw voluntary sterilisation and restrictions on access to contraception.

In June 2015, a Tehran court found the artist guilty of ''spreading propaganda against the system,'' ''insulting members of the parliament'' and that she was a threat ''against national security.'' She was acquitted of the latter.

Farghadani plans to stay in Iran and continue her artwork.