2012: A seminal year in art

It has been quite an exceptional year in the art world. Think of Pablo Picasso’s quote “everything you can imagine is real” and you kind of get an understanding of how much has unfolded over 2012. It’s been beautiful, thought-provoking, inspiring, tragic and ludicrous. Memories are made of this. Here are some notable moments.
It all really began with Frieze launching its inaugural New York art fair in the spring, perfectly apt for a season when life flourishes again, rebirth and growth. It was a statement of intent: we have the finance, the nous and the confidence to grow sustainably.
And it didn’t stop there. Frieze also announced there was another new expo to come later in the year. Frieze Masters would be about bridging the old and the new. Amidst the ongoing uncertainty in global economics, this ambitious twin-launch was reflective of the art world’s ability to thrive against the odds. Art most definitely matters.
Tate Britain meanwhile revealed that it had raised the £45 million it needed to get its Millbank Project off the ground. The twenty-year multi-stage makeover of its space was conceived as a way of bringing the gallery fully into the twenty-first century and beyond. Again, all this was achieved against the economic volatility of our times. The art world was proving to be an exception.
Such projects will allow for there to be continued investment in fine art, allowing it to flourish as a cultural medium, one that engages, thrills, confounds and provokes. One exhibition exuding such sensibilities was Invisible: Art about the Unseen at the Hayward Gallery in London.
It was a show about nothing, which was all at once amusing, silly and thought-provoking and generally well-received as an ambitious project that pushed the boundaries.
“Many of the works in Invisible seek to direct our attention towards the unwritten rules and conventions that shape our understanding of art,” the gallery stated at the time.
“Other works invoke invisibility to underscore the limits of our perceptual capacities or to emphasise the role of our imagination in responding to works of art.”
Spring concluded with the final ever Hong Kong International Art Fair, which has successfully built up a reputation as one of the best of its kind in the world. So much so that it was snapped up by MCH Swiss Exhibition, which owns Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach. From 2013, it will be branded as Art Basel Hong Kong, which can only really mean one thing: this is going to be even more of a giant expo.
Speaking of size, 2012 saw the return of Documenta, a colossal art exhibition that is held in Kassel, Germany, every five years. Now in its thirteenth edition, the organisers of this project are in a league of their own. Directed by Christov-Bakargiev, it once again delivered an unforgettable show.
“Curating is essentially a matter of choices, the juxtaposition of work against work, artist against artist, place against place,” reflected the art critic Adrian Searle in the Guardian.
“The best exhibitions generate their own kind of sense. Christov-Bakargiev’s skills are largely intuitive. She’s feeling her way, as must we. She doesn’t tell us what to think and has made a generous, full-blooded Documenta that touches many nerves.”
As did Edvard Munch’s show at the Tate Modern, which sought to look beyond his most famous painting The Scream – which also became the most expensive work of art to be sold at auction in 2012 (£74 million) – and reveal more about the melancholic and misunderstood genius.
What was understood was that Munch was tormented by the idea of existence, which he explored in his work. It was cathartic and medicinal, with each painting having the ability to soothe an ache, but never quiet able to cure him. What if it had, would we have been denied great works of art? The irony of such art is not lost.
Though the rain never allowed for the sun to show up for its shift this summer, the art world was nevertheless dazzling for the rest of the season. Sotheby’s Contemporary Art auction performed very well, John Constable’s The Locke sold for a phenomenal £22.4 million, and Bridget Riley was awarded with the Rubens Prize. The second half of the year would prove to be equally breathtaking.
Cadogan Tate has extensive experience in shipping fine art all over the world.