This has been a wonderful and, sometimes, wild year for the Contemporary Art market. The appreciation for the fine art prints of so many of our favorite artists has become a global phenomenon, for which we are very grateful.

Here’s a look at some of the extraordinary happenings in the art world in 2019.

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons in front of Bouquet of Tulips in Paris, on October 4, 2019.

Jeff Koons’ 1986 Rabbit sculpture sold for $91.1 million at Christie’s in May, giving him the status of holding the highest auction price for a living artist.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Koons’ Bouquet of Tulips was unveiled in October in the gardens of the Champs-Elysées. The 34 ton, 41-foot high sculpture was originally commissioned in 2015 by the then US ambassador, Jane Hartley, as a memorial for the victims of a series of terror attacks across France.

Its unveiling led to much controversy in France, with French philosopher Yves Michaud saying that  the tulips look like “11 colorful anuses mounted on rods.”

Still, it has become a popular destination for visiting tourists as well as for Parisians, who have taken many, many selfies with the Bouquet.

 Yoshitomo Nara

Japanese artist Yoshimoto Nara‘s 2000 painting, Knife Behind Back sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for $24.9 million in October. The sale of the large 7 feet by 6 feet painting was an auction record for the artists’ work.

Yoshitomo Nara
Knife Behind Back, 2000
Sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $24.9 million

Yoshimoto Nara’s manga-like images are both playful and impudent. His work has made him one of the most beloved artists, not just in Japan, but around the world.

Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg died in 2008. In 2017, MoMA held a retrospective of his work. Few of his works have shown up at auction since the retrospective, so collectors were excited when Buffalo ll was offered at Christie’s in May.

Robert Rauschenberg
Buffalo ll, 1964

Buffalo ll was painted in 1964, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Rauschenberg  captured all of the chaos that occurred at the time, not just in politics, but in art and culture, as well. The 96 inch high oil and silkscreen ink on canvas, sold for $88,805,000, exceeding estimates.

RETNA

RETNA at Wynwood Walls, Miami, 2012

Last year, the LAPD reportedly investigated RETNA for vandalizing the Maddox Gallery in West Hollywood. A TMZ report said that RETNA spray painted the gallery inside and out because he was upset that his work was not displayed alongside Damien Hirst’s. The report also showed an Instagram post, since deleted, where RETNA admitted doing the damage and apologized for damaging Hirst’s work, which he said he greatly admires.

The gallery estimated the damages at between $50,000 and $100,000.

The Maddox Gallery has represented RETNA since 2015 and has included his work in shows in the U.S. and abroad.

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami is always fun and full of surprises. This year he’s put together a show at his KaiKaiKiKi Gallery in Tokyo called Rhapsody of a Foolish Family: Fukujuro, Takashi and Yuji MurakamiThe show includes works by the artist, his father and his brother.

Rhapsody of a Foolish Family: Fukujuro, Takashi and Yuji Murakami will be on exhibit through January 18, 2020.

References:
Roberta Smith. Stop Hating Jeff Koons. The New York Times. May 17, 2019.
Elian Peltier. Jeff Koons Inaugurates His Tulip Sculpture in Paris. Finally. The New York Times. October 4, 2019.
Eileen Kinsella. LAPD Is Reportedly Investigating Street Artist RETNA for Vandalizing a Gallery That Declined to Include His Work in Its Show. artnetnews. November 21, 2018.