2018 Contemporary Art World in Review

Another year passes, and art history is continually written. How will this year be remembered?

Through the masses of money spent at auctions, thousands of exhibits, and emerging artists with fresh perspectives, there are several themes to make note of.

Within the contemporary art world, here are a few themes that stood out this year:


The auction results of this year confirm a trend — the high demand of street art. Recently, street art has largely come to represent brands and popular icons, often sought out by young, wealthy collectors.

Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Keith Haring, and KAWS rank among the top five most frequently sold Contemporary artists in the world right now.  Due to such enthusiasm and high demand in the last year, Shepard Fairey doubled his auction volume (from 343 to 675 lots the previous year), and Banksy sold over 500 lots, +71% of last year’s volume.¹

Of course, this was also the year of the infamous Banksy stunt. After being sold for $1.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction this past October, the Girl with the Balloon shredded itself. People were both humored and outraged, but mostly reminded of the major difference of artists like Banksy and Fairey, who care more about the message than the prestige: that art shouldn’t necessarily be about spending large sums of money, but rather to be questioning. Perhaps it is the stunts like this that make Street Art seem cooler and more accessible to younger collectors.


This year we noticed many retrospectives of women who have been previously neglected in art history. The New York Times recently published an article about female artists involved in the land art movement, who challenged the way we associate with nature and introduced new understandings of human relationships with the earth. In addition to righteously illuminating these preeminent female artists and noting relevant exhibitions, the NYT aptly described this notion:

“Art doesn’t liberate everyone equally; it tends to reflect the biases of the culture that produced it as often as it transcends them. We may finally be reconsidering these biases, but anyone who has ever been left outside the canon will always be defined by their otherness. The difference is that we now live in a time where that otherness is itself valuable.”²

One exhibition that falls within these lines of reconsidered art history,  is Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future, at the Guggenheim through February 3, 2019. The pieces tell a tale of spirituality and mysticism, and are futuristic in their shapes and color. I was surprised to learn the featured works were created in beginning of the 20th century, predating similar abstract artists like Vasily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. In her lifetime, af Klint rarely exhibited her work, and the survey on view at the Guggenheim is af Klint’s first major solo exhibition in the United States. In the new year, make a resolution to be open to revisions of art history and visit the Guggenheim before February 3rd.


In recent years, themes of gender identity, race, and class have been more recently a prominent source of inspiration for many younger artists. Artists will use their mediums to explore and understand aspects of themselves, their communities, and the public perception of these sensitive topics.

Firelei Báez (1981- ) is a Dominican-American artist interested in how culture and identity are shaped by inherited histories. She uses portraiture of the human body as her means of understanding, creating layered Afrodiasporic figures that seem to reveal her personal identity and story, while simultaneously disrupting social categorization. This year, Báez exhibited at the Berlin Biennale, as well as three solo shows. Next year, look for her at the Mennellow Museum of American Art in Orlando or the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam.


Marlowe Fine Art is always keeping up with what is happening in the art market. To be an informed collector, it is important to stay in tune with exhibits, artists, and auctions happening. Luckily, you can rely on art consultants, like us, to keep you in the loop. Are you looking to begin or improve your private art collection in 2019? Contact us to see how we can help.


¹Art Price: The Contemporary Art Market Report 2018
²New York Times: Women Land Artists Get Their Day in the Museum



Storing Art in the Summer Months

Summer tips on keeping your art work safe from heat, light, humidity, and mold.

Read More

ON VIEW: London in June

This week, there are loads of new art exhibitions opening in London. If you are in town this

Read More

Curating your Art Collection

Rooms in museums and galleries are carefully curated to draw the eye in a specific way, to create

Read More