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What a year. Highs, lows, and bloopers. Here is our take on the art, architecture, and design drama that was.
#1 — Hurricane Sandy
The havoc Sandy wreaked on the Eastern Seaboard was immense. The world’s largest concentration of art galleries, Chelsea, was partially flooded, losing millions of dollars in art, and countless artist studios were destroyed. We covered the storms impact from many different angles, including its disastrous impact on nonprofits, but at the end of the day it was a major disaster for everyone.
#2 — Destruction of Syria’s Artistic Heritage
This is a tragedy that continues to unfold and my worry is that things will get much much worse. Home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world, Syria’s archeological and artistic heritage is one of the richest in the world. From medieval Crusader castles to early Islamic mosques, from Roman ruins to some of the world’s oldest Christian churches, the country is practically an open air museum. The list of endangered sites in Syria is long and many have already been damaged by shelling (including the ancient souk of Aleppo and medieval fortress of Krak des Chevaliers) and other sites, like the Hama Museum, have been looted. The war looters are already doing brisk business in Syria, and at the end of the day, we all lose.
#3 — “David Gate”
propaganda official TV network CCTV ran a segment on an exhibition of Italian art at Beijing’s National Museum of China during which it blurred out the crotch of Michelangelo’s “David” (not the famous one, the other one). Thankfully the Chinese thought it was ridiculous they would do that and the whole thing became a pretty funny meme and trending topic on Sina Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site.
#4 — Camouflage Idiocy
Who said money can buy everything? The US military spent $5 billion on their new pixelated camoflage, which debuted in 2004. Turns out, it didn’t work. The now defunct iPad newspaper The Daily reported earlier this year:
“In a candid interview with The Daily, several of those researchers said Army brass interfered in the selection process during the last round, letting looks and politics get in the way of science.”
… The fact that the government spent $5 billion on a camouflage design that actually made its soldiers more visible — and then took eight years to correct the problem — has also left people in the camouflage industry incensed. The total cost comes from the Army itself and includes the price of developing the pattern and producing it for the entire service branch.
Oh, US Military, you cray cray.
#5 — Artists Using Vandalism as a Fame Gimmick
What a year. First there was the Picasso vandal in Houston and then the Rothko vandal in London, but what these two incidents had in common was they were done by artists, yes, artists, who saw it as a way to propel their careers. These weren’t street artists eager to be in a museum or artists who have something to say other than “look at me,” but opportunistic people who salivated at the chance of using other people’s art as a fast track to fame. Lame. I still believe that we should largely ignore these people, other than report it as a news item, and then we won’t fuel the flames of their desperate need for attention.
#6 — Petroglyph Destructions
A rash of petroglyph destructions this year across North America have been largely ignored by the media but something tells me these are only the tip of the iceberg. Australia has long had similar problems with its aboriginal petroglyphs and a recent incident in Morocco (which the Moroccan government says is untrue) points to the fact that petroglyphs around the world are threatened every day and something must be done to protect them.
#7 — One Art School’s Picture-less Art Book
The Ontario College of Art and Design’s (OCAD) $180 pictureless art history book was so funny that you would think it was an Onion article. Sadly, it was very real. Obviously a bad decision by an administrator, and OCAD’s reputation isn’t really going to be hurt by such a small thing, but it was a total disaster. And did we mention this is one of our favorite kinds of disaster, a funny one!
#8 — NYPD’s Attitude Towards Art & Culture
It has become a chronic problem in New York. The city’s overzealous and often overly militaristic NYPD has overstepped the boundaries by persecuting artists who are trying to inform, challenge, beautify, or critique the city and some prevalent attitudes.
From the destruction of Occupy Wall Street’s People’s Library in late 2011 to the arrest of Takeshi Miyakawa for his plastic bag lamps earlier this year, from the whitewashing of a mural to the arrest of street artist Essam Attia for his drone strike posters (both this year), the NYPD has an important job to do, that’s obvious, but bad officers or harsh policies mean that members of the creative community are victims of the NYPD’s ridiculous policies. And we’re not even mentioning the “stop and frisk” policy that victimizes black and latino New Yorkers on a daily basis.
#9 — Pussy Riot
The flurry of activity around the arrest, jailing, and censoring of Pussy Riot by the Russian authorities is a crazy mess that has damaged Russia’s image in the international community. What does the Russian government think it will achieve with the severe punishment of Pussy Riot? Who knows, but right now two Riot members continue to languish in labor camps and the rest of the world is wondering why.