How might you define the art world in 2022? In a word, messy. Take that literally, and it could refer to the various liquids splashed across artworks housed in the world’s finest museums during climate protests. Take it more metaphorically, and it could be applied to the scandals that faced multiple big biennials, the fallout faced by art institutions in the wake of conflict, and the rapid decline in the value of various NFTs, which were once a cash cow for many in the art world.
If the past couple years were marked by stasis and uncertainty, partly as a result of the pandemic, 2022 was the first time in a while when it felt as though a lot was happening at once. The Venice Biennale and Documenta, the world’s two biggest art festivals, converged, and brought with them sizable crowds, groundbreaking art, and a good deal of debate. Art fairs, too, roared back, as new ones were launched in capitals across the globe.
All the while, geopolitics shaped the art world, transforming how museums, galleries, and auction houses functioned—and periodically sending them into tumult.
Below, a look back at the defining events of 2022.