The 8 Juiciest Feuds That Fueled the Art World’s Gossip Mill in 2016

From Alec Baldwin v. Mary Boone to Jeff Koons v. Gravity.


Though the art world did have some real winners in 2016, not everyone was as lucky as, say, [a happily wedded Tracey Emin] ( Whether falling prey to Alec Baldwin, copyright laws, or the Zika virus, here are the artists, gallerists, and party scenes that got caught in the maelstrom of this past year.

Alec Baldwin v. Mary Boone Back in 2010, Alec Baldwin shelled out $190,000 to the dealer Mary Boone for a painting by Ross Bleckner that, upon further inspection, he judged not to be the original — it smelled strangely new, he claimed. After a few vitriolic back-and-forths, the actor sued Boone in September, comparing her to a bank robber in his filing, and claiming that “her star has faded and the success of her gallery has waned” since building her reputation in the 80’s. This, on top of Baldwin comparing her to an armadillo, drew Boone’s ire to no one’s surprise. She’s since accused Baldwin of failing to pay over $16,000 in sales tax, ensuring at least one feud to be continued into 2017.

Vanessa Beecroft v. the Basic Concept of Race Even before the hours-long fainting fiasco this fall that was Yeezy Season 4, fashion was starting to get a bit fed up with the repetitive, one-note style of the artist Vanessa Beecroft and her celebrity collaborator, one Kanye West. Those frustrations reached an entirely new level, though, and certainly spread over to the art world — and anyone who comprehends the basic concept of race — when the Italian performance artist told New York magazine that, “There is Vanessa Beecroft as a European white female, and then there is Vanessa Beecroft as Kanye, an African-American male.” Beecroft, it seems, wasn’t too concerned about backlash. “I am protected by Kanye’s talent. I become black,” she explained to W a few months earlier. Naturally, this did not help her case on the internet; she even managed to set off the Beyhive.

Marina Abramovic v. the Human Race Picking up the reins from Beecroft in continuing what might be this year’s most unfortunate trend was Marina Abramovic, who rounded out 2016 with a glittery, well attended 70th birthday party at the Guggenheim that gilded over the controversy surrounding the party’s other cause for celebration: her new memoir, Walking Through Walls. A few months earlier, in August, a page of her book leaked on Twitter that saw Abramovic recapping her youthful travels down under with descriptions of indigenous Australians as people who “look like dinosaurs. They are really strange and different,” she said, continuing, “to Western eyes they look terrible.” The passage, Abramovic later explained, was from “an early, uncorrected proof” and reflected her initial impressions from 1979, not her current “understanding and appreciation of aborigines that I subsequently acquired through immersion in their world and carry in my heart today.”

Richard Prince v. the Law Whether Richard Prince’s Instagram appropriations could be considered art was already up for dispute, but the artist’s screenshots have landed him in a more serious gray area with a lawsuit this fall from a photographer who took the original portrait he reprinted of Kim Gordon, claiming copyright infringement. The kerfuffle, it seems, is old news to Prince: “Copyright has never interested me,” he said back in 2011 when faced with another complaint, long before his spate of additional lawsuits surrounding images of the likes of Sid Vicious, also this year.

Jeff Koons v. Gravity With a party circuit as internationally renowned as the one surrounding Art Basel in Miami, things were bound to get a little sloppy this December, though the most damaging after-effects took place not after hours, but inside one of the fair’s white-walled booths. With gravity as its partner-in-crime, one of Jeff Koons‘ porcelain balloon dogs apparently attempted to make a run for it from its silver-coated plate, falling to the floor and shattering just shy of $10,000 worth of art. Luckily, things were resolved when the artist called the accident “quite mild” — to an artist used to drawing in tens of millions for his puppies, the amount was practically pocket change.

Art Basel v. Zika Koons’ canine was not the only member of the animal kingdom to ruffle feathers at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. Whispers about the threat of the Zika virus have been quietly running rampant in the art world since the announcement that its first continental United States outbreak had coincidentally claimed the fairs’ ground zero for its new breeding grounds. And while worries publicly amounted to little more than a low whine, concerns were high enough that major institutions like the Guggenheim cancelled events because of the expected drop in attendance, particularly from women of childbearing age.

Swizz Beatz v. the Bronx Swizz Beatz has become a hip-hop super producer, artist, and art collector since he last lived in the Bronx, but when he attempted to organize a homecoming for himself in the borough this summer, he wasn’t welcomed with open arms by everyone. His second edition of No Commission Art Fair, a Bronx-based, four-day effort to give artists a free platform and 100% of their proceeds, sponsored by Bacardi, was Beatz’s attempt to give back to his community. Instead, the community hit back at him with criticism and even protests for basing it in a gentrified neighborhood, selecting only one Bronx-bred artist, tapping less than popular developers, and generally monetizing his supposed street cred. Lesson learned: “Communication is very key, in life you should never be too Big for communication,” Beatz said later on Instagram after meeting with more current members of the community.

Brooklyn v. “Twinks for Trump” Both pre- and post-election, artists have hardly been shy about showcasing their resistance to Donald Trump, though not everyone in the art world seem to share the same feelings about the president-elect. Wallplay, the Brooklyn gallery that agreed to host an exhibition titled “#DaddyWillSave Us,” organized by the gay conservative artist Lucian Wintrich, was reportedly under the impression it was meant to be a “farce performance piece.” It wasn’t. The gallery responded to the backlash and put a halt to the show in October. Wintrich, for his part, cried censorship à la Robert Mapplethorpe, and found a bigger set of eyeballs anyway when he continued to post the exhibition’s offering of muscly, “Make America Great Again”-accented photography on Instagram.

Kendall Jenner, Performance Artist, Channels Icons Like Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono