In 2020, it became clear that few things in the art world—and the world at large—could remain as they once were. After that whirlwind year, 2021 brought with it dramatic shifts of its own. Some of the most significant ones were felt in institutions. Some museums in the U.S. and Europe weathered controversies that heralded permanent changes in the way they function; others diversified their leadership and made steps forward. Meanwhile, after Covid-related long delays, long-awaited museums in Europe and Asia finally arrived, and established themselves as major institutions on the international playing field.
Artists were key in pushing various discourses forward, shaping the way certain pressing issues are discussed around the world and even paving the way for the rise of a new medium. Meanwhile, within the market, prominent figures helped bring back events like fairs, marquee auctions, and more, which had been sorely missed by some last year.
Below, a look back at the defining art events of 2021.