Read the 15 Most Popular Artnet News Stories of 2021, From the Discovery of Ancient Footprints to the Man Who Sold an Invisible Sculpture
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As in years past, readers came to our stories looking for insights and analysis, but also a good ol’ bit of fun. Whether in search of news, intelligence, or in the hopes of coming upon a joyous surprise, readers flocked to our coverage this year.
Here are the 15 most popular stories of the year.
15. Archaeologists Are Using Incredible Photographs From This Cold War-Era Spy Satellite to Unlock Secrets of World History
“Satellite imagery from the Corona project, a Cold War spy program that acquired military intelligence about the Soviet Union for the US, is proving useful in ways its creators could have never imagined—including for archaeologists.”
14. ‘I Have No Other Choice’: Holocaust Survivor Relinquishes Her Claim to a Looted Camille Pissarro Painting
“Eighty years after Nazis stole La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons from the parents of Léone Meyer, the Holocaust survivor has given up her quest for the work’s restitution.”
13. The Oldest Human Footprints in North America Could Redefine Prehistory as We Know It—and It’s All Thanks to These Tiny Seeds
“New data on prehistoric footprints suggest they are the earliest ever found in North America, dating to 23,000 years ago—thousands of years before humans were previously believed to have made their way to the continent.”
12. A Modest Stone Relic Has Led Archeologists to the Tomb of a Depraved Ancient Chinese Emperor Famed for His Cruelty and Enormous Harem
“Ruling from 146 to 168, Liu Zhi was known for allying with a politically influential group of eunuchs to execute officials.”
11. A Florida Man Is Threatening to Sue an Artist Whose Invisible Sculpture Sold for $18,000, Saying He Came Up With the Idea First
“The Florida artist says that, in 2016, he installed his own invisible sculpture in Gainesville’s Bo Diddley Community Plaza. Tens of people were on hand to see the opus unveiled that June.”
10. A Welsh Woman Picked Up a Globe for $199 at an Antique Fair Last Year. She Just Sold It for Almost 800 Times That at Auction
“A Welsh woman bought a globe for £150 ($199) at an antique fair. Then it sold for 770 times that at auction.”
9. An Italian Artist Auctioned Off an ‘Invisible Sculpture’ for $18,300. It’s Made Literally of Nothing
“The 67-year-old artist Salvatore Garau sold an ‘immaterial sculpture’—which is to say that it doesn’t exist.”
8. An Art-Making Robot Was Detained on Her Way to Show at the Pyramids Because Egyptian Customs Officials Thought She Was a Spy
“Ai-Da was held by customs officials for 10 days before her release. Her work was set to appear in the first contemporary art show ever staged at the Great Pyramid of Giza, opening tomorrow.”
7. In a Remarkable Find, Archaeologists Exploring the ‘Cave of Horror’ in Israel Have Discovered a New Dead Sea Scroll
“For the first time in 60 years, archaeologists have discovered a new fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a cache of ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts uncovered in the Qumran Caves on the northern shore of the Dead Sea.”
6. The Former Baby From Nirvana’s Famous Album Cover Was Motivated to Sue After the Band Blew Off His Art Show
“Spencer Elden, who appeared naked on the front of Nirvana’s landmark album Nevermind when he was just four months old, is now suing the band for commercial child sexual exploitation..”
5. A Metal Detectorist Has Found What Is Now Declared the Largest-Ever Hoard of Gold Anglo-Saxon Coins in His Backyard
“The East Norfolk-based man first found a coin around 1990, but most of the treasure was discovered between 2014 and 2020.”
4. Archaeologists Say a Mystifying Group of Ancient Monuments in Saudi Arabia Suggests the Existence of a Prehistoric Cattle Cult
“Scattered across 77,000 square miles of desert in northwest Arabia, the mustatils were built between 8,500 and 4,800 years ago.”
3. A Massachusetts Man Bought a Drawing for $30 at an Estate Sale. It May Be an Authentic Dürer Worth $50 Million
“A man in Massachusetts attended a routine estate sale four years ago, where a small drawing of a woman and child caught his eye.
2. Scientists Have Conducted Tests That Reveal Stonehenge Is Made From a Nearly Indestructible Ancient Material
“Analysis of a core sample taken from one of the site’s massive slabs suggests that the stone’s geochemical composition may have made it uniquely well-equipped to stand the test of time.”
1. ‘There Is No Reasonable Doubt Here’: A Research Team at Yale Proves That the 15th-Century Vinland Map Is a 20th-Century Fake
“The Vinland Map, once believed to be the earliest cartographic depiction of the New World, has been proven to be a modern forgery.”
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