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From Ai Weiwei’s Arrest to ‘Salvator Mundi’: 20 Art Controversies That Defined the 2010s

Each event altered the art ecosystem in a powerful way.

A protest held by Decolonize This Place at the Whitney Museum on March 22, 2019. KATHERINE MCMAHON/ARTNEWS

As the art world grew and became ever more global over the past decade, it was rocked by #MeToo allegations and accusations of unethical patronage, the formation of unions and calls for the destruction of artworks. The survey below presents the decade’s biggest art controversies chronologically. In different ways, each of them forced those in the industry to ask tough questions about their own power, and altered the art ecosystem in ways that are still relevant today.

[For more best-of-the-decade coverage, see the ARTnews list of the most important artworks, some editors’ personal favorites from the past 10 years, and a ranking of the best art books of the 2010s.]

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