Contemporary Artists, Critics and Industry Insiders Who Have Died In 2012

In Memoriam: 2012 has been a devastating year by virtue of the numbers of truly remarkable artists, critics, curators, gallerists and industry insiders that we have lost along the way. In what has otherwise been one of the most inspiring years in the history of Art and Design, ArtLyst salutes the many who have left this mortal coil. Their contribution lives on!

Mike Kelley Artist and Destroy All Monsters Founder is Dead

(October 27, 1954 – January 31, 2012)

Mike Kelley, the Michigan born, artist whose Detroit based band, Destroy All Monsters, predated the punk rock scene, has committed suicide. Kelley was discovered dead on Tuesday at his home in South Pasadena, Calif. According to reports, He was suffering from severe depression. Kelley’s art work has been widely exhibited in many of the world’s most prestigious galleries and in public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and commercially at the Gagosian Gallery.
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Franz West Best Known Viennese Artist Of His Generation Dies

(16 February 1947 – 25 July 2012)
Franz West the innovative Austrian sculptor has died age 65. He was one of the best known contemporary artists living in Vienna, where he was born in 1947.

West began his career in mid-1960s Vienna when a local movement called Actionism was in full swing. West’s earliest sculptures, performances, and collages were a reaction to this movement, in which artists engaged in displays of radical public behavior and physical endurance meant to shake up art-world passivity. In the early 1970s, West began making a series of small, portable sculptures called “Adaptives” (“Paßtücke”), awkward-looking plaster objects that were only completed as artworks when the viewer picked them up and carried them around, or performed some other inherently slapstick action with them. In many ways, his large-scale aluminum sculptures were simply overgrown versions of the “Adaptives.” But they also relate directly to his installations, where West made furniture. West had the ability to make comfortable and colorfully upholstered couches and chairs which transform galleries, museums, and public spaces into lounge-like, sociable environments for viewing art. His latest work, a large pink sculpture (see photo) was his largest to date and comprised the centrepiece of the Art Unlimited section of the recent Art Basel fair in June.
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David Weiss Swiss Conceptual Artist Dies Age 66

(21 June 1946 – 27 April 2012)

David Weiss, one half of the Swiss conceptual art duo Fischli/Weiss, passed away on 27 April 2012, after battling cancer since September.  Weiss was 66 at the time of his death.
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Antoni Tapies Catalan Abstract Painter Dies

(13 December 1923 – 6 February 2012)
Antoni Tàpies, the Spanish abstractionist has died in Barcelona. He was 88.  Tapies was one of the last surviving European first generation abstract painters. He was also a political artist working against the fascist government of General Franco, in his native Catalan region. Tapis was known for his sprawling works that sometimes featured discarded everyday materials.

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William Turnbull Celebrated Painter And Sculptor Dead At 90

(11 January 1922 – 15 November 2012)

William Turnbull a former RAF pilot who became one of the top British artists has died age 90. Turnbull was in the process of a reevaluation of his body of work. A major retrospective is due in March at Chatsworth House. The exhibition is curated by Yorkshire Sculpture Park. His work is also prominently  displayed at Tate Britain, and the National Galleries of Scotland. Tate director Nicholas Serota said: “William Turnbull was an exceptional artist, unusually gifted both as a painter and a sculptor.
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Robert Hughes Shock Of The New Art Critic Dies

(28 July 1938 – 6 August 2012)

Robert Hughes was perhaps the most irreverent art critic of his generation. He was not sucked into the ethos of the post 1960’s art world. Nor was he the puppet of art market forces, which dominate the present contemporary art scene.
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Ivan Karp Art Dealer Behind Warhol dies In NY

(June 4, 1926 – June 28, 2012)

When I was an 18 year old art student, I met Ivan Carp in his New York gallery OK Harris. He was standing around looking at his current show, the work of the Photo Realist painter John Salt. Recognising him, I tried  to strike up a dialogue. He was abrupt and curt with me. I have spent the last 40 years thinking, “This man was a complete arsehole”! On another occasion I caught a glimpse of him looking at the work of a talentless but attractive young artist who had brought her portfolio to the gallery for show and tell. He was offering kind words of encouragement. Was he interested in the work? I always concluded that he was more interested in the girl, showing the work on the floor.
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Tommy Roberts Swinging Sixties Style Guru Dies Age 70

(6 February 1942 – 10 December 2012)

Tommy Roberts, who died last week, left an enormous five decade mark on UK culture, as an integral part of Swinging London in the 1960s, the glam movement of Seventies, the Hi Tech style of the 1980s and mid-century modern revival of the 90s and Naughties.
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Lisa de Kooning’s Daughter Willem Collapses And Dies In St Thomas


Lisa de Kooning an artist and philanthropist and the only child of the Abstract Expressionist painter Willem de Kooning has died at the age of 56. The Curator of the Johanna Liesbeth de Kooning Trust, Amy Schichtel, stated “Johanna Liesbeth (“Lisa”) de Kooning died on Friday at her home on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands”.
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Arnaud Maggs Canadian Artist Dies at 86 After Cancer Battle

(1926 – November 17, 2012)

The Canadian artist photographer Arnaud Maggs, who explored subjects of identity and categorisation has died age 86. Maggs has often been described as an aesthete. Through his photographs he gives us the opportunity to look again at our surroundings to see the unusual beauty in the commonplace – in the shapes of people’s heads, the markings of time in old books and paper ephemera, as well as the different typography we encounter in our everyday lives.
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Herbert Vogel Minimal Art Collector Dies In New York

(August 16, 1922 – July 22, 2012)

The art collector Herbert Vogel, who compiled one of the world’s most important art collections with his wife, Dorothy, died yesterday age age 89. The Vogel’s were an important fixture of the New York art scene in the ’70s and ’80s, collecting mostly Minimal Art.
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Mary Fedden Highly Regarded English Still Life Painter Dies

(1915 – 2012)
The highly regarded artist Mary Fedden, who created colourful still-life paintings has died aged 96. Feddon was renowned for her paintings that combine whimsical illustrative narrative with rich colour and texture. She was influenced by the French painters Matisse and Braque but possessed a truly English sensibility. For much of her career her reputation was overshadowed by her husband, Julian Trevelyan, a popular surrealist painter. Her work was often undervalued by critics who dismissed them as “charming still lives”
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LeRoy Neiman Artist Hero Of Andy Warhol Dies Age 91

(June 8, 1921 – June 20, 2012)

The commercial artist LeRoy Neiman, who produced work for five Olympics has died age 91. He was one of the most prolific and well respected sports painter of all times. Neiman was regarded for his colour and impasto which went hand and hand with his action portrayal of athletes. He was a regular presence at many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl and the Olympics. 
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Thomas Kinkade America’s Favourite Kitsch Artist Dies, But Who Was He?

(January 19, 1958 – April 6, 2012)
Unknown to the artworld but adored by the masses, pop painter Thomas Kinkade passes away

Disgracefully saccharine perhaps, but that didn’t stop Thomas Kinkade from becoming America’s best-selling artist, with his mass-produced paintings/prints fetching some $100 million a year, and thought to be in 10 million homes across the United States – that’s one in every 20 American home! The cost of his paintings range from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000, and could be purchased from malls and the shopping channel QVC.
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Hilton Kramer Legendary American Art Critic Dies

(March 25, 1928 – March 27, 2012)

Hilton Kramer was one of the most influential art critics of the late 20th century. His career was meteoric and shot to prominence after writing a response to Harold Rosenberg’s,1952 article on action painting. The piece was published in Art News, Americas leading art publication, raising eyebrows and impacting on current trends of criticism. Kramer objected to Rosenberg’s assertion that the Abstract Expressionists were creating records of an event, rather than artworks”. His response consequently led to his being invited as a regular contributor to Arts Digest and Commentar. The latter at the request of Clement Greenberg the most influential art critic of the era. Kramer would later be the great defender of Greenberg’s doctrines. In 1965 Kramer became the New York Times’ art-news editor. After eight years he succeeded John Canaday as its leading art critic. This appointment was at a time when American art was in a period of flux. Abstract Expressionism dominated the public conscience and Pop art was about to explode on the New York scene, like shaken bottle of Coca Cola. Post-modern Art, Conceptual Art Happenings and Performance Art was just starting to emerge.
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Eve Arnold Veteran Photographer Dies

(April 21, 1912 – January 4, 2012)

Eve Arnold, the veteran 20th century photographer  known for her portraits and superior quality photojournalism, has died aged 99. She would be celebrating her 100th birthday in April. She was the first woman member of the agency Magnum in 1957 they announced her death “with great sadness”,stating that she “passed away peacefully” on Wednesday. Magnum in a statement said: “She will perhaps be best remembered for her exceptional photographs of people; the famous, politicians, musicians, artists and the unknown. Her intimate, sensitive and compassionate  10-year collaboration with Marilyn Monroe has cemented her as one of the most iconic portrait photographers of our time, but it is the long term reportage stories that drove Arnold’s curiosity and passion.” Magnum, was a photographic co-operative of great diversity and distinction owned by its photographer members. With powerful individual vision, Magnum photographers chronicle the world and interpret its people, events, issues and personalities.
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Eva Zeisel Modernist Pioneer Dies

(November 13, 1906 – December 30, 2011)

Groundbreaking Modernist ceramicist Eva Zeisel died on Friday aged 105

A self-declared ‘maker of useful things’, she created sensuous forms inspired by the human body, taking an organic approach to Modernism in  reaction to the angular Bauhaus aesthetics popular at the time of her early training. ‘I don’t create angular things. I’m a more circular person—it’s more my character….even the air between my hands is round.’
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Ronald Searle British Cartoonist Dies

(3 March 1920 – 30 December 2011)
Tributes have been pouring in for the British artist/cartoonist Ronald Searle who has died in the South of France. The artist is best remembered for his witty illustrations for the St Trinian’s series of books . Searle,was a Cambridge native and passed away on 30th December aged 91 at a hospital near his home in Draguignan, in the south-eastern Var region of France. The family stated “Ronald William Fordham Searle, born 3 March 1920, passed away peacefully in his sleep with his children, Kate and John, and his grandson, Daniel, beside him on 30 December 2011 in Draguignan, France, after a short illness. “He requested a private cremation with no fuss and no flowers.” Born in 1920, Searle was the son of a railwayman, and educated at the Boy’s Central School, Cambridge.He began his work as a solicitor’s clerk, and soon left to study art at the Cambridge Technical College and School of Art (1936-1939). His first professional work was published in the Cambridge Daily News, now Cambridge News. Mr Searle said of his own student days: “At the Cambridge School of Art it was drummed into us that we should not move, eat, drink or sleep without a sketchbook in the hand. Consequently, the habit of looking and drawing became as natural as breathing.” He was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of the University by Anglia Ruskin University and he put his name to The Ronald Searle Award for Creativity in the Arts.
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Michael Stanley Modern Art Oxford Director Dead At 36

(23 July 1975 – 21 September 2012)

Michael Stanley, one of the most dynamic gallery directors in Britain has died age 36. In a statement on the Modern Art Oxford website a message reads: “We are deeply saddened to report the death of Modern Art Oxford’s Director, Michael Stanley. Michael joined the gallery in January 2009 and during this time he delivered a vibrant and critically acclaimed artistic programme”.
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Paul Jenkins New York Color Field Painter Dies At 88

(July 12, 1923 – June 9, 2012)

Paul Jenkins the post abstract expressionist and ‘Color Field’ painter has died in New York age 88. He was widely associated with the Color Field movement of painting, a style of abstraction that emerged in New York during the 1940s and 1950s. It was inspired by European modernism and closely related to Abstract Expressionism, while many of its notable early proponents were among the pioneering Abstract Expressionists. Color Field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form and process. In color field painting “color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself.” During the late 1950s and 1960s, Color field painters emerged in Great Britain, Canada, Washington, DC and the West Coast of the United States using formats of stripes, targets, simple geometric patterns and references to landscape imagery and to nature.

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Dorothea Tanning Surrealist Artist And Wife Of Max Ernst Dies

(August 25, 1910 – January 31, 2012)

Dorothea Tanning, a leading Surrealist painter during the 1930s married to Max Ernst, has died aged 101

Tanning achieved recognition for her vivid and often disturbing portrayals of dream imagery, such as ‘Maternity’ (1946), showing a troubled mother, her long gown ripped to rags at the belly, holding a fretful baby, while at her feet lies a poodle with a child’s face. But in the mid-1950s Ms. Tanning rejected the tight symbolic narratives of contemporary Surrealism and developed what she called her ‘prism’ paintings, later renamed ‘Insomnias’ – enigmatic canvases in which bodies and body parts, barely discernible visages and biomorphic forms float in fractured dream spaces.

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Oscar Niemeyer Iconic Architect  His Legacy Lives On

(December 15, 1907 – December 5, 2012)

Pritzker Prize winning Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer has died age 104. The iconic designer started his career in the 1930s and went on working until his death designing over 600 buildings, with some 20 projects on the table.Niemeyer created buildings internationally. He was chosen to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in Hyde Park, London as well as his best known building, the United Nations building in New York. He also noted for constructing the futuristic capital of Brasilia.

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Gerry Anderson Sci-Fi Puppeteer Creator Of Thunderbirds Dies

(14 April 1929 – 26 December 2012)

One of the creative forces behind British television in the 1960s and 1970s has died. Gerry Anderson, the creator of hit TV shows including Thunderbirds, Stingray, Joe 90, UFO, Space: 1999, Supercar and Fireball XL5 has passed away at the age of 83.

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