In Memoriam: From Anthony Caro to Ruth Asawa, Luminaries We Lost in 2013

People hold posters during a vigil for 18-year-old graffiti artist Israel Hernandez-Llach.
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Among 2013’s biggest art world news stories were the untimely departures of some of the most prominent artists of the last half-century, some influential art scholars, and a couple of tragically young street artists. Here is a partial list of the luminaries the art world lost in 2013. (Click on the slideshow to see photos of the artists, writers, performers, and their works.)


Just days after his Whitney Museum retrospective closed, the category-defying painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist died from complications due to a stroke suffered three weeks earlier. That exhibition — the Whitney’s third devoted to Artschwager — chronicled in rich detail a career that spanned over a half-century and included everything from his monumental paintings based on appropriated news images to the beloved formica furniture sculptures begun in the 1960s that riffed on then-popular Minimalism, as well as the later portraits of figures including George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. The artist’s final works will be on view at Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue from January 9-February 22, 2014.


The German-born, New York-based scholar was best-known for his 1993 book, “History of Art History,” and for architectural writings focused on areas outside Europe and North America in books like “New Japanese Architecture” (1960), “New Directions in African Architecture” (1969), and “Contemporary Architecture in the Arab States: Renaissance of a Region” (1999). He earned his PhD at the University of Muenster and was the director of the City Art Museum in Leverkusen before coming to the United States, where he taught at Washington University in St. Louis for almost 30 years.

APRIL 1:Banksy-14779">Banksy-14779">Banksy-14779">Banksy-dies-at-age-29/" target="_blank"> PASHA P183 (b. 1983)

The secretive Muscovite street artist known alternately as P183 or Pavel 183 and frequently dubbed “Russia’s Banksy-14779">Banksy-14779">Banksy-14779">Banksy” — a nickname he disliked, considering his style distinct from the British artist’s — made his name painting large-scale, black-and-white murals with overtly political themes. His aesthetic eventually evolved, and he began to create irreverent and playful installations responding to features of the urban environment, installing a microwave on a building exterior in place of an air conditioning unit, turning a disused public phone booth into a spooky, cobweb-covered crypt, and installing a flashing Space Invader figure over a busy Moscow street — a stunt that earned the installation a visit from a bomb squad. He died of still-unknown causes — his death was announced by the spokesperson of the Teatralnoye Delo theater company, for which he’d been commissioned to create a set backdrop.

APRIL 9: ZAO WOU-KI (b. 1920)

One of the top-earning Chinese artists at auction, popular for his large-scale, abstract paintings, Zao had lived in Paris since 1960 and worked there until recent complications from Alzheimer’s forced him to shut down his studio. His work melded elements of traditional Chinese calligraphy and ceramics with influences from the heavyweights of European modernism like Matisse and Klee, whose works he encountered on his first visit to Paris, in 1948. At the time of his death, Zao’s auction record was $8.9 million, set at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2011.


This Pictures Generation artist’s work combined elements of stock photography and classical studio practices — with familiar objects set against monochrome backdrops in a style that anticipated the likes of Elad Lassry — along with installation art. Born in New Jersey and based in New York, she taught for many years at the School of Visual Arts, RISD, and, for the last two years of her life, Princeton. Her work was the subject of a retrospective at SITE Santa Fe in 1997, and in 2014 she will have her first posthumous museum exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.

JULY 25: Walter de Maria (b. 1935)

One of the preeminent and pioneering figures of Minimalism, installation art, and land art, De Maria was born in the Bay Area but moved to New York as soon as he’d earned his Masters from UC Berkeley, in 1959. Though he wouldn’t begin to make the metal sculptures and ephemeral outdoor installations with which he remained associated throughout his career until the mid-to- late 1960s, he immediately found a place in the Downtown art scene, opening a gallery with Robert Whitman in 1963 on Great Jones Street and taking up the drums for the band The Primitives, which would eventually mutate into Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground. To this day he is best-known for large outdoor pieces like his New Mexico desert installation “The Lightning Field” (1977), and enormous indoor installations like “Apollo’s Ecstasy” — a star of the 2013 Venice Biennale — and “The New York Earth Room,” a permanent installation of a gallery filled with dirt in Soho.

AUGUST 5: RUTH ASAWA (b. 1926)

San Francisco’s so-called “fountain lady,” Asawa may have gained prominence in her hometown for her figurative, sculptural public fountains — one of which, her “Hyatt on Union Square Fountain,” nearly disappeared earlier this year when a proposed Apple Store sought to demolish it — but she made her name in the art world beginning in the 1950s with abstract sculptures made of crocheted metal wire after studying with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in the ’40s. She was the subject of a major retrospective in 2006 at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, which has also devoted one of its galleries to a permanent display of her sculptures.


Early on the morning of August 6, Miami Beach Police Department officers spotted the 18-year-old artist and high school student tagging a shuttered McDonald’s with his trademark “Reefa” graffiti and chased him. Officer Jorge Mercado eventually Tasered him, causing him to collapse. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:15am. In October, some 200 protesters took part in a memorial march, calling for Mercado’s arrest. “He wanted to change the world somehow through art,” Offir Hernandez said of her late brother.

OCTOBER 23: Anthony Caro (b. 1924)

The British artist, a giant of post-war sculpture in terms of both his stature and the enormity and bulk of his best-known works, Caro was influenced early on by Henry Moore — for whom he worked as an assistant in the 1950s — and the American artist David Smith, who helped convert him to abstraction. His sculptures incorporating panels of metal and massive I-beams — some left untreated, others painted in monochrome coats of color — have been the subject of major solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Tate Britain, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Metropolitan Museum. At the time of his death, Venice’s Museo Correr was hosting his first large-scale retrospective in Italy.


The longtime art critic for The Nation and revered philosopher specializing in the fields of aesthetics and the history of philosophy, Danto may still be best-known for a pair of essays: 1964’s “The Artworld,” in which he posited that the presence of theory was essential to elevate an object to the status of art; and 1984’s “The End of Art,” which posited that with the advent of pluralism and the absence of a universal standard by which to judge all art, the narrative of art history had come to an end. He wrote extensively about Andy Warhol, who served as a kind of sounding board for a lot of his theories, and published many essays and collections of essays on art and philosophy.

OCTOBER 27: Lou Reed (b. 1942)

The legendary musician and songwriter, best-known as a co-founder of the Velvet Underground and subsequent solo albums including “Transformer,” “Berlin,” and “Ecstasy,” also collaborated with art world figures throughout his 50-year-career, from his long association with Andy Warhol — begun when the Velvet Underground was incorporated into the Pop artist’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable extravaganza — to his stage collaborations with Robert Wilson in the 1990s and 2000s.

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