The most talked about cultural moments that defined 2018

Updated 20th December 2018
Beyonce is reportedly not only going to be on the September cover of Vogue, but has used her star power to get the publication to hire its first black cover photographer in the magazine's 126-year history.

CREDIT: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella
Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images/Larry Busacca/Getty Images/Larry Busacca/Getty Images
The most talked about cultural moments that defined 2018
Written by Marianna Cerini, CNN
This selection of events was edited by the CNN Style team.
History has taught us that challenging times can often breed good culture. Art, music, film and fashion are all forms of storytelling, and the best stories often require a little tension. This year certainly didn't come up short on that front. Read on for a reminder of the most significant cultural moments of 2018.

Time's Up at the Golden Globes

Stars wore black outfits to the Golden Globes.
Stars wore black outfits to the Golden Globes. Credit: Handout/Getty Images North America/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
In January, the Golden Globes event was shaken by a wave of activism: Time's Up. The movement, launched at the start of the year by women and men from the entertainment industry, aims to combat sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond.
At the Globes, the movement was visible on the red carpet -- a number of actresses and actors attended the event dressed in black and donned Time's Up pins. Some of the founding members further emphasized their message by inviting activists as their guests.
The gesture subverted red carpet routines: for the first time, the media attention wasn't focused on the best, worst or weirdest gowns on show.

"Black Panther" -- The movie, and the movement

A still from "Black Panther."
A still from "Black Panther." Credit: © 2017 - Marvel Studios
Released in February 2018, Marvel's "Black Panther" become the third highest-grossing film ever in the US, behind "Avatar" and "The Force Awakens." But it was more than just a blockbuster hit.
Featuring a predominantly black cast and directed by Ryan Coogler, the movie, set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, was hailed as a celebration of black culture, and put the issue of representation right at the heart of Hollywood cinema.
The film was also praised for shedding new light on Afrofuturism, a philosophy first introduced in the early 1990s that explores black identity and culture through the lens of technology. Its representation of a fantasy African country, unencumbered by a history of colonialism and among the most technologically advanced in the world, was visually told with costumes inspired by the art, clothing and customs of different African tribes -- all with a futuristic twist.

The Obamas unveiled their official portraits

Former US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand beside their portraits after their unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, February 12, 2018.
Former US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand beside their portraits after their unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, February 12, 2018. Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. unveiled two major new works in February: the official portraits of former US President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.
Painted by African-American artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald -- a first in the history of presidential portraits -- the artworks broke away from traditional presidential portraiture, showing powerful, colorful images that reconfigured the canon in more inclusive ways.
The portraits received mostly positive responses from critics for championing artistic representation both in their subjects and makers. They were also well-received by the public. Attendance at the National Portrait Gallery went off the charts after the unveiling, with the first lady's portrait proving so popular it had to be relocated to a more spacious room.

Balkrishna Doshi took home India's first Pritzker Prize

Balkrishna Doshi_ courtesy of VSF
Balkrisha Doshi is considered one of India's top architects. Credit: Vastu Shilpa Consultants
Indian architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi was named the 2018 laureate of the Pritzker Prize in March, the first Indian to win the accolade in its four-decade history.
Considered one of the Indian subcontinent's preeminent living architects, the 91-year-old is known for designing low-cost housing and public institutions, over a career spanning almost 70 years.
Among his most acclaimed projects are Tagore Memorial Hall in Ahmedabad and the Aranya Low Cost Housing development, a collection of more than 6,500 residences in the city of Indore.
"Balkrishna Doshi has always created an architecture that is serious, never flashy or a follower of trends," said the Pritzker jury in its citation, praising his work as embodying "a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through high-quality, authentic architecture."

Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer

Kendrick Lamar wasn't the most obvious choice for the Pulitzer Prize for music. Since it was first established in 1943, the award has historically been granted only to classical and jazz artists -- the latter still almost a rarity in its list of winners.
That's what makes the rap and hip-hop artist's win in April all the more groundbreaking. Lamar won for his fourth studio album DAMN, which the Pulitzer board described as a "virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life."

Beyoncé made Coachella history

Beyonce performs at Coachella.
Beyonce performs at Coachella. Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images/Larry Busacca/Getty Images/Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Beyoncé is already a global superstar, but her performance at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California in the spring -- cleverly rebranded #Beychella -- was special.
The first black woman to ever headline the event, the artist put on a visually complex show many have described as historic. The New York Times wrote there would not be "a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon."
Beyoncé appeared as a queen figure in a Nefertiti costume by Balmain, then transformed into the leader of a sorority, engaging the audience with an awe-inspiring rendition of "Lift every voice and sing." She went through most of her extensive repertoire, but also borrowed from Nina Simone, Juvenile and Outkast, among others, as transitions in her routine. It was a celebration of black history, music styles, expression and womanhood.

K-pop went truly global

South Korean pop group BTS during one of their performances in October.
South Korean pop group BTS during one of their performances in October. Credit: YOAN VALAT/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
In April, K-pop group BTS won the 2018 Time 100 Reader Poll, the magazine's reader survey of the most popular figures of the year. The win was a further confirmation that K-pop is now a phenomenon of global proportions, and BTS a household name in the highly-competitive American music market.
The genre has been on the rise for a few years now -- BTS has been performing since 2013, but 2018 has been particularly noteworthy, partly because of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February. There, a select group of K-pop hits, including BTS' "DNA" were played during the Parade of Nations.
Audiences have taken notice, and American ones have been perhaps the most surprising. In the states, K-pop owned the year: BTS topped the Billboard 200 twice and BLACKPINK became the first K-pop girl group to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2009.

'Heavenly Bodies' turned up to The Met

Anna Wintour and Bee Shaffer attend the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Anna Wintour and Bee Shaffer attend the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images North America/Getty Images for Huffington Post
The annual Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York titled "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" opened in May and explored the relationship between holy traditions and fashion, looking at how Catholicism has influenced art, clothing and the creative process of major 20th- and 21st-century designers.
Held in partnership with the Vatican, it was an ambitious show that didn't simply mix the sacred and the profane, but showed how they are mixed more often than we'd think, and how fashion and religion have so many points of contact. On display were previously unseen papal robes and ecclesiastical vestments, next to a stunning catalog of gowns by Chanel and Versace, to name a few.

Childish Gambino's released 'This is America'

Childish Gambino -- the stage name of actor, singer and rapper Donald Glover -- dominated the internet with possibly the best music video of the year: "This is America." Released in May, the clip became an instant sensation for its provocative, compelling visuals and message.
Set in an empty warehouse, it shows the artist running and dancing while frenzied, hard-to-watch, escalating violence breaks around and within him (he guns down a choir at one point).
Charged with metaphors, the four-minute visual experience has been hailed as a work of genius, and a poignant -- if cryptic -- social commentary on contemporary America, gun violence and the black experience.

Millions watched the Royal Wedding

Meghan's Givenchy bridal dress: Expert opinion
On May 19, the American actress formerly known as Meghan Markle married Britain's Prince Harry at St. George's Chapel in Windsor. The royal wedding was one of the most anticipated events of the year, and broadcast to millions around the world. A star-studded guest list included Amal and George Clooney, Serena Williams and Oprah Winfrey.
Meghan became the first biracial person to ever marry into the British monarchy, and her cultural identity was celebrated in ways that were groundbreaking for royal wedding traditions. An address by American preacher and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry, which saw him repeatedly quote Martin Luther King, Jr. but also mention slavery, was seen by many as one of the day's most moving highlights. A solemn version of "Stand By Me" performed by the UK Christian gospel group Kingdom Choir -- again, a departure from the more classic repertoires of similar weddings -- also was a standout moment.
As with most events of the kind, though, the unveiling of the bride's dress -- a closely guarded secret for months -- was a scene stealer. The now Duchess of Sussex chose a modest ivory silk gown by British designer Clare Waight Keller, Givenchy's first female artistic director.

Crazy Rich Asians became a box-office hit

A still from "Crazy Rich Asians."
A still from "Crazy Rich Asians." Credit: IMDB/Warner Brothers
Besides "Black Panther," the film industry had another major breakthrough this year: the release of "Crazy Rich Asians," which hit theaters in August.
Based on the bestselling novel by Singaporean author Kevin Kwan, the adaptation marked a momentous shift for diversity in Hollywood, by starring an all-Asian cast. The last time a major Hollywood production did the same was 25 years ago, with "The Joy Luck Club" in 1993.
"Crazy Rich Asians" topped box offices, bringing in $25.2 million in the US in its opening weekend, and grossing $238 million worldwide. The film has been praised for lifting the visibility of Asian and Asian-American talent in Hollywood, at a time when the demographic remains underrepresented on big screens.
"Before ['Crazy Rich Asians'], I hadn't even done a tiny part in a studio film," Constance Wu, who played the film's lead character Rachel Chu, wrote in a message posted to Twitter, before the film's release. "I never dreamed I would get to star in one... because I had never seen that happen to someone who looked like me. This month, Wu garnered a best actress Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
However, the film flopped in China, the world's fastest growing film market, where it earned less than $1 million in its opening weekend, due to the lack of locally known stars and the cultural differences between mainland China and the diaspora.

Michael Kors bought Versace for $2 billion

Donatella Versace: A fashion icon ft. Lady Gaga
In September, American fashion brand Michael Kors announced the acquisition of Italian powerhouse Versace for $2.1 billion.
The deal put the spotlight on Kors' ambitious plans for his own company, which will be renamed Capri Holdings: to create America's first-ever luxury conglomerate (Kors also purchased Jimmy Choo in 2017).
If successful, the new group will essentially compete against European juggernauts LVMH (whose brands includes Givenchy, Fendi and Dior, among many others) and Kering (Gucci, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and others), aiming to disrupt luxury fashion's current power structure.

Banksy's work sold for $1.4M, then promptly self-destructed

Banksy's shredded artwork renamed
In October, one of the most iconic pieces by British artist Banksy, the "Girl with Balloon (2006)," was sold for $1.4 million at a Sotheby's auction house in London. As the gavel fell to seal the sale, however, the image began self-destructing, sucked into a shredder hidden in its frame.
"Going, going, gone..." Banksy wrote on Instagram, under an image of befuddled attendees watching the work being destroyed. The day after the incident, the artist also published a video showing how he built the paper shredder. "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge," he wrote, quoting Picasso.
The shredded work was given the new title "Love is in the bin," and the winning bidder -- a female European collector and long-standing Sotheby's client -- announced she would keep it in its new form.

Dolce and Gabbana's had a big China disaster

Still from one of the three promo videos released on D&G's social media accounts.
Still from one of the three promo videos released on D&G's social media accounts. Credit: Dolce & Gabbana
Days before it was supposed to hold a major runway show in Shanghai at the end of November, Italian powerhouse Dolce & Gabbana found itself at the center of a scandal that might cost the brand its future business in China.
In an effort to promote the fashion event, the luxury label released three promotional videos on its social media accounts featuring an Asian model struggling to eat pasta, pizza and cannoli with chopsticks. The clips sparked criticism both in China and abroad, with many deeming the scenes as racist and also using outdated, patronizing and stereotypical tropes.
Things quickly worsened when screenshots of direct messages allegedly sent by Stefano Gabbana on Instagram were leaked online. The designer's alleged rants (Gabbana has since claimed his account was hacked) revealed derogatory remarks towards China and Chinese people, and further provoked consumers in the country. A few hours after the leak, the Shanghai show was canceled. Angry social media users began posting images of D&G products in flames, or thrown in the trash, propelling a boycott that even saw e-tailers pull the label from their sites.

London Fashion Week went fur-free

Kendall Jenner walks in Burberry during London Fashion Week in London on September 17, 2018.
Kendall Jenner walks in Burberry during London Fashion Week in London on September 17, 2018. Credit: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
An increasing number of fashion houses showed a deepened awareness towards sustainability this year, with many announcing they would no longer use animal fur in their products and collections.
The British Fashion Council (BFC) and London Fashion Week took the commitment further, by stating in September that the Spring/Summer 2019 shows (held that same month) would be completely fur free -- a first for a main fashion week.
None of the 80 participating designers featured fur in their lines -- although the decision wasn't a complete ban. "The BFC survey results reflect a cultural change based on ideals and choices made by designer businesses, international brands as well as consumer sentiment," the organization said in a statement.

New York Fashion Week woke up

Models walk the runway for the Savage X Fenty Fall/Winter 2018 fashion show during NYFW at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on September 12, 2018 in Brooklyn, NY.
Models walk the runway for the Savage X Fenty Fall/Winter 2018 fashion show during NYFW at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on September 12, 2018 in Brooklyn, NY. Credit: Brian Ach/Getty Images North America/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty
The Spring-Summer 2019 shows at New York Fashion Week in September made the event one of the edgiest, most relevant happenings of the fashion calendar this year.
Presentations showed diversity on the runway, from swim- and athleticwear label Chromat's casting of a breast cancer survivor, a hijabi model and an amputee, among others; to Shanel Campbell's debut with an all-black roster of models; and Marco Marco Underwear employing an all-trans line-up.
Modest fashion took center stage too, and spun a number of think pieces inspired by the designer Batsheva Hay. Designers also engaged politically, particularly in the form of tees. Luxury streetwear brand Pyer Moss -- the winner of the 2018 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and a champion of activist fashion aimed at elevating the African-American experience -- had a particularly powerful array of slogan T-shirts that read "See Us Now?" and "Stop Calling 911 On The Culture."
Rihanna also made headlines by closing the week with a show for her lingerie and intimates line Savage X Fenty, an inspiring celebration of womanhood in all forms, body types and race, and a critical success.

David Hockney made art history

David Hockney painting sells for $90M, smashing auction records
A David Hockney painting of two men, one swimming in a turquoise pool, the other watching from the side, fetched $90 million at a Christie's auction in New York in November, breaking the auction record for a living artist.
Titled "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)," the work dates back to 1972, when it was first sold by Hockney's New York dealer for just $18,000 -- a sale the artist still feels bittersweet about.
Hockney told CNN the painting was inspired by the accidental juxtaposition of "two photographs on my studio floor, one of (former boyfriend Peter Schlesinger) and another of a swimmer, and they were just lying there and I put them together."
This selection of events was edited by the CNN Style team.