1986 in art
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- 21 May – Eighteen Old Master paintings from the Beit collection are stolen from Russborough House in Ireland by Martin "The General" Cahill, the second major art theft from this location.
- 19 August – Two weeks after it was stolen, the Picasso painting Weeping Woman is found in a locker at Spencer Street Station in Melbourne, Australia.
- Opening of the Musée d'Orsay (formerly the Gare d'Orsay) in Paris.
- Archibald Prize: Davida Allen – Dr John Arthur McKelvey Shera
- Sulman Prize – Wendy Sharpe – Black Sun – Morning and Night
- Turner Prize – Gilbert and George
- John Buckley – The Headington Shark (Untitled 1986; painted fibreglass sculpture)
- John Doubleday – Royal Marines Commando Memorial (Lympstone, England)
- David Hockney – Pearblossom Highway #2 (photocollage)
- Igor Mitoraj – Heros de Lumiere
- Jamie Wyeth – Kalounna in Frogtown (Terra Foundation for American Art)
January to June
- 15 April – Amy Louise Nettleton, British installation and sculpture artist.
January to June
- 6 March – Georgia O'Keeffe American artist (b. 1887).
- 26 April – Dechko Uzunov, Bulgarian painter (b. 1899).
- 11 May – Henry Plumer McIlhenny, American art collector, philanthropist and chairman of Philadelphia Art Museum (b. 1910).
- 31 May – Jane Frank, American painter, sculptor, mixed media artist and textile artist (b. 1918).
- 9 June – Ilona Harima, Finnish painter (b. 1911).
July to December
- 7 April – Cecil King, Irish abstract-minimalist painter (b. 1921).
- 30 June – Guan Zilan, Chinese avant-garde painter (b. 1903)
- 22 July – Floyd Gottfredson, American cartoonist (b. 1905).
- 31 August – Henry Moore, English artist and sculptor (b. 1898).
- 9 September – Albert Malet, French painter (b. 1912).
- 12 September
- 11 October – Barker Fairley, English-born Canadian painter, writer, and educator (b. 1887).
- 23 October – Conrad O'Brien-ffrench, British intelligence officer, mountaineer and painter (b.1893).