Artistfacts: The Power 100

ArtReviews-Power-100Artistfacts: The Art Review Power 100

A different topic today, instead of an artist I am writing about the Art Review Power 100, a list of the most powerful people in the contemporary art world and looking at how this list has evolved since its inception in 2002.

The impetus for this blog came from a wonderful class I took as part of  Christie’s Short Courses run by Marysa Kaymen. If you have not had the pleasure of taking some of these classes, I highly recommend them- informative and fun. The course I took, entitled The Art World Power Players and taught by the wonderful Rebecca Taylor, Executive Vice President of Fitz & Co. reviewed the individuals included in the 2017 list.

ArtReview’s Power 100 appears to be the “nec-plus-ultra”  source ranking the power players of the art world, similar to the Forbes 100 list for money. The list is derived by an international  and anonymous panel of 20- 26 art world insiders, artists, collectors, gallerists, critics and curators. Members on the panel are excluded though ” some of them may at one time or another have been included.” They hail from Delhi, Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Dubai, Berlin, Paris, Milan and London. The list ranks people in order of influence, and claims to be the world’s definitive guide to the often invisible structures of the current artworld.

ArtReview is a contemporary art magazine based in London with a sister publication ARtReview Asia based in Shanghai and a website A quick internet search did not allow me to uncover  the ownership of ArtReview other than Richard Gainsborough Periodicals Ltd. Opacity often goes hand in hand with exposure in the art world.

ArtReview’s criteria for making the list are:

  • the ability to influence the type of art that is being produced today,
  • having been active in the past 12 months,
  • having an international influence, and
  • playing a role in shaping the public perception of art.

So how has the list evolved since 2002? Have there been any major shifts in the art world power structure? Is the shift of power from the West to the East demonstrated in this list? Have women made headway? Who holds the majority of the power- gallery owners, collectors, artists or museums?

My first general observation is that the 2002 list is very different than the following ones. Almost an anomaly and therefore should be ignored. Too insular. I believe this is demonstrated by the fact that 70 out of the 100 figures on the list changed from 2002 to 2003, a far larger percentage than any later year to year change.

Graph New Power List

The second general observation is that 18 people have been on the list every year but one.

  • 11 gallery owners- as one would expect the big 3 (David Zwirner, Larry Gagosian, Iwan &Manuela Wirth) but also smaller, more focused galleries such as Matthew Marks, Marian Goodman, Sadie Coles, Barbara Gladstone and Lisson Gallery,
  • Four collectors namely Francois Pinault, Eli Broad, Dakis Joannou, Cisneros,
  • Two artists,  Jeff Koons and Gerhard Richter and,
  • Two museum/ curators  Nicholas Serota of the Tate and Hans Ulrich Obrist of Serpentine Gallery.

The power in the art world is increasingly concentrated within the galleries, museums and curators.  Collectors, auction houses, critics and artists themselves do not exert as much influence and that influence is waning.

Although artists do appear in large numbers, 20 in the 2017 list, those names are the ones that to me are the most readily questioned, not in terms of merit as artists but of power. Can one really say that Hito Steyerl, Theaster Gates, Kara Walker, Ai Wei Wei, Pierre Huyghe, Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons are the most powerful artists today and among the 100 most powerful people in the art world? Are they selected because as strong voices on the issues of social justice, political totalitarianism, artificial intelligence, gender and race their  work and writings aim to disrupt and force a strong political narrative and they are in fact representatives of that narrative?  Then, if  political engagement by an artist is what dictates power, where do Yayoi Kusama, Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koons enter the narrative?  Yayoi Kusama and Marina Abramovic can draw amazing crowds and I am in no way disparaging their work and career but we are talking about power here.  William Kentridge, Olafur Eliasson, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Hague Yang also on the list,  are fabulous artists, but do they exert the degree of power in the art world that inclusion in this list would imply?  What scale is being used  to measure that power? Why is Jeff Koons the only artist to have been on the list every single year?



I believe that the fact that year to year the list includes 17 to 25 new names indicates a desire by the voters to influence the narrative of what power means in the art world, to attempt to open up a debate and to diminish the appearance that money is the key determinant.

The group that Artreview calls “Philosophers” has taken the place the critics used to occupy. Their actual impact is diminished in my mind by the fact that each individual appears on the list for at most couple of years to be replaced by a different name, so their is a lack of continuity in their influence. You do not have the long term impact of a Harold Rosenberg or a Clement Greenberg shaping the art world.  2017 showed a marked increase in the number of these philosophers as it did in the number of artists,  a clear reaction to the bigoted, partisan, totalitarian political climate we are in, Engagement is the driving force of the world we are now in be it in the art world or not.

The good news, is slow but steady progress appears to have been made within the gender gap with more women within the list.  We remain far below a 50/50 split though and the progress does remain slow.


Finally, within the general observations, geographically although Europe and the US have maintained dominance, the Middle East and Asia are rising, and Africa remains underrepresented.




Of course, all statistical analysis by geography in the global world we live in is slightly misleading. Are Hauser and Wirth and David Zwirner European galleries? Gagosian and Pace American? Are Frieze and Art Basel European fairs? Clearly names such as Richard Chang, Sunjung Kim, Zhag Wei, Luisa Strina and Claire Hsu or Kuri and Manzutto, Christine Tohme, Sheika Hoor Al Qasim and the Al Thani who appear in 5 or more of the more recent lists demonstrate the rise of Asia, the Middle East and South America.

The list raises a lot of anecdotal questions such as why certain people get left out. For example, from Miami, Margulies has never been on the list but Cisneros and Rubell both have. Interesting collectors such as the Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin, Wiels Brussels, Hall Art Foundation, Marciano Foundation, M. Woods Museum, Pioneer Works, Zeitz Mocca, The Alan Gibbs Farm, Faurschou Collection, Museo Jumex, MoNA, have never been included. Curators such as Stuart Comer, Nancy Spector and Vincent Honore or Jochen Volz have never been included.

What guarantees you to be on the list? Curating Documenta or the Venice Biennale, not necessarily curating Skulptur Project Munster or Manifesta nor being the gallery representing the artists that make the list. Hito Steyerl is represented by Andrew Kreps but they are not on the list, Joan Jonas by Gavin Brown, Theaster Gates by Richard Gray, Kara Walker by Sikkema Jenkins, Trevor Paglen by Metro Pictures. I could continue. Don’t the galleries that represent and nurture these artist deserve a seat at the table in line with the galleries such as Sadie Coles and Lisson?   It is encouraging to see London based galleries Vanessa Carlos on the 2017 list as a result of her gallery sharing initiative CONDO, an indication of some attention being paid to the disruptors in the market place.

Articles discussing the list spend a lot of time going through the rise and decline of the various names, who supplants whom. Not sure that is as relevant to the review of who makes it onto the list or off.  As with all rankings, the list includes reality and aspirations.  The reality of who has the power, where money speaks and the aspirations of who should have power. I wish it would therefore include even more of the people at entry points to the art world.











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