This month, the internationally leading contemporary art magazine ArtReview has released the top one hundred list of the most influential and powerful figures in the art world. This year it shows that the power continues to be held in the hands of the wealthiest gallerists and art dealers.
Iwan and Manuela Wirth have reached the top this year, a Swiss couple with galleries in Zurich, London, New York and Los Angeles under their name. Their most recent investment is a converted barn in Somerset, not the usual location for an internationally acclaimed art gallery. For this reason, it is a positive achievement that they rank top of the list, as they aim to push art into new places.
The gallery specialises in glass art and is placed within a landscaped garden, showing the crossing of borders of fine art into what is generally considered craft and design. Additionally, placing their new gallery in a tranquil rural area, rather than in another affluent area of a capital city (Hauser & Wirth London is located in gallery-crowded Mayfair), becomes a true act of expanding the audience of contemporary art.
Published each year in their November issue, the Power 100 list was established in 2002, and today is claimed to be the most authoritative guide in the indication of who is driving the international art scene in any given year. The list is advised by an anonymous panel of the types to appear on the list itself, being art world figures of all sorts: a possible sign of the perpetuation of elitism that encircles the art world at the top.
It seems disappointing that few of these entries that reach the top ten are artists themselves: only Ai Weiwei, for his politically engaging art, and Marina Abramović, a performance artist who seems to be garnering a celebrity status, make the cut. The power is obviously in the hands of those who buy, display and sell their art. However, looking back to the first published list in 2002, only four artists were included within the entire list of one hundred names, with Gerhard Richter at number four. This seems hopeful for those who are in actuality the creative beginning of the art market.
Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, has fallen from number one since last year, most likely a change influenced by the fierce activism against BP’s sponsorship of the Tate. Serota still ranks within the top ten along with the Director of the Museum of Modern Art, Glenn Lowry.
Positively, there is an increasingly international spectrum to the list. Koyo Kouoh, a champion of art from Senegal with a gallery in Dakar, has risen quite prominently in the list, as has the Lebanese artist Akram Zatari. New entries include the couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, based in Bangladesh, who have assembled a collection of South Eastern Asian art, and are beginning an inspirational mentorship program. Inviting internationally renowned artists to their gallery space, they hope to provide mentorship to younger, aspiring artists from the local area. Furthermore, Indian based artists Bose Krishnamachari & Riyas Komu have made it to the Power 100 list for the first time for their part in setting up India’s first art biennale.
ArtReview’s Power 100 list is not, by all means, the definite proof of who is influential in art, as when it comes down to it, art in all forms from the studio to the gallery, is subjective. In a way it might be critiqued as a game of who has the most money. Despite this, it does shed positive light on the increasing power of the international art scene and the artists themselves.
Image: John Lord (Flickr)