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Art Review Power 100 for 2009: Year of the Curator

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Art Review magazine unveiled their Power 100 list at the Frieze Art Fair in London. Damien Hirst, voted number one last year and the cover boy of Art Review's October 2009 issue, plummeted this year to number 48, indicating a possible reaction to the star artist syndrome occasioned by current economic worries. Although artists such as Bruce Nauman (number 10), Jeff Koons (13), Fischli & Weiss (19) and Mike Kelley (20) are highly placed.

Bruce Nauman

In addition to the expected mega dealers and mega collectors, a number of curators have garnered top power spots, led by omnipresent curator, panelist and art world organizer Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Swiss-born critic and co-director of Exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery. He is this year's numero uno.

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, took second place; he did not even appear in last year's list. Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, came in third.

Analysis from The Independent indicates:

It is curators rather than artists who are now regarded as the real movers and shakers of the art world.

"The people who are the top are the people who are kind of flexible and are able to cope with a world that is rapidly changing," said Mark Rappolt, editor of Art Review. "This is partly because of the recession, but partly because it was happening anyway, because you need to be flexible to work on a global level."

Other critic/curator/museum types given significant placement include Daniel Birnbaum (4), Anton Vidokle (8), Iwona Blazwick (9), Alfred Pacquement (18), Matthew Higgs (29) and Massimiliano Gioni (50). Glenn Beck comes in at number 100. It's good to know someone has a sense of humor.

The list in full:

1. Hans Ulrich Obrist

2. Glenn D. Lowry

3. Sir Nicholas Serota

4. Daniel Birnbaum

5. Larry Gagosian

6. François Pinault

7. Eli Broad

8. Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda & Brian Kuan Wood

9. Iwona Blazwick

10. Bruce Nauman

11. Iwan Wirth

12. David Zwirner

13. Jeff Koons

14. Jay Jopling

15. Marian Goodman

16. Agnes Gund

17. Takashi Murakami

18. Alfred Pacquement

19. Fischli & Weiss

20. Mike Kelley

21. Barbara Gladstone

22. Steven A. Cohen

23. Dominique Lévy & Robert Mnuchin

24. Adam D. Weinberg

25. Marc Glimcher

26. Brett Gorvy & Amy Cappellazzo

27. Tobias Meyer & Cheyenne Westphal

28. Ann Philbin

29. Matthew Higgs

30. Matthew Marks

31. Tim Blum & Jeff Poe

32. Gavin Brown

33. Ralph Rugoff

34. Liam Gillick

35. Anne Pasternak

36. Dakis Joannou

37. John Baldessari

38. Isa Genzken

39. Paul McCarthy

40. Michael Govan

41. Eugenio López

42. Cindy Sherman

43. Ai Weiwei

44. Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

45. Annette Schönholzer & Marc Spiegler

46. Diedrich Diederichsen

47. Richard Prince

48. Damien Hirst

49. Bernard Arnault

50. Massimiliano Gioni

51. Amanda Sharp & Matthew Slotover

52. Joel Wachs

53. Victor Pinchuk

54. Udo Kittelmann

55. Marina Abramovic

56. Michael Ringier

57. Gerhard Richter

58. Richard Serra

59. RoseLee Goldberg

60. Kasper König

61. Roberta Smith

62. Monika Sprüth & Philomene Magers

63. Germano Celant

64. Emmanuel Perrotin

65. Peter Schjeldahl

66. Beatrix Ruf

67. Okwui Enwezor

68. Nicolas Bourriaud

69. Karen & Christian Boros

70. Isabelle Graw

71. Maurizio Cattelan

72. Charles Saatchi

73. Jerry Saltz

74. Jasper Johns

75. Louise Bourgeois

76. Thaddaeus Ropac

77. Mera & Don Rubell

78. Thelma Golden

79. Sarah Morris

80. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

81. Anita & Poju Zabludowicz

82. Paul Schimmel

83. Jose, Alberto & David Mugrabi

84. Sadie Coles

85. Daniel Buchholz

86. Victoria Miro

87. Maureen Paley

88. Johann König

89. Nicolai Wallner

90. Maria Lind

91. Massimo De Carlo

92. Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi & Maurizio Rigillo

93. Rirkrit Tiravanija

94. Toby Webster

95. Long March Space

96. Nicholas Logsdail

97. Harry Blain & Graham Southern

98. Claire Hsu

99. Peter Nagy

100. Glenn Beck

The cover of the November 2009 issue of Art Review (which features the Power 100):

The magazine website has a page on the Power 100, with demographic breakdowns and an open comments thread.

Facebook Feedback on the Power 100 posting

I linked this post on my Facebook page and various people offered their input.

Wolfgang Stiller:

is wondering why so many people here get so excited with the "power list" that is exactly why art becomes so shallow. F.... the power list and care about art itself

Steven Kaplan:

Don't shoot the messenger. Those who create the Power List, year after year, obviously find it of some importance. My reporting it as news does not make me complicit in its assumptions nor in the self aggrandizement of its compilers.

Oliver Wasow:

I suppose you're right Steven, but if you just ignore it, it will perhaps go away.

Steven Kaplan:

On the other hand, you might choose to acknowledge it but then allow others to deride it for its silliness, pomposity and false claims at defining a zeitgeist.

Wolfgang Stiller:

true and unfortunately this definition of Zeitgeist is what we all have to deal with - weather we like it or not

Grace Graupe Pillard:

Glenn beck? Obviously has the power over much of the populace - those who think art is all about liberal establishment pulling one over you. DO take him seriously. Like Bush the fools can wreck enormous havoc.

Carter Ratcliff's Facebook comment on the Power 100

Carter Ratcliff, poet, art historian and critic, contributed an excellent comment on my Facebook page. Thanks Carter.

It would be great if a historian of 19th-century art were to make a top-100 list of the art world in, say, 1868, when Manet and the Impressionists were just hitting their stride. When I was writing about Sargent, I looked into the Paris and London art worlds in the 1860s, and I can assure you that no one we care about would turn up on a "Power 100 for 1868" list. That is is because the artists, critics, and collectors from that period that we now take seriously were not part of the power structure. The avant-garde of Manet and company obliterated the memory of the power structure of their time--and that raises a question. Is there, at present, an avant-garde that will, in future, obliterate the memory of the people on the "Power 100 for 2009"? I don't think so, and that is for complex reasons that can be summed up, schematically, by noting that the power structure has incorporated the avant-garde, not to mention the very idea of an avant-garde. Hardly an original thought. Everyone, including members of the power structure, has noted this great sweeping motion of cooptation. An inevitable thought: there is a false, coopted avant-garde and a real avant-garde just waiting to emerge. Or the new is the work of artists who will not be defined as an avant-garde but as something we do not yet know how to name. And there are other optimistic possibilities. The question is whether they are mere possibilities, utopian fantasies, or the cause for genuine hope. One must answer this question for oneself, all alone, like an artist in the studio.

Oliver Wasow responded:

Great thoughts, Carter, thanks. The one glaring omission from that list - and one that I suspect will shine even more brightly in 100 years - is any recognition of 'power players' involved in New Media. Seems to me that any artist and/or corportate entity/individual involved in the utilization or propogation of technologies that facilitate re-mix... Read More technology or the disemmination of viral creativity are a heck of a lot more "powerful" today than. say, Jasper Johns. I suppose as soon as people figure out a way to make some money off of web-based creativity, they will make the list.

Carter Ratcliff:

Yes, Oliver, good point, which gets to the heart of present situation--and it's true that re-mix technology could be coopted (to use that 60s word again) by the power structure, which is a market structure. It's all about the bottom line, if we bear in mind that wealth is calculated in units of social capital as well as dollars, euros, and so on. By focusing on Jasper Johns you highlight something crucial--the art-world power structure, the establishment, is invested, literally, in masterpieces or what it defines as masterpieces, and the idea of the masterpiece is still tightly bound to the mediums of painting and, to a lesser extent, sculpture. The traditional fine-art mediums. So nearly all the "important" artists on the power list are painters or sculptors or can be linked in some simple way to those mediums--the mediums of the masterpiece. Or, to put it another way, the mediums of the safest, most prestigious investments. As in the 1860s. Then, if an artist wanted to do more than join the power structure, it was enough to reinvent those mediums. Now artists have to employ--or invent--new mediums.

Oliver Wasow:

Right. Just when I had started to believe it was a Modernist myth, it's a little disheartening to think that we are still locked into a system where unrecognized and unpaid artists lead the way and are only recognized retrospectively. Enough to make a guy want to cut off his ear...

Carter Ratcliff:

Of course, I have now offended all painters by implying that if you paint you have two possibilities: you find a place on the establishment power list or you don't. This is not how I see it. I have always been interested primarily in painting and, ever since the late 60s, I have been troubled by the spectacle of painting losing ground to other, newer mediums. I think there is a lot of important painting being done now, as over the past four decades, yet I neither deny the value of the new mediums nor hold out for the idea that painting is now, as in the Renaissance, our primary visual medium. Painting, like poetry, is awkwardly adrift, at once buoyed up and dragged down by its illustrious history, and very unlikely ever to find a place at the head of the flotilla. Painting on canvas, lyric poems, novels, tragic plays--these can all be hopelessly boring and retrograde, yet they are still intelligible forms and mediums and they can be great. It's just that their great qualities will not and have not, for some time, included the virtue of seeming utterly new.

In response to Oliver and at the risk of sounding like a market guru-visionary-quack, I think it goes in cycles. There are periods when the best artists are recognized and periods when they are not. The former periods tend to be short and the latter long, as investors--collectors and curators--consolidate for their own, ultimately non-art purposes the "gains" made during a period when the best artists were quickly recognized. We have been in one of these dreary consolidation periods for a long time. Since 1979, possibly.