It may not be the Time’s most influential people list, or the Forbes’ richest people, but the art world has its own magazine which compiles an annual list of the power 100 names in the universe of art. The international contemporary art magazine ArtReview has been publishing this list for 14 years, and this is just the second time that art dealers came out on top. Previous occupant of the #1 spot, Chinese dissident artist and free-speech fighter Ai Weiwei, has slipped down one spot to the second position, making way for the new claimant of the title. On Thursday, October 22nd, ArtReview magazine named Iwan and Manuela Wirth, Swiss husband-and-wife art dealers, as the most influential people in the contemporary art world.
The art-dealers couple lives in the historic village of Bruton, two hours outside of London, in a lush countryside scenery. So, what propelled them to the number one spot, passing by other major names such as Larry Gagosian, Marina Abramovic, David Zwirner, Ai Weiwei, Nicolas Serota and dozens of other legendary names from the world of contemporary art? Well, the Wirths have been on the list for quite a while, and even in the top 10 for some years now. It is their increasing influence and the impact they’ve made on the model of selling and promoting art that has landed them on the top. The Wirths are the co-presidents of Hauser & Wirth, they have galleries in Zurich, London, New York, and last year, they opened Hauser & Wirth Somerset, near their hometown of Bruton, which serves as a multi-purpose arts center. They have renovated a 15th-century farmhouse and transformed it into a unique artistic space with installed sculptures on the ground around it and re-purposed landscape. It is definitely a step-away from the very forbidding gallery space that most people are used to. The married couple aimed to break-away from the conventional gallery model which is usually a somewhat oppressive white-cube space that seems spaceless and timeless. They wanted to move towards a series of galleries that are specific to their content, bringing an element of a personal experience into the game.
With only Larry Gagosian as the previous dealer who has ever won the first place on the ArtReview power 100 list, the Wirths have come out on top among numerous prominent artists, performers, gallerists and other individuals contributing to the creative world. According to the magazine’s report, the power-couple understands that selling pieces isn’t the whole story, what people want is to be sold a lifestyle. Iwan and Manuela are developing a different way of being an international gallery. With their unique artistic space in Somerset, the collectors can sample the country life, fitting for our Downton age, as ArtReview explained. The entire site has been converted into a modern arts center. It includes five different gallery spaces, a restaurant, rooms for guests of the gallery and a location for education, seminars and other events. Since its opening in July of 2014, the postcard-like location has welcomed over 100,000 visitors and numerous artists on display.
Apparently, the experience offered in Hauser & Wirth Somerset is something truly different which sets them apart. But, don’t think for a second that the successful couple is not a powerful mega-dealer in arts, because they certainly are. The Wirths have garnered much success and renown in their business. They became aware that the collectors wish to see themselves as more than just anonymous purchasers. As the big dealers are becoming better at what they do, selling works for higher and higher prices, the wealthy and well-off niche of people wish to own the lifestyle alongside of the purchased artwork. The couple has certainly discovered the path to even bigger success in what they do. Next March, they are planning to open a new gallery space in Los Angeles, led by museum curator Paul Schimmel. We’ll see if they’ll manage to maintain the number one spot on the list next year, or if perhaps, Ai Weiwei will reclaim the title on the ArtReview Power 100 list.
Here is the top 10 of the ArtReview Power 100 list
1. Iwan & Manuela Wirth
2. Ai Weiwei
3. David Zwirner
4. Hans Ulrich Obrist & Julia Peyton-Jones
5. Nicholas Serota
6. Larry Gagosian
7. Glenn D Lowry
8. Marina Abramovic
9. Adam D Weinberg
10. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
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All images used for illustrative purposes only
Somerset, United Kingdom
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