The most established and widely circulated annual ranking of influence in the contemporary art world, ArtReview’s Annual Power 100 list has just been revealed. Now in its 19th year, it reflects the impact of COVID-19, social justice movements and non-Western art scenes on the structures of the global art world.
MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry topped the list in 2019, gallerist David Zwirner in 2018 and artist Hito Steyerl in 2017. In 2020, Black Lives Matter takes the number 1 position. This is the first time a movement rather than an individual has been at the top of the Power 100, shaping the rest of the list. The movement is followed by Indonesian collective ruangrupa, academics Felwine Sarr & Bénédicte Savoy, the #MeToo movement and philosopher Fred Moten.
Who else is counted among the art world’s most influential players?
Challenges of the year 2020 have tested the resilience and solidarity of societies across the globe, at the same time bringing forth the long-standing issues concerning racial justice and equity. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and protests that swept across the world, the power of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has impelled and accelerated change at every level. Coming to symbolize a global reckoning on racial justice and a paradigm shift in contemporary culture, BLM has largely contributed in the resurgence of statue-toppling in the US and across Europe, in the visibility of Black figurative painting over the past few years, in awards and appointments, in the rush by galleries to diversify their rosters, and in the attempts to decolonize collections, just to name a few.
Occupying the second place on the list, ruangrupa is a Jakarta-based artist collective advocating collective and collaborative practice, which will take charge of the next documenta. As the global pandemic interrupted the plans for the 2022 edition of documenta, the collective transformed their workspaces into emergency kitchens and started fabricating personal protective equipment for the local population. Through their practice, they continue to explore alternative models of artistic production to those structured by competition, capitalism and colonialism. It remains to be seen how will they translate a focus on conversation and assembly into an exhibition on documenta’s scale.
Runagrupa is followed by Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy, academics arguing the case for decolonizing Western museum collections. Their 2018 report for French president Emmanuel Macron proposed the unconditional restitution of any object in national collections obtained through colonial-era "theft, looting, despoilment, trickery, and forced consent", starting a debate on the role of Western museums and the artefacts they hold. This debate became more heated in the last year, as Savoy has become a de facto spokesperson for repatriation and embarked on an academic research project into the provenance of European cultural treasures and Sarr has turned his attention to the urgent issue of Africa’s political and economic response to COVID-19 and after.
In the top ten are also the #MeToo movement, a viral international movement denouncing sexual harassment and abuse of women; Fred Moten, an American poet, critic and theorist inspiring a generation of artists, who made a MacArthur "genius" fellow in October; Arthur Jafa, an American artist and filmmaker shaping the trajectory of Black art, whose videowork Love is the Message, The Message is Death was streamed by 14 museums internationally for one weekend in June; Glenn D. Lowry, the Director of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, who, amidst Covid-19, managed to dodge making permanent layoffs and, at the end of summer, recalled all of the museum’s workers and reopened to the public; Thelma Golden, the Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, who recently joined an elite group of Black museum trustees in the creation of the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums whose aims are the cultivation of new Black talent; Saidiya Hartman, a Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University who has influenced a recent generation of artists with her work on Black history and gender; and the preeminent American gender theorist Judith Butler, who articulated a role for public intellectuals and artists themselves "to expand our ideas about why language, literature, visual arts, history, are important for understanding our world".
Other entries include Hans Ulrich Obrist (19), who among other things curated the recent Jennifer Packer exhibition at Serpentine Gallery, the artist Titus Kaphar (20), the Venice Biennale 2022 curator Cecilia Alemani (48), and the artist Simone Leigh (49), who will be representing the US at the Venice Biennale 2022.
As the creators of the ArtReview Power 100 highlight, this year's list includes "a greater emphasis on the circulation of ideas and values (about justice, equality, ways of living, our relationship with the environment and basic human rights, to name just a few), and the way in which they, as opposed to works by individual artists or artist groups, are changing how we think about and engage with art".
There are many new entries to the list, with 46 of the names appearing here for the first time, including director of the philanthropic Ford Foundation Darren Walker (11), who has consistently directed his organization’s vast wealth towards redressing underrepresentation in cultural organizations and civil society and French school Kourtrajmé (80) that opened up the elitist world of art and cinema to underrepresented voices via tuition-free training programs.
There are also many entries that featured in the 2019 list, such as above mentioned Glenn D. Lowry (7) who ranked 1st last year, Nan Goldin (91) who ranked 2nd, Hito Steyerl (18) who ranked 4th, David Zwirner (30) who ranked 5th, Pace's Marc Glimcher (60) who ranked 23rd and Banksy (59) who ranked 14th.
You can find the full list of the ArtReview Power 100 here.
Featured image: Black Lives Matter logo. Courtesy ArtReview.