German artist Hito Steyerl is the most powerful person in the art world. That’s according to ArtReview’s Power 100 ranking of the most influential artists, curators, dealers, gallerists, and other movers, shakers, and philosophers (there are two on the list!) of the art world. The 16th iteration of the annual list, released Friday morning in London, was chosen by an international panel of 20 art-world insiders, whose identities are kept anonymous so “that power-crazed art people don’t hassle them or enact various types of cruel revenge,” according to ArtReview.
So what makes someone in the art world powerful? It’s not whether or not the judges like their work. The panel is asked to suspend their own taste and judge their peers on their impact beyond their own national boundaries and on “the type of art that’s being produced right now,” among other factors. The size of the art world and how it functions can vary by region; a second panel double-checks the first’s evaluations to ensure that they applied criteria fairly across continents.
Artists and curators continue to be listed among the most powerful in the art world. Steyerl rose to number one from number seven, displacing 2016 topper Serpentine artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist (now number six). And artist Pierre Huyghe hopscotched up 22 places to the number two slot. Curator Adam Szymczyk remains in the top 10 at number four, a drop of two places from last year, even as allegations of financial mismanagement swirl around his Documenta.
The ArtReview Power 100 is, of course, highly subjective. Power means different things to different people, and takes different forms in different places. The list changes very slowly over time. Still, it serves as an invaluable benchmark of who art world experts think are powerful. We broke down the numbers by race, gender, place of birth, and occupation, and compared this year’s list not just to last year’s list, but to the first-ever edition from 2002. If you think this year’s list is still too white and too male, it’s a marked improvement from 15 years ago.
A woman ranking at the top of the art world’s most powerful isn’t a first for the list—in 2015 wife-and-husband team Manuela and Iwan Wirth, part of the team behind global mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth, shared the top slot that year. This year, Beatrix Ruf, who resigned from Holland’s Stedelijk Museum last month amid a conflict of interest controversy, fell several places to number 29. Pioneering feminist thinkers are also on the list: Theorist Donna Haraway—famous for her 1984 text “A Cyborg Manifesto” and 2016’s “Staying with the Trouble”—is number three, while philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler and writer and filmmaker Chris Kraus (both new entries) are numbers 48 and 77, respectively. And Maria Balshaw, who replaced Nicholas Serota as director of the Tate this year, is number 16 (Serota did not make the list).
Overall, however, the list is 62% male and 38% female. While power in the art world is still far from parity, those figures are an improvement from last year, when 68% of the list was comprised of men. In 2002, when dealer Charles Saatchi topped the list, the rankings were 83% male and 17% female. Gallerist Lucy Mitchell-Innes ranked at number five with her co-founder David Nash in 2002, while the first woman to hold an entry solo was Patricia Barbizet, former CEO of Christie’s, at number 10.
The most powerful members of the art world continue to be predominantly white, but that appears to be shifting to some extent. This year, 60% of the Power 100 are white, while last year that same figure was 70%. Look back to 2002 and the change is even more drastic: 87% of the individuals on that year’s list are white. Some of this shift comes from efforts of the art world’s most powerful to make the art world more diverse. Thelma Golden is the most powerful African-American in the art world, at number eight overall. Over the course of her career, Golden, who directs the Studio Museum in Harlem and has been touted as a possible candidate to helm the Met, has solidified the international influence of her museum, building a diverse staff and board as the institution plans to close in 2018 ahead of major renovations.
As was the case last year, Europe produces an outsized share of the art world’s elite, with roughly 40% of those on the 2017 list born on the continent. Once again, however, there are signs of increasing geographic diversity. Last year, about half of the entrants to the list were born in Europe, while in 2002 that figure stood at 56%. The North American presence on the list has fluctuated somewhat—27% this year, 22% in 2016, and 31% in 2002. Like last year, there are two Americans in the top 10 this year, but the names have changed: Golden and Haraway have replaced dealer Larry Gagosian and Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg.
The number of people on the list born in Asia has increased from 3% in 2002 to 18% in 2017. Those from the Middle East and Africa continue to be underrepresented, given the population of those regions, with only 3% of this year’s Power 100 hailing from each of the two regions. (These statistics refer to where someone was born, not where she or he works.)
One figure that hasn’t changed drastically when comparing the makeup of the 2002 list to the 2017 rankings is the percentage of people tied to the commercial art world—the figure of dealers and gallerists on the list has hovered around 30%. Still, in 2017 only two of the entries on the Power 100 were tied to art fairs—Marc Spiegler of Art Basel at number 24 and the group behind behind Frieze, who dropped to number 97 from 66 last year. In 2002, no one from the art fair side of the industry, then extremely nascent, made it onto the list. There was also only one artist in the top 10 in 2002, German Gerhard Richter at four, compared to this year’s list, which features two artists in the first two slots. Overall, the number of artists on the two lists increased slightly: 21% in 2017 and 17% in 2002.