Art Market

We Broke Down ArtReview’s Power 100 by Race, Gender, Profession, and Place of Birth

Artsy Editors
Oct 20, 2016 1:02AM

The 15th edition of the ArtReview Power 100 was published today, listing the contemporary art world's most influential figures—at least according to the publication’s panel of 20 international judges. Year after year, the list features the curators, collectors, dealers, artists, and even a lonely philosopher providing the mix of the money, institutional support, and ideas that drive the global art world.

And while the top 10 is typically static (art-world power changes hands slowly, like the art world itself, ArtReview notes), this edition has a few shakeups. It’s notably more art- and less art market-focused than in recent years. The world’s busiest curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist, leads the Power 100 this year, unseating eminent dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth. And Documenta 14 artistic director Adam Szymczyk sits at number two—a solid eight months before his exhibition even opens. His predecessor, Carolyn Christov Bakargiev, topped the Power 100 in 2012—after her seminal dOCUMENTA (13) opened—becoming the first woman to be given the honor.  

 The list is inherently a matter of opinion. But it’s useful as a benchmark, as a way to learn who the art world thinks the most powerful people in the art world are. It’s worth taking a spin through the list yourself. But, to help parse the information, we’ve broken down the Power 100 by gender, race and ethnicity, region of birth, and profession to see the bigger picture of who’s shaping art today. (Where the entities included are more than one person, we counted each as an individual, so some totals will exceed 100.)

As numerous surveys have shown—including a recent one by the Guerrilla Girls—women are underrepresented across the art world, but particularly at the upper echelons of its power. Knowing this, the fact that 32% of the Power 100 are women is yet another reminder that parity between different genders is a long way off. The first woman on the list, Manuela Wirth, makes her appearance with her partner at number three. Acclaimed German artist Hito Steyerl, whose video work explores how digital culture influences our lives, makes the first solo appearance at number seven. The curator of the forthcoming Venice Biennale, Christine Macel, makes an appearance on the Power 100 at number 17.


Of the individuals included in the Power 100, the overwhelming majority are white—to the tune of 70%. Even though the list has a global remit, the figure reveals that the art world and its “most influential” individuals don’t reflect the diversity of the general population. This will shock absolutely no one and reflects diversity issues in the art-historical canon only now being addressed. According to the rankings, one of the most powerful people of color in the art world is artist Ai Weiwei, who lands at number 10. 

But the Power 100 does include numerous individuals from a range of backgrounds worthy of attention, and who are working with issues of race and inequality in their practice (see: Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, number 16). Also included on the list at number 20 is Okwui Enwezor, the first-ever African curator of the prestigious Venice Biennale and current director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst.

Europe produces the powerhouses of the global art world, according to the Power 100, again reflecting its keen eye to artistic production and its facilitation, rather than sheer selling power. (For the purposes of this piece, we used the location where the individual was born, not where they work.) Out of those on the list, 51% hail from Europe—more than double the next closest locale, the United States. In the top 10 the disparity is even more acute. Nine of the 12 individuals are from Europe. Two—Larry Gagosian at number six and Adam D. Weinberg at number eight—are from the U.S. And, of the 13% of individuals on the Power 100 born in Asia, superstar artist Ai Weiwei is the only one to crack the top 10. Across the entirety of the list, the most underrepresented individuals are those hailing from Africa and the Middle East, both of which comprise just 3% of the list.  

This year’s Power 100 features numerous artists, museum directors, and curators—with Obrist topping the list. It is perhaps an indication on the behalf of its jurors that the significance of the art market as a force has lessened as the market itself has cooled. Indeed, auctioneers or those involved with auctions make no appearance. Still, the art market doesn’t lack for representation, with dealers like Iwan & Manuela Wirth and David Zwirner coming in at numbers three and four. Together, collectors and dealers make up just under half of the Power 100’s total, with the most powerful of the former, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, coming in at number 21, just two days after her donation of 102 works of Latin American art to MoMA.

Artsy Editors