An Inside Look at ArtReview’s 2014 Power 100 List

Marina Cashdan
Oct 23, 2014 6:55PM

Way back in 2002, before lists were the ubiquitous click bait they are now, London-based art publication ArtReview launched their now-famous (and infamous) Power 100 list, a roll call of the art world’s 100 most powerful players. Twelve years later, the ArtReview Power 100 reaches all corners of the globe and the selection process, cloaked in secrecy, has been distilled to a committee of 26 individuals (“operatives”) hailing from Delhi, Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Dubai, Paris, Berlin, Milan, and London—representing the ever-global and complex ecosystem that is the art world. But we wanted to know what the rules to this game are, and how this year’s players fall into the scheme of art fairs, mega dealers, uber collectors, influential curators, and museum directors. So we went to the source: ArtReview’s Editor-in-Chief Mark Rappolt. In the midst of Frieze Week London, Rappolt and I met in secrecy at a cafe near Regent’s Park to go over this year’s list, released just this morning. To whet your palate, we can say that the list includes a lot of regulars—Marc Spiegler, Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner, Marian Goodman, Hans Ulrich Obrist & Julia Peyton-Jones, Marina Abramović, Jeff Koons, and the likes—but a few surprises as well, all topped off by British art epicenter, the Tate, embodied by its leader Nicholas Serota. 

Artsy: Can you tell me about the committee behind ArtReview’s Power 100 List? I realize you can’t tell us who exactly is on it, but how many committee members are there, where are they from, what are their roles within the art world? 

Mark Rappolt: There are 26 people, and that’s about the same as last year but it’s grown a lot as the list has become more global. And not all [are] new people, so within the group at least half of the people have done it before. Twenty [of the 26] are in the first group and then six of them look at what the first group did to make sure that it’s even-handed. They are a mix of critics, museum people, artists. Everyone who is on the committee is not on the list and some of the people who are on the list this year have been on the committee before. And each person on the committee reports mainly on their own territory, so the group that’s in New York talks about what’s in the U.S. 

Artsy: How long does it take for the final list to come together and what is that process like? Does the group convene, or does this conversation take place online? 

MR: This one went through almost 29 stages and it all takes about two and a half months. I think that the people have an expert knowledge of their geographic territory, so there’s one in Shanghai, one in Delhi, two in L.A., three in New York, four in London, two in Berlin, one in Japan, two in Brazil, and one in the Middle East. Some of us [convene in person] but it’s mainly online or Skype, if it’s urgent.

Artsy: Has there been any technology brought into the decision process, or is it all done the human way?

MR: I mean there’s research, but there’s no algorithm. I do follow Instagram but that sort of thing didn’t make it onto the list, although it was brought up. One [idea] in development is [which artists are] mentioned in press releases and with whom, scraping it all from emails. We just haven’t decided what to do with it [laughs]. It’s mainly interesting in showing what artists show with other artists.

Artsy: What are the ‘rules’ or criteria for making it onto the list?

MR: There are four basic rules: one of them is that you have to have an influence on the kind of art that’s being produced. The second one is that you have to have been active in the past twelve months, otherwise the same people stay in roughly the same position. Then you also have to have an international, rather than a local, influence and that one is a tricky one because there are loads of people, even in London, who are influential but not international. And then the fourth one is to have some sort of influence in the public perception of what art is—that they’re not just operating within the art system.

Artsy: And these people can work across disciplines within the arts?

MR: We don’t really make those distinctions. We accept that art is quite an expanded field. For example, Steve McQueen is on the list, both for his art and his movies. I think it’s also that movie-making is linked to his work in art and he’s really important in showing how art can move into other fields and platforms—and that makes him an inspiration to artists.

Artsy: Why is it important to rank these individuals?

MR: I think because someone doesn’t get a show at the MoMA or the Tate just because they’re the best artist in the world. There are a number of different interests that come together for that artist—it could be collectors, galleries, curators—and the list is designed to show how that might work and to show to some degree what those interests might be. And I think, increasingly, that affects the kind of art that gets shown and the kind of art that doesn’t. If I was an artist based in Sarawak in Borneo, I might very well be the best artist that the world has ever seen, but no one’s going to see my work. 

Artsy: What does it mean to have power in the art world?

MR: I think according to the list, it means having the four criteria I discussed, but I think particularly having influence on what kind of art is shown, which is why artists tend not to be too prominent on [the list]. 

Artsy: And how does the list affect the art world in the months that follow its release, e.g. artists gaining popularity in the market, gallerists taking on new artists, collectors with bold acquisitions etc.?

MR: It’s not intended to influence the art market and I guess the criteria make the distribution of art more important than the production, so that’s the basic factor—and I think the list clearly reflects that much of it is about distribution.

Artsy: Are there often internal disputes in the decision making?

MR: Yes. There might be someone saying, ‘Oh this person is really important in New York.’ That might be completely untrue to someone in Seoul, so I think the hardest part about putting it together is weighing up what it means to be big in New York versus big in Seoul. And that’s how the biggest disputes happen.

Artsy: And how are these disputes resolved?

MR: Partly through negotiation and acceptance that not everyone has to agree, and I think there are basic things about how much money the art world makes in New York versus how much it makes elsewhere.

Artsy: So then the market is considered in the decision making?

MR: It’s part of it, but not a massive part of it. Otherwise, the artists would be entirely based on market. 

Artsy: Does the list influence the forthcoming content of the magazine at all? 

MR: Of the people on the power list this year, only one of them has been on the cover [of ArtReview] in the past 12 months—Mark Leckey—so there’s a real difference in what we do the rest of the time. I think as a magazine it’s really important for us to understand how things work. 

Artsy: In 2011, when Ai Weiwei made it to #1 on the ArtReview Power 100 List, the Chinese government responded that they thought Ai Weiwei was #1 based purely on a political basis. Does this happen a lot after the list is released—do you have to field criticism or opinions?

MR: Of course, but it has to do with how people interpret it, and I guess most people in the art world have sufficiently large egos that they go on to feel that they’re better than everyone else.

Artsy: What are some of the craziest things people have done to try to get on the list?

MR: We have had someone just ask how much it costs, but it was someone no one had ever heard of. I think people are generally aware [of the process], but people let us know what they’re up to, but that’s kind of helpful anyway. But some of the really outlandish stuff hasn’t happened. Of course people will  put pressure on us …

Artsy: In terms of the major shifts in this year’s list—individuals who made major moves in either direction, Nicolas Serota moved from #6 last year to #1; Jay Jopling from #22 last year to #32 this year; Ryan Trecartin from #64 to #43; Christopher Wool from not being on the list last year to #55; and Okwui Enwezor not on the list last year to #24.

MR: For Christopher Wool, it’s not just for being Christopher Wool but for influencing a lot of young artists.

Artsy: Is that different this year than it was last year?

MR: I think it’s probably more prevalent this year. I think the artists are always the hardest ones on the list. That depends on what people are saying and depends on the artist not just being an isolated figure but the way he’s connected in the system. 

Artsy: And Okwui Enwezor?

MR: He’s [curating] the Venice Biennale. We try to avoid anticipating what’s going to happen as much as possible so that fact that [it was announced] that he was doing Venice last year wasn’t really counted too much, whereas this year, it’s much more immediate and much more part of what he’s doing.

Artsy: And so why did Nicholas Serota move from #6 to #1?

MR: Well it’s the Tate; it’s incidental that it’s him. I think it’s partly because of the massive global expansion of the Tate. I mean look at the acquisition committee; it’s like 240+ people and half of them are on that list. And I think it’s partly about how museums in general have expanded their role and not just to validate artists, which they always have, but also to validate collectors on their committees—that’s a good collector, that’s a bad collector.

Artsy: David Zwirner and Iwan Wirth are still #2 and #3 respectively—their same positions as last year—but Larry Gagosian was bumped down from #4 to #7. But didn’t Gagosian carve out that mega-dealer space for these dealers? Why the shift? 

MR: I’m sure without what Larry Gagosian did, [Zwirner and Wirth] wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, but I think they’re both adapting that model and changing it, and I think that’s what the difference is.

Artsy: Marina Abramovic is in the top 10 again. Why?

MR: She’s everywhere, but she comes with bringing art to the general public because I think maybe 10 years ago, no one would really accept that as art. I think Olafur Eliasson is similar because he’s really expanded this notion of art and, for him, this sort of social side.

Artsy: And Ryan Trecartin moved from #64 to #43.

MR: I think it’s that he came in reasonably high for a new candidate last year, but he definitely seems to be setting up a kind of agenda for the art that’s produced by a generation—his generation and a generation younger. And he just had a big show at the KW [Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin], so it’s not just in the U.S. Maybe for a certain amount of time he was much bigger in the U.S. than anywhere else, but I think now …

Artsy: Many of the artists are established; there are no emerging artists on the list, I’m assuming because they haven’t yet had the time to influence other artists? 

MR: Yes, they have to be at a level where they’re influencing other artists, so they have the same rules as everyone else. I think the artists are the really tricky ones because we all have entirely different views on that and it’s entirely subjective. Because I might say, ‘I can’t stand that person’s work’ and they can be on the list. There are about 20 [artists] that I would have liked to add to the list that didn’t make it. And the list is as serious as people take it and we don’t operate the magazine in that way either. I can write about every single one of those people.

Artsy: The top 10 seemed somewhat expected this year, with many of the names we’re used to seeing. Why do you think this is? What does this say about the distribution of power in the art world? 

MR: That’s good to know. I guess we’ve become much more conscious that there’s a particular system that the art world operates through in the West that’s now being bumped around in the rest of the world, even though that isn’t necessarily the only way of managing an art program.

Artsy: Who are some exciting newcomers to the list? And who are some of the surprises?

MR: I think the last two are interesting—Mendes Wood [made up of  Felipe Dmab, Pedro Mendes, and Matthew Wood]  and Adrian Cheng. [It’s] their international presence but also their [artist residencies] for a generation of artists that are slightly younger and I think that’s been interesting. Adrian Cheng reaches out to a generation that isn’t quite the same as other [bigger collectors].

Artsy: There have also been significant moves seen within the list, e.g. someone who moved from #60 to #2 within a decade?

MR: It’s important that it’s not always what they’ve done but what everyone has done. The list is like an ecosystem, so if someone else moves up someone else has to move down and vice versa.

Artsy: Are there any commonalities on this list this year, other than matching the abovementioned criteria?

MR: I think this idea of validation—of looking for systems to validate other than the market, whether it’s a committee that decides this gallery is the right kind of gallery. When you go to a place like Asia, artists from certain types of galleries are never going to be shown at a fair and that’s not because the artist is good or bad but because they don’t fit the system, and I think this idea of a system is kind of a commonality on the list. 

Artsy: What about the disruption of a system?

MR: That comes into it a bit, but I think that disruption can sometimes get a lot of attention but not really be that powerful, and it’s a disruption that’s very quickly incorporated into the system, which I think art does a lot and is also powerful in a different way I guess. But I mean Graham Harman and some of the other philosophers on the list are part of a different type of system and a different approach to measuring value.

Artsy: Do you consider the percentage of men vs. women on the list?

MR: We used to monitor it really closely but it doesn’t come into play anymore, because I think power is what power is, and if you start swinging it one way or another, you’re not giving it that clear picture. But I think we have about the same number of women this time.

Artsy: Do you find the list to be Western-biased, or even British swayed? 

MR: I think less than there used to be. There are quite a lot of Germans—I think more than the U.K., which has to do with [the fact] that a lot of Western artists moved to Germany.

Artsy: 100 is a small number for the art world.

MR: Yeah, we thought of expanding it but then it would be hard to start measuring things beyond 100.

Artsy: What’s coming up for the magazine?

MR: We’re consolidating [the Asia edition], and we have a big project in December on [the notion of] novelty, based on the idea that there’s no such thing as novelty—nothing comes from nothing. 

Top 20:

1. Nicholas Serota 

2. David Zwirner 

3. Iwan Wirth 

4. Glenn D. Lowry 

5. Marina Abramović 

6. Hans Ulrich Obrist & Julia Peyton-Jones 

7. Jeff Koons 

8. Larry Gagosian 

9. Marian Goodman 

10. Cindy Sherman 

11. Monika Sprüth & Philomene Magers 

12. Alain Seban & Bernard Blistène 

13. Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani 

14. Marc Spiegler 

15. Ai Weiwei 

16. Gerhard Richter 

17. Beatrix Ruf 

18. Adam D. Weinberg 

19. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev 

20. Marc & Arne Glimcher 

Marina Cashdan