Sunday, December 08, 2019

NEW Ethical slant on 2019 Power 100 "The most influential people in art"

Last month, the Annual Power 100 was published by ArtReviewThis annual listing of influential people in contemporary art has been described as a barometer of influence in the artworld - and tracks people over time as well as up and down the listing.

What's unusual is that the nature of the power players has changed in the Power List for 2019.

Campaigners and activists are now very prominent in the list following their efforts to name and shame those that are deemed to:
  • receive funds from patrons and sponsors who are now considered toxic in more ways than one
  • exhibit art stolen from other cultures
The 2019 list was compiled in consultation with a panel of 30 artists, curators and critics from around the world. It continues to reflect a shift away from the traditional power hubs.

If you click the arrow icon to the right it explains the rationale for the choice of the individual and their placement in the Power 100 - see

The top 10 of the Top 100 in ArtReviews 2019 Power 1000  

Campaigners and activists - beyond the contemporary

Art and artists can and do effect change in the real world.

They have also now gone way beyond the contemporary art world per se - insofar as they are challenging sponsorship of and artefacts in museums and art galleries housing art which is emphatically not contemporary i.e. it's about heritage too.

The campaigners include:
  • Nan Goldin - a photographer who has questioned the ethics of philanthropy and spearheaded protests against the Sackler family over its implication in the opioid crisis in the US and for its engagement in the ‘artwashing’ of profits from the sale of OxyContin by family-owned Purdue Pharma. Her campaign has led to the refusal of Sackler funds by various institutions around the world including the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate. Only last it was announced that the Smithsonian would be rebranding its Arthur M Sackler Gallery - despite the fact Arthur M Sackler died before Purdue Pharma was created by his brothers!
  • Felwine Sarr & Bénédicte Savoy (6) - both undertook an investigation and authored a ground-breaking report Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics (in French: Rapport sur la restitution du patrimoine culturel africain) commissioned by President Macron which has been instrumental in questioning the function of the museum. They also advocate for the unconditional return of art obtained in suspect circumstances by Western institutions.
A GROUNDBREAKING REPORT published in November 2018 declared the restitution of Africa’s cultural heritage was “impossible no more.” Commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron, the document is authored by French art historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and examines the history, inventory, and display of ill-gotten artifacts and art objects of questionable provenance in French museums (70,000 at the Musee du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, for example) and other Western institutions. The report calls for transparency and a restitution process that meets the demands of affected sub-Saharan African nations whose cultural wealth was plundered in the colonial era and beyond. | Culture Type
You can read more commentary on this topic - and see who else gets a mention - in

A radical rethink about how galleries show art

In a year – and era – marked by disruption, protest and bitter conflict between outsiders and the establishment, not least over the question of who gets to represent culture, institutions have been forced to respond with convincing arguments or risk being sidelined.
I'd venture to suggest that the status on #1 on the list that Glenn D Lowry gets as Director of MoMA in New York reflects
  • an ever present lean towards the USA in this listing
  • the completion of a new $450 million extension at MoMA creating more and better space; and 
  • a thorough rethinking of the museum model at MoMA - which is now leading the way in presenting a more global perspective of art
  • (despite the fact that some - like the Tate - has been doing this for years at Tate Modern! ....and back to the American leaning.....)
Lowry’s goal is for a museum offering a more global representation of art’s history, and a better representation of the diversity of artists working now and across the decades.
Others in the same vein are:
devoted her career to ‘creating space’ for the expression of diverse voices, which she describes as a ‘cultural act, but also a political act’.
  • Maria Balshaw, Director of the Tate is 9th on the list for the Tate’s recent efforts to decolonise and ‘decentre’ its own collection. 
Banksy also landed back in the top 100 at #14 for the first time since 2008. He's described as Street artist taking on the global artworld media spectacle and
The artist Banksy (14) makes this list precisely for the way in which his existence highlights institutional willingness (and struggle) to accommodate an artist who has no need for the establishment. As the battle for control over who gets to represent culture plays out, the dominant institutions and narratives will continue to come under pressure to adapt.

Lest we forget

The listing is also still dominated by the rich, powerful and well connected (see example)

But for how long?