Power in our rapidly expanding global art world comes in many forms. There’s creativity which pushes past formal boundaries, influence which can often convince cultural agents to do its bidding, and wealth which, while greasing the wheels of artistic enterprise, is also capable of changing all the iron rules into rubber bands—to quote novelist Ryszard Kapuscinski.
Today, financial power—as expressed in ever-rising multimillion dollar, pound sterling and renminbi sums—remains very much the dominant force in the art world. As Phillips CEO Edward Dolman told Bloomberg in January, the growth of the art world continues apace, even amid a global economic downturn. He and other auction experts have consequently characterized the recent decline in auction sales not as a “correction” but, more optimistically, as a “consolidation.”
Where is that financial power coming from then, you ask? The answer is from a marked increase in the number of high net-worth individuals in Asia. According to economist was Clare McAndrew, the results of the artnet and China Association of Auctioneers (CAA) annual report are telling: “The Asia Pacific region is hugely important for the art market, and now it’s the biggest center of high net worth wealth in the world.” Notably, this is the principal reason artnet News has selected the region as this year’s area of Focus for it’s 2016 list of artnet Titans.
Taken together, artnet’s roundup of the Titans of the art world—a list made up of artists, patrons, curators, museum directors, educators, and auction house professionals—are a geographically diverse but remarkably inventive lot. Separately, these notables exhibit a penchant for innovative thinking within their respective professional arenas.
The hundred names on this once-in-a-season power list make one thing clear above all: They are each major players in an increasingly integrated if far-flung art world.
1. Marina Abramović
Single Line Identifier: Despite her celebrity status as the very personification of performance art, an excerpt from her upcoming memoirs (due October 28) recently produced accusations of “racism” and insensitivity.
Quote: “There’s not any subject the public doesn’t know about me. I don’t have secrets, and this is so liberating, because this makes me free.”
2. Nita Ambani
Single Line Identifier: Chairperson of the Reliance Foundation, which, besides sponsoring major exhibitions at the Met and Chicago’s Art Institute, is planning to build a vast new art space in Mumbai.
Quote: “I just want the experience of going to see art to be part of people’s lives in India.”
3. Richard Armstrong
Category: Museum Director
Single Line Identifier: He has expanded the museum’s brand with the Guggenheim Helsinki and the controversial Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
Quote: “The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi continues to be maligned by some critics as a symbol of aggressive commercial expansion and as a perpetrator of grave abuses against foreign migrant workers. We would like to set the record straight. There are currently no workers on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and there is no construction on the site because a contractor has yet to be selected.”
4. Bernard Arnault
Single Line Identifier: CEO of LVHM and founder of the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris
Quote: “Private enterprise is not sufficiently recognized as the real engine of global welfare. In France the state is too present in many activities, not only the museums.”
5. Patricia Barbizet
Category: Auction House CEO
Single Line Identifier: French businesswoman and first female CEO of Christie’s.
Quote: “One needs to remain nimble and have the ability to analyze trends in order to assess what is best for the company.”
6. Christopher Bedford
Category: Museum Director
Single Line Identifier: Ex-Director of the Rose Art Museum, new Director of the Baltimore Museum of Art and Commissioner of US pavilion for Venice 2017
Quote: “The refugee crisis world wide I feel is equal and equivalent to the civil unrest in this country. Mark [Bradford] has a transnational reputation, a transnational address with a capacity to address the global as well as local.”
7. Leon Black
Single Line Identifier: Owner of Apollo Global Management, Phaidon Books, and Artspace, this world-class collector is the secret buyer of Pablo Picasso’s sculpture Bust of a Woman(1931), for which Larry Gagosian paid $106 million.
Quote: “My mother is great inspiration for me, she’s an artist. Her sister is an artist and ran an art gallery. My uncle was an artist. There are a lot of creative people in the family and that’s one of the reasons I’ve always tried to support organizations that help creative young people.”
8. Tim Blum, Jeff Poe
Category: Art Dealers
Single Line Identifier: Leading West Coast gallerists with spaces in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo
Quote (Jeff Poe): “The art world is a business, but the best part of it is that it’s people; it’s families. I’ve seen people get married, have kids, get houses, settle down. It’s been an amazing to be involved in and it’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
9. Mark Bradford
Single Line Identifier: US representative to the 2017 Venice Biennial, the artist is also the founder of Art + Practice, an arts and education foundation that serves foster youth in Leimert Park, Los Angeles.
Quote: “I believe social impact engagement should be—and could be—replicated all over the world.”
10. Peter Brant
Single Line Identifier: The mega collector and founder of the Brandt Foundation recently made headlines for the 2016 consolidation of his art publishing empire: He currently owns the magazines ARTNews, Art in America and Interview.
Quote: “Interest in art is growing. We’re living in a much more artistic world.”
11. Eli & Edythe Broad
Single Line Identifier: LA’s biggest collectors, they recently opened the 120,000 square foot, $140 million Broad Museum in Los Angeles.
Quote (Eli Broad): “[Los Angeles has] become the contemporary art capital of the world; not commercially, but otherwise.”
12. Amy Cappellazzo
Category: Auction /Private Art Advisory
Single Line Identifier: The storied art advisor got Sotheby’s to shell out $50 million for Art Agency, Partners, a move that still puzzles many auction house watchers.
Quote: “I’m an expert in an esoteric asset class that happens to be an excellent reservoir of value. Some days I think I’m in the alternative-currency business.”
13. Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
Single Line Identifier: The Venezuelan-American collector is known for her significant collection of Latin American art as well as for her influence over the acquisitions committees of top international museums.
Quote: “This is a collection made with love.”
14. Adrian Cheng
Single Line Identifier: The brains and brawn behind the K11 art malls, he supports and promotes the Chinese contemporary art scene while serving on the board of the Public Art Fund.
Quote: “Public art makes the everyday better. For art to be seen outside the conventional museum environment, in a place that belongs to the people, makes it more accessible and approachable.”
15. Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi, Maurizio Rigillo
Category: Art Dealers
Single Line Identifier: The triumvirate behind the expansive Galleria Continua, with spaces in San Gimignano (Tuscany), Les Moulins (near Paris), Beijing (China) and Havana (Cuba).
Quote: “We don’t split up our duties geographically. We each have a group of artists to follow, with whom we work, and this happens spontaneously as a result of natural affinity.”
16. Simon de Pury
Category: Auctioneer/Art Advisor/ Tastemaker-at-Large
Single Line Identifier: The Mick Jagger of auctioneers andauthor of The Auctioneer: Adventures in the Art Trade.
Quote: “I always saw myself as an artist in a dealer’s suit.”
17. Leonardo DiCaprio
Single Line Identifier: The Hollywood actor has become a significant collector and regularly orchestrates auctions to benefit his eponymous environmental foundation
Quote: “My dad says he and my mom were visiting the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, and stopped to look at a Leonardo da Vinci painting. My mom was pregnant with me, and I started kicking furiously, so my dad said, ‘That is an omen.’”
18. Edward Dolman
Category: Auction House Director
Single Line Identifier: CEO of Phillips Auction House
Quote: “We’re in a period of consolidation after six years of significant inflations, as people sit on what they’ve got, watch what happens in the market for the next year or so, and don’t necessarily become discretionary sellers into this market.”
19. Chen Dongshen
Single Line Identifier: Founder and president of China Guardian (China’s second-largest auction house), grandson-in-law of Mao Zedong and CEO of Chinese insurer Taikang, his company currently owns 13.5 percent of Sotheby’s—making it the auction house’s largest shareholder.
Quote: “I want to create China’s Sotheby’s, and I want to recreate China’s cultural aristocracy.”
20. Tom Eccles
Single Line Identifier: The Executive Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College since 2005, Eccles has influenced hundreds of multitasking ex-students who currently fill museum posts around the world.
Quote: “Meaning is not static. Meaning is constantly in evolution, and the curator’s role is to tease out new meanings or to suggest new readings of works and sometimes to take some risks.”
21. Andrea Fraser
Single Line Identifier: A purveyor of institutional critique, the influential artist has had several European museum surveys in the last few years—the most recent at Barcelona’s MACBA was evocatively titled “Le 1% C’est Moi”—but no such love from America institutions, leading one publication to ask whether the artist is simply “too shocking for a US retrospective?”
Quote: “The question I’m interested in posing is whether art is prostitution – in a metaphorical sense, of course.”
22. Larry Gagosian
Category: Art Dealer
Single Line Identifier: The world’s richest dealer with sixteen galleries worldwide, Gagosian recently agreed to pay $4.3 million to resolve claims for New York sales tax.
Quote: “The sun never sets on my gallery.”
23. Theaster Gates
Single Line Identifier: Sculptor, performer, academic, urbanist and inspirational speaker, Gates is currently the world’s best known socially-engaged artist
Quote: “I’m hoping Swiss bankers will bail out my flooded South Side bank in the name of art.”
24. Massimiliano Gioni
Single Line Identifier: The New Museum’s Artistic Director and the Director of the Milan-based Trussardi Foundation was the youngest ever director of the Venice Biennale in 2013
Quote: “We need to remind ourselves that contemporary art is first of all a form of conceptual gymnastics, in which we learn to coexist with what we don’t understand.”
25. Marc and Arne Glimcher
Category: Art Dealers
Single Line Identifier: The father-and-son pair behind Pace Galleries have locations in five cities internationally, an important presence in mainland China, and a mini museum-style gallery under-construction in Chelsea, scheduled to open in 2018.
Quote (Arne): “In some ways, I think the American narrative is dead, whereas the Chinese narrative is just beginning.”
26. Ingvild Goetz
Single Line Identifier: The Munich-based collector founded the private museum Sammlung-Goetz, which specializes in new media
Quote: “I always feel sorry for those artists who are hoisted up to the very top and then, after two or three years, are thrown into a corner, like old newsprint… Thank god there are always serious collectors.”
27. RoseLee Goldberg
Nationality: South Africa
Single Line Identifier: Art historian and founder of performance biennial Performa.
Quote: “Even Leonardo da Vinci did performance.”
28. Thelma Golden
Category: Museum Director
Single Line Identifier: Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; also, in the words of cultural critic Greg Tate, “a highbrow mack-diva of the first magnitude.”
Quote: “As a curator, I’ve always understood my curatorial practice as being highly collaborative with artists… I know exactly when I first saw the work, or came to understand how I understood the work—or how maybe I didn’t understand the work and that’s what moved me into a conversation with them.”
29. Marian Goodman
Category: Art Dealer
Single Line Identifier: The grande dame of contemporary gallerists, Goodman has galleries in London, Paris, and New York as well as a roster of high-profile artists
Quote: “I never started working with an artist when he or she was a big star, or at the height of their powers. It’s nice to see people prevail who I believe are very thoughtful, highly talented, one of a kind—who have found a unique means to express their innermost being.”
30. Brett Gorvy
Single Line Identifier: Chairman and International Head of Postwar and Contemporary art at Christie’s.
Quote: “Money is still as ready. The buying appetite is still there. What needs to happen is confidence.”
31. Loic Gouzer
Single Line Identifier: Deputy Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s and proponent of hybrid sales at Christie’s.
Quote: “If you made six billion dollars selling chicken wings in Southeast Asia, you are just another billionaire. It is not even cool to be a billionaire anymore—there are, like, two hundred of them.”
32. Michael Govan
Category: Museum Director
Single Line Identifier: Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and promoter of plan for 410,000-square-foot new landmark LACMA building.
Quote: “I’ve never heard that term ‘supersize’… when we’re finished with all this building—probably a billion dollars investment over 20 years—we would fit into one part of one wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.”
33. Maja Hoffmann
Single Line Identifier: Chairwoman of the Swiss Institute, visionary philanthropist and founder of the LUMA Foundation, a non-profit that supports contemporary artists working in various fields.
Quote: “I don’t really want to own things. That’s not my focus. I want to make things happen.”