Meet the World’s 10 Most Powerful Artists


Every fall since 2002, ArtReview magazine has compiled a list of the most powerful people in the world of the arts. Criteria is based on “a combination of influence over the production of art internationally, sheer financial clout… and activity in the previous 12 months.” Interestingly, artists tend to make up only 20% to 30% of the list’s occupants — as opposed to curators, collectors, etc. We’ve combed through this year’s list and found the top 10 most powerful artists of 2010. You might be surprised to see where some of your favorites landed.

10. Jeff Koons – Overall Ranking 47

It has been a relatively laidback year for Koons. He curated Skin Fruit , a New Museum exhibition by Dakis Joannou, and designed a sports car for BMW. He also did some philanthropic work, including revamping the decor of a children’s hospital and supporting his Koons Family Institute on International Law and Policy. ArtReview‘s take: “The charity works seem incongruous next to Koons’s increasingly worn-out shtick of subversion within a consumerist aesthetic.”

9. Tino Sehgal – Overall Ranking 44

Sehgal, a British-German artist, made waves with a performance piece of sorts this year at the Guggenheim in New York City. The work, called “This Progress,” involved a series of actors or “interpreters” guiding visitors up Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic spiral ramps, first a child, then a teenager, then an adult, and finally an older person all while asking what they think progress means. All other art was removed from the gallery. The taking of photographs inside the exhibit was forbidden. As one of the teenage interpreters told the New York Times, “What happened on the ramps stayed on the ramps.”

8. Takashi Murakami – Overall Ranking 39

Murakami created a 15-room installation at the Chateau de Versailles this year. The collection of manga-inspired sculptures received complaints from right-wing groups in the country for a depiction of ejaculation even before it opened in September. The Japanese artist also styled Britney Spears for her Richard Prince-photographed cover of Pop magazine (she think he’s a “genius”). Up next for Murakami? Inflatables in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.

7. Marina Abramović – Overall Ranking 35

Abramović is the artist behind this year’s massively popular exhibit at the MoMA: The Artist is Present, the performance piece that involved Abramović sitting for 700 hours. The installation created quite a buzz, attracting 500,000 visitors, some of whom began to tear up while staring at Abramović, others coming back multiple times. As if this wasn’t enough, Abramović also had models recreate her 1977 piece Imponderabilia, in which visitors are encouraged to pass through a narrow entry way flanked by two naked people.

6. Peter Fischli & David Weiss – Overall Ranking 31

Fischli and Weiss (often shortened to Fischli/Weiss) were awarded this year’s Wolfgang Hahn Prize at the Museum Ludwig in Germany. Above is an edited version (the original is almost 30 minutes) of a short film called The Way Things Go , filmed in 1987.

5. Franz West – Overall Ranking 29

Back in 2009 West’s The Ego and the Id hit New York’s Central Park. A similar work, called Schlieren / Smears (photographed above) was exhibited at the Liverpool Biennial this year.

4. Cindy Sherman – Overall Ranking 27

Sherman is an American photographer whose work deals with identity and feminism, usually involving self portraits in different conceptual costumes. ArtReview hails her as “one of the most important female artists in recent history.” This past September she teamed up with fashion company Balenciaga to present Cindy Sherman: Untitled (Balenciaga) , a collection of six self-portraits. Last year she won The Jewish Museum’s Man Ray Award for exploring identity through photography. In 2012 she’ll be opening an exhibit at the MoMA.

3. Mike Kelley – Overall Ranking 26

Kelley, an American who seems to find himself at home in all mediums, collaborated with Michael Smith for a video project called A Voyage of Growth and Discovery in 2009. This September he took to the road with Mobile Homestead , a mobile, public sculpture of his childhood home in Detroit.

2. Bruce Nauman – Overall Ranking 17

Nauman, another man of many mediums, won a Golden Lion at 2009’s Venice Biennale for best national pavilion. This year Berlin’s Hambuger Bahnhof hosted a retrospective of his past work, called Dream Passage . Pictured is Musical Chair from 1983, featured in Dream Passage.

1. Ai Weiwei – Overall Ranking 13

Weiwei turned heads recently when he dropped off 1 million porcelain sunflower seeds to London’s Tate Modern. He’s also known for his political activism against the Chinese government, fighting for greater transparency. His stance, in particular in regard to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, has led to a few run-ins with Chinese authorities, some leading to abuse.