In ArtReview’s Annual Art World Power Rankings, Ai Weiwei Dethrones Gallery and Museum Moguls

10/14/2011 10:36 AM |

Ai Weiwei is so powerful he has a t-shirt with his name on it.
  • Ai Weiwei is so powerful he has a t-shirt with his name on it.

Mid-October is Power 100 time at ArtReview, when the art publication releases its list of the 100 most powerful players in the art world, from artists and curators to critics, theorists, collectors, gallerists, museum directors and so on. And this year, for only the third time in the feature’s nine-year history—and the first time in three years—an actual artist has been anointed the art world’s most powerful figure. (Damien Hirst took the top spot in 2008 and 2005.)

Whereas last year expansionist gallerist Larry Gagosian sat atop the pile (this year he’s number 4) and two years ago curator and Serpentine Gallery director Hans-Ulrich Obrist was deemed most powerful (this year, with co-director Julia Peyton-Jones, he occupies the second spot), Ai Weiwei leapt up to first from the 13th place on last year’s list—he was the highest-ranked artist then too. Close on his heels, presumably boosted by a record auction price and upcoming MoMA retrospective (and makeup line?), Cindy Sherman comes in at number 7, up from last year’s 27. But perhaps most surprising is the ascendance of conceptual art trio e-flux (Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda and Brian Kuan Wood) to fifth place, making this the most artist-filled Top 10 since the feature was first published in 2002.

Rounding out the top spots are MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry (3), Tate director Nicholas Serota (6), gallerists Iwan Wirth and David Zwirner (8 and 9, respectively) and Beatrix Ruf (10), director of the Kunsthalle Zurich. Elsewhere on the list, note the debut of MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach at 16 and Slavoj Zizek showing up at 65, just under Damien Hirst, but right ahead of Jeff Koons (at 64 and 66, respectively).

But already the selection of the outspoken and recently jailed artist and activist Ai Weiwei has ruffled feathers in China, where he remains banned from traveling outside of Beijing. Reuters reports that during a news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said:

China has many artists who have sufficient ability. We feel that a selection that is based purely on a political bias and perspective has violated the objectives of the magazine.

That his selection merited an official dismissal from the world’s largest country, of course, only confirms that Ai Weiwei is indeed the most powerful person in the art world right now.

(Photo: Ng Han Guan / AP Photos)