The Art Review Power 100

Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev tops the list.

This morning ArtReview announced the 2012 Power 100, their annual list of the contemporary art world’s most influential people. The rankings are decided according to “a combination of influence over the production of art internationally, sheer financial clout (although in these times that’s no longer such a big factor) and activity in the previous 12 months”, and can include collectors, scholars and curators, as well as artists.

This year the magazine are claiming the list represents a “fragmenting scene” in which the desire for political engagement and social inclusion rubs up against the traditional practices of the art world’s ruling class. A statement accompanying the list reads: “beyond Big Money, there are Big Ideas to be fought over, about who art is for, as much as what it is for. At a time of constant muttering about the 1% and the other 99%, the artworld might be living proof that art really does imitate life.”

The list is topped by Carolyn Christov-Bakergiev, an Italy- and US-based curator responsible for this summer’s highly successful Documenta 13 exhibition based in Kassel, Germany. This is the first time the top spot has been awarded to a curator (Gerhart Richter is the highest-ranked “pure” artist at number 6), a decision made not only due to the astonishing scale of Documenta 13 (it touched down everywhere from battlements and quantum physics labs in Kassel to the cities of Kabul, Banff and Cairo, expanding thematically far beyond the boundaries of art to bolster its inclusiveness), but also due of the timeliness of the statement it makes about and to the rest of the names on the list.

“Documenta 13 allowed artists to speak for themselves through their work, and to make their own sets of rules,” ArtReview says. “And by pitting artists with and against quantum physicists, military historians, biologists, economists and activist, Christov-Bakargiev and her team treated art as strong enough to hold its own in furthering debates, building meaning and extending thought, addressing the world not from an ivory tower, but from being in the world.”

New Statesman guest editor Ai Weiwei topped the list in 2011, an artist for whom making art and “being in the world” have become virtually indistinguishable. His recognition by a major international art magazine provoked criticism from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lui Weimin last year, who told a news briefing in Beijing: “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”. ArtReview however, had this to say: “Ai, who was arrested and imprisoned for 81 days earlier [last] year, was ranked number one as a result of his activism as much as his art practice – both articulating a move away from the idea that artists work within a priveleged zone limited by the walls of a gallery or museum”.

The 2012 edition of the ArtReview Power 100 will be published in the November issue of the magazine and will carry full profiles, features and photography portfolios. The list, in full, runs as follows:

1. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
2. Larry Gagosian
3. Ai Weiwei
4. Iwan Wirth
5. David Zwirner
6. Gerhard Richter
7. Beatrix Ruf
8. Nicholas Serota
9. Glenn D. Lowry
10. Hans Ulrich Obrist & Julia Peyton-Jones
11. Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani
12. Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda & Brian Kuan Wood (e-flux)
13. Cindy Sherman
14. Alain Seban & Alfred Pacquement
15. Adam D. Weinberg
16. Annette Schönholzer, Marc Spiegler & Magnus Renfrew
17. Marc Glimcher
18. Marian Goodman
19. Massimiliano Gioni
20. Jay Jopling
21. François Pinault
22. Klaus Biesenbach
23. Matthew Slotover & Amanda Sharp
24. Barbara Gladstone
25. RoseLee Goldberg
26. Eli & Edythe Broad
27. Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
28. Bernard Arnault
29. Nicholas Logsdail
30. Liam Gillick
31. Ann Philbin
32. Victor Pinchuk
33. Maja Hoffmann
34. Tim Blum & Jeff Poe
35. Marina Abramović
36. Dakis Joannou
37. Udo Kittelmann
38. Monika Sprüth & Philomene Magers
39. Matthew Marks
40. Gavin Brown
41. Damien Hirst
42. Rosemarie Trockel
43. Wolfgang Tillmans
44. Agnes Gund
45. Chus Martínez
46. Isa Genzken
47. Iwona Blazwick
48. Anne Pasternak
49. Sadie Coles
50. Daniel Buchholz
51. Toby Webster
52. Adam Szymczyk
53. James Lingwood & Michael Morris
54. William Wells & Yasser Gerab
55. Michael Ringier
56. Theaster Gates
57. Pussy Riot
58. Jeff Koons
59. Steve McQueen
60. Takashi Murakami
61. Boris Groys
62. Emmanuel Perrotin
63. Richard Chang
64. Tim Neuger & Burkhard Riemschneider
65. Slavoj Zizek
66. Thaddaeus Ropac
67. Chang Tsong-zung
68. Elena Filipovic
69. Tino Sehgal
70. Christian Boros & Karen Lohmann
71. Luisa Strina
72. Claire Hsu
73. José Kuri & Mónica Manzutto
74. Brett Gorvy & Amy Cappellazzo
75. Tobias Meyer & Cheyenne Westphal
76. Budi Tek
77. Walid Raad
78. Cuauhtémoc Medina
79. Massimo De Carlo
80. Bernardo Paz
81. Christine Tohme
82. Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi & Maurizio Rigillo
83. John Baldessari
84. Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi
85. Dasha Zhukova
86. Vasif Kortun
87. Anita & Poju Zabludowicz
88. Candida Gertler
89. Gisela Capitain
90. Carol Greene
91. Franco Noero & Pierpaolo Falone
92. Jacques Rancière
93. Miuccia Prada
94. Maureen Paley
95. Don, Mera, Jason & Jennifer Rubell
96. Paul Chan
97. Victoria Miro
98. Adriano Pedrosa
99. Johann König
100. Gregor Podnar

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Photo: Getty Images.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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The Pier Falls is a skilful short story collection – and the glummest book I've read in years

There's no doubting Mark Haddon's talent, but if his stories are sympathetic, there's not much pity in them.

The unremitting bleakness of Mark Haddon’s first book of short stories seems to have stumped even his publishers, who have decided, in the blurb, to make the rather shell-shocked protestation that “his imagination is even darker than we had thought”. Certainly, anyone who came to Haddon’s work through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and its Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation will get a shock from this merciless collection, which opens with a story about the death of 64 people in a seaside accident and moves on briskly to other tales featuring starvation, dismemberment, evisceration, euthanasia, suicide, amputation, shooting, poisoning and incineration.

Sunk in its amplifying gloom, I found myself thinking of a passage in Haddon’s last (also fairly grim) novel, The Red House, in which an eight-year-old passes the time on a disastrous family holiday by planning his own work of literature. “It would be called A Hundred Horrible Ways to Die,” he muses, “and it would include torture and killing but not cancer.”

There is a good deal of sympathy in these economical pieces, but not much pity. The title story, first published in this paper, sets the tone. It is told in the present tense, and describes the collapse of a pier at a fictitious British seaside resort in 1970, balancing the unfolding horror of its events with a coolly detached, observational prose that creates a mood of eerie calm. “If you look through the black haystack of planks and beams,” Haddon writes, “you can see three figures thrashing in the dark water, a fourth floating face down and a fifth folded over a weed-covered beam. The rest are trapped underwater somewhere. Up on the pier a man hurls five lifebelts one after the other into the sea.” Later stories describe lives at various extremities of pain or grief, and with similar austerity. “Bunny” is about a 30-stone man feeding himself to death, “Breathe” about a woman tending her demented mother, “The Weir” about a divorcé who saves a mentally ill young woman from drowning. All of them share a distantly compassionate, vaguely medical tone, as though the author is relating news you may not wish to hear: it’s perhaps no surprise that doctors pop up with such frequency in Haddon’s work.

Several stories pay indirect homage to mythic or literary forerunners. “The Island” offers a refracted paraphrase of the story of Ariadne on Naxos, picking up shortly after Theseus’s ship sails off into the distance. In Haddon’s version, where none of the characters is named, the Minotaur is a deformed teenager, the king a brutal murderer and Ariadne a helpless teenager incapable of surviving in the wild. In the myth, she is discovered on Naxos by Dionysus, who marries her: here, the god of wine and ecstasy is a towering monster, covered in excrement, who rapes the helpless girl and then lets his Bacchantes rip her to pieces. It is told unflinchingly, though I could never quite work out whether Haddon’s flustered prose (“He is the only man she’s ever loved, and he has dumped her like ballast . . . She is off the heart’s map and her compass is spinning”) was in imitation of a lovestruck girl’s thoughts, or a rare crack in his usually undemonstrative and practical style.

“Wodwo”, one of the longer stories, provides another twist on an existing tale, in this case the 14th-century romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Here, too, Haddon remains silent about the inspiration, though an epigraph from Gawain lurks in forbidding Middle English at the beginning of the book. It opens on Christmas Eve at the Northamptonshire home of a retired neurosurgeon, where a session of posh family bickering is interrupted by the apparition of a gigantic stranger who demands to be blasted in the chest with a sawn-off shotgun. The subsequent humbling of its central character, who is no longer “gode Gawan” but Gavin, a blusteringly awful TV presenter, is a tale of slow decline, homelessness and eventual redemption that loses none of its weird and ghostly sheen from being dragged into a later age.

Other stories play quietly with the reader’s assumptions about their elected genres. “The Boys Who Left Home to Learn Fear” uses a setting out of H P Lovecraft or Edgar Rice Burroughs to tell its own, strangely truncated tale of loss and abandonment, as explorers in the jungle find cryptic warnings scrawled by a bottomless cave near the corpses of their predecessors. In “The Woodpecker and the Wolf”, a colonist on a remote planet contends with a string of grisly hazards – botched appendectomies, suicide by her colleagues, the abandonment of relief efforts, an unexpected pregnancy – before being rescued. As she returns with her child to a spookily idyllic Earth, however, the suspicion grows that things are not quite as comforting as we would like to believe: “There is,” Haddon writes, “something wrong with all this but she cannot put her finger on what it might be.”

That sentence might apply equally well to every story in this impressive but forbiddingly lightless collection. There’s no doubt about Haddon’s skill, but I haven’t read a glummer book in years. 

This article first appeared in the 19 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Great Huckster