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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Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways: a subtle study of “economic migration”

Sahota’s Man Booker-shortlisted novel goes to places we would all rather not think about.

This summer’s crisis has reinforced the ­distinction that is often made between refugees, who deserve sanctuary because they are fleeing from conflict, and “economic migrants”, those coming to Europe in pursuit of “the good life”, who must be repelled at any cost. The entire bureaucratic and punitive capacity of our immigration system is pitted against these ne’er-do-wells and their impudent aspirations.

Sunjeev Sahota’s fine second novel, The Year of the Runaways, now shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, takes a closer look at “economic migration”. Why do people – many of them educated, from loving families in peaceful communities – leave their old lives behind and come to Britain? Are they fleeing desperate circumstances or are they on the make? When they arrive here, do they find what they were looking for? Should we welcome them, or try to persuade them to stay at home? The book illuminates all of these questions while, much to its credit, offering no simple answers.

Sahota interweaves the stories of three people whose reasons for emigrating are as individual as they are. Both Avtar and Randeep are from Indian Sikh families that might be characterised as lower-middle-class. Avtar’s father has his own small business – a shawl shop – and Randeep’s father works for the government. Both boys are educated and Avtar, in particular, is smart and motivated. But with employment hard to come by and no social security net to fall back on, it doesn’t take much to make leaving the country seem like the only option. Avtar loses his job, his father’s business is failing and he has high hopes of earning enough to marry Lakhpreet, his girlfriend-on-the-sly. Randeep’s family’s finances fall apart after his father has a psychological breakdown; their only hope of maintaining a respectable lifestyle is for their eldest son to take his chances abroad.

For Tochi, the situation is very different. He is what used to be called an “untouchable” and, although people now use euphemisms (“scheduled”, or chamaar), the taboo remains as strong as ever. He comes to Britain not so much for financial reasons – although he is the poorest of the lot – but to escape the prejudice that killed his father, mother and pregnant sister.

Tying these disparate stories together is the book’s most intriguing character, Narinder, a British Sikh woman who comes to believe that it is her spiritual calling to rescue a desperate Indian by “visa marriage”. Narinder’s progress, from the very limited horizons for an obedient young woman to a greater sense of herself as an active participant in her destiny, reminded me of Nazneen, the protagonist in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. But Narinder is a more thoughtful character and here the Hollywood-style journey of personal liberation is tempered by a recognition of the powerful bonds of tradition and family.

Once in Britain, Avtar, Randeep and Tochi enter a world of gangmasters, slum accommodation and zero job security, with an ever-present fear of “raids” by immigration officers. They work in fried chicken shops, down sewers, on building sites and cleaning nightclubs. Health care is off-limits for fear of immigration checks. Food is basic and the only charity comes from the gurdwara, or Sikh temple, which provides help in emergencies.

Avtar and Randeep struggle to send money back home while living in poverty and squalor that their families could barely imagine (at one point, Randeep notes with understandable bitterness that his mother has used his hard-earned contributions to buy herself a string of pearls). In the meantime, their desperation leads them to increasingly morally repellent behaviour, from selfishness to stealing and worse. Even if they do eventually find a measure of economic stability in Britain, they have done so at the cost of their better selves.

It has been pointed out that the novels on the Man Booker shortlist this year are even more depressing than usual and The Year of the Runaways certainly won’t have raised the laugh count. At times I had to put it down for a while, overwhelmed by tragedy after tragedy. It was the quality of Sahota’s prose and perceptions that brought me back. He is a wonderfully subtle writer who makes what he leaves unsaid as important as the words on the page. A wise and compassionate observer of humanity, he has gone to some dark places – places we would all rather not think about – to bring us this book. Whether we are prepared to extend a measure of his wisdom and compassion to real immigrants, in the real world, is another question.

“The Year of the Runaways” by Sunjeev Sahota is published by Picador (480pp, £14.99)

Alice O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist and former arts editor of the New Statesman. She now works as a freelance writer and looks after two young children. You can find her on Twitter as @AliceOKeeffe.

This article first appeared in the 08 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin vs Isis