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 a freelance writer in Berlin and a former Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

BBC/YouTube screengrab
Show Hide image

Why hasn’t British Asian entertainment built on the Goodness Gracious Me golden age?

It is 20 years since the original radio series of Goodness Gracious Me aired. Over two decades, the UK media portrayal of Asians hasn’t used its success to evolve.

Save for a handful of special one-off episodes, Goodness Gracious Me hasn’t occupied a primetime TV slot for nearly two decades. Yet still it remains the measuring stick for British Asian comedy.

The sketch show, which transitioned seamlessly from radio to screen (it started as a BBC Radio 4 series in 1996), has stood the test of time and is as much a staple of modern British Asian culture as Tupperware or turning up an hour late.

What Goodness Gracious Me did so expertly was to take a set of serious issues facing first, second and now, I suppose, third generation migrants, and turn them on their heads. 

In making light of the pressures of academic expectation or family drama, Goodness Gracious Me wasn’t playing down the poignancy of such concerns; it was raising awareness and combatting their uglier side with humour.

It offered resonance and reassurance in equal measure; it was ok to have an embarrassing uncle who insisted he could get you anything much cheaper, including a new kidney, because other people like you did too.

That Goodness Gracious Me was broadcast on a mainstream channel was also a victory for minorities; it made us feel integrated and, perhaps more importantly, accepted. Against the backdrop of Brexit, what wouldn’t we give for that treatment now?

Really, though, the jewel in Goodness Gracious Me’s crown was its willingness to recognise diversity within diversity. It is a relic of a departed era when discourse on TV around Asians was different, when the broad church of that term was truly represented, rather than reduced to one catchall perception of British Muslims.

Goodness Gracious Me offered insight into the experiences and idiosyncrasies – religious or otherwise – of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and even English people. It’s what made it so accessible and, in answering why subsequent programmes have failed to reach similar heights, this is a good starting point.

Without the flexible sketch format, the modern Asian sitcom Citizen Khan has struggled to cover multiple topics, and, by being specifically about a Muslim family, it leaves many non-Muslim Asians wondering: where’s ours?

I hasten to add that I feel plenty of sympathy for the British Muslim community, hounded by tabloid headlines that attack their faith, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that non-Muslim Asians are sitting pretty in 2016 and don’t need a similar level of support in terms of positive public perception.

The current volume of British Asian media products is fairly good. The BBC has its dedicated network, The Good Immigrant essay collection was one of the outstanding reads of the year, and we still have champions of comedy in Romesh Ranganathan and Nish Kumar.

But I think ultimately it comes down to the broadness of appeal, rather than the quantity of products. Goodness Gracious Me was not only able to engage the full spectrum of British Asia; it transcended its target audience and was on terrestrial TV.

The British Asian media on offer now is up against it, released as the country’s attitude towards foreigners completes a full circle back to the same suspicion my grandfather encountered in the Sixties.

Fewer outlets are willing to explore the stretch of what it means to be Asian, either by denying it due consideration in mainstream shows or by peddling their own monolithic observations. The BBC Asian Network, for example, is laudable in its existence, but does little to engage the young Asians who aren’t into techno spliced with Bhangra.

The mainstream representations of Asians in Western film and television that are commissioned, meanwhile, are irritatingly limited and sometimes inaccurate. In an article for the Guardian last year, Sara Abassi lamented the disproportionate appetite for “gritty post-9/11 films about conservative Pakistani families”, and that the researchers of American series Homeland failed to realise that the national language of Pakistan isn’t Arabic.

When I interviewed the actor Himesh Patel for the No Country for Brown Men podcast, he suggested that the answer to re-establishing Asians in mainstream media, both here and in America, was three-fold. The first challenge to overcome was for outlets to acknowledge that not all Asians fit the same religious or cultural profile; the second was to be open to placing Asians in non-Asian specific products to better reflect their presence in society.

Patel, who is best known for his portrayal of Tamwar Masood in the soap opera EastEnders, made his third recommendation based on this role. He felt that characters should be written with only their personality in mind, making the ethnicity of the actor who plays them incidental. Tamwar’s awkwardness but underlying kindness, Patel said, was what defined him – not his skin colour.

Goodness Gracious Me, though a primarily Asian show and a comedy at that, actually taught some salient lessons about representation. It succeeded in providing a window into a multiplicity of cultures, but at the same time wasn’t a total slave to the politics of identity – several of the 100-plus characters needn’t have been Asian at all. It was reflexive to the times we lived in and a perfect advertisement for empathy. That is why we still talk about it today.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.