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.

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Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett asks how we shape history and how much is beyond our control

In Wychwood, a great house in Oxfordshire, the wealthy build walls around themselves to keep out ugliness, poverty, political change. Or at least they try to. 

The great cutting heads of the Crossrail tunnel-boring machines were engines of the future drilling into the past. The whole railway project entailed a crawl back into history as archaeologists worked hand in hand with engineers, preserving – as far as possible – the ancient treasures they discovered along the way. One of the most striking finds, relics of which are now on display at the Museum of London Docklands, was a batch of skeletons, unearthed near Liverpool Street Station, in which the bacteria responsible for the Great Plague of 1665 were identified for the first time. Past and present are never truly separable.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s ambitious first novel ends in 1665 in the aftermath of that plague, and it, too, dances between past and present, history and modernity. Like those skeletons buried for centuries beneath Bishopsgate, it is rooted in the ground. The eponymous “peculiar ground” is Wychwood, a great house in Oxfordshire, a place where the wealthy can build walls around themselves to keep out ugliness, poverty, political change. Or at least that is what they believe they can do; it doesn’t spoil the intricacies of this novel to say that, in the end, they will not succeed.

It is a timely idea. No doubt Hughes-Hallett was working on her novel long before a certain presidential candidate announced that he would build a great wall, but this present-day undiplomatic reality can never be far from the reader’s mind, and nor will the questions of Britain’s connection to or breakage with our European neighbours. Hughes-Hallett’s last book, a biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, “the John the Baptist of fascism”, won a slew of awards when it was published four years ago and demonstrated the author’s skill in weaving together the forces of culture and politics.

Peculiar Ground does not confine itself to a single wall. Like Tom Stoppard’s classic play Arcadia, it sets up a communication between centuries in the grounds at Wychwood. In the 17th century, John Norris is a landscape-maker, transforming natural countryside into artifice on behalf of the Earl of Woldingham, who has returned home from the depredations of the English Civil War. In the 20th century a new cast of characters inhabits Wychwood, but there are powerful resonances of the past in this place, not least because those who look after the estate – foresters, gardeners, overseers – appear to be essentially the same people. It is a kind of manifestation of what has been called the Stone Tape theory, after a 1972 television play by Nigel Kneale in which places carry an ineradicable echo of their history, causing ghostly lives to manifest themselves through the years.

But the new story in Peculiar Ground broadens, heading over to Germany as it is divided between East and West in 1961, and again as that division falls away in 1989. Characters’ lives cannot be divorced from their historical context. The English breakage of the civil war echoes through Europe’s fractures during the Cold War. The novel asks how much human actors shape history and how much is beyond their control.

At times these larger questions can overwhelm the narrative. As the book progresses we dance between a succession of many voices, and there are moments when their individual stories are less compelling than the political or historical situations that surround them. But perhaps that is the point. Nell, the daughter of the land agent who manages Wychwood in the 20th century, grows up to work in prison reform and ­observes those who live in confinement. “An enclosed community is toxic,” she says. “It festers. It stagnates. The wrong people thrive there. The sort of people who actually like being walled in.”

The inhabitants of this peculiar ground cannot see what is coming. The novel’s modern chapters end before the 21st century, but the future is foreshadowed in the person of Selim Malik, who finds himself hiding out at Wychwood in 1989 after he becomes involved in the publication of an unnamed author’s notorious book. “The story you’re all so worked up about is over,” he says to a journalist writing about the supposed end of the Cold War. “The story I’m part of is the one you need to think about.”

A little heavy handed, maybe – but we know Selim is right. No doubt, however, Wychwood will endure. The landscape of this novel – its grounds and waters and walls – is magically and movingly evoked, and remains in the imagination long after the reader passes beyond its gates. 

Erica Wagner’s “Chief Engineer: the Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge” is published by Bloomsbury

Erica Wagner is a New Statesman contributing writer and a judge of the 2014 Man Booker Prize. A former literary editor of the Times, her books include Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of “Birthday Letters” and Seizure.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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