Chieftains of the art world

Art - As our national galleries become ever more fashionable, so do their directors. But how to tell

The gallery glamour puss
is the high priestess of contemporary art, the Elton John of the art world whose party guest lists read like a Who's Who of the glitterati. Methodical, zealous and devoted to her cause, this cool art impresario can name-drop the stars in her firmament as effortlessly as she can charm the chequebook out of potential patrons. Celebrities are her lifeblood, as irresistible to her as working a room of fat cats, plutocrats and philanthropists, or a photocall for the society pages of glossy magazines. Tall, blonde and well groomed, she looks like a cross between the Duchess of Wessex and Rosamund Pike.

Exquisite glamour meets a moth-eaten English wardrobe of cardies and skirts cut just above the knee. Day City-girl suits with tame T-shirts give way to night-time's sparkly cocktail frocks and floor-sweeping gowns that screech red-carpet glamour. Jewellery is bold, but worn sparingly. Earrings, in gold or platinum, are fat, assertive and smack of the boardroom. The watch borders on flash - a Rolex or a Tissot. Heels are pointed Prada pins. Shades are Dolce & Gabbana. Complexion indicates good stock, make-up is discreet, except for the lipstick, which is shocking, and accent is Home Counties, but not what Young British Artists would call "toff".

The gallery glamour puss is a mistress of the frenetic, navel-gazing, political minefield that is the contemporary British art world. Brightening it with beautiful people is just one of the tricks of her trade, flying Stateside to chat up Manhattan movers and shakers. Though chummy, quick to laugh and slow to condemn outright, she is as gritty as she is gorgeous, as powerful as she is passionate.

Most likely to say: "I'm just speaking to Jude Law now."

Least likely to say: "This celebrity thing is getting out of hand."

The maverick museum director

is a cross between a high-octane, party-loving bon viveur and a bullish intellectual with a determination to be cutting edge, whatever the cost. His look is Einstein meets David Hockney. His hair and eyebrows are a whirlwind of disorder, his dress sense is hit-and-miss. Hand-painted ties of questionable provenance are worn with pinstripe shirts and Savile Row suits, out of which he is just beginning to bulge. His shoes by John Lobb are always shiny, his socks woven silk in primary colours. But looks, remember, are deceptive: this dishevelled dynamo knows how to play the game, and win.

A showman and a scholar, the spotlight follows him like an old friend. Flamboyant but fearsome, he is a loose cannon on the cultural battlefield. He speaks his mind, and his language can be as foul as his faux-pas are excruciating. He is the high-living, high-thinking rebel of the art world, and his natural affinity with liggers, students and artists of all disciplines and proclivities distinguishes him from his crabby competitors and bureaucratic colleagues.

Deliciously unreconstructed, he pats women's bottoms and calls everyone "darling" or "sweetie" - unless they are whingers or corporate philistines, in which case he calls them something unrepeatable. His Rolodex may spin with international contacts, but schmoozing is not his thing, nor is the begging bowl. He prefers feisty campaigns or lively dinners and late-night libations with artists in their paint-spattered studios. But whether it's Old Masters or young blood that this powerhouse is after, he'll get it. He hasn't got where he is today by taking no for an answer.

Most likely to say: "Hullo, sweetie, isn't he a wanker?"

Least likely to say: "The trick is to make everyone happy."

The corporate king
is a visionary evangelist who holds the world of modern art in the palm of his never-sweaty hand. Pope- like in his proclamations, he ministers to his flock with a steely resolve tempered by decency and kindness. A skilful dealer, this modern art mogul is single-minded and persuasive.

He is capable of great charm and greater sang-froid. His look is a cross between Paul Smith, T S Eliot and a marketing executive. His suits border on flash. They are certainly immaculate, hung on a whippet-like physique that signals control and restraint. The beauty, for this man, is in the detail, hence the cufflinks, buffed loafers and regularly trimmed hair.

The corporate king is big on branding. He can talk cross-media and tie-ins, marketing and brand value with the best of them. He wants the youth vote, and he wins it by speaking their language and giving them a good time. He does not dismiss the words "punters" and "popular", nor "television", which is another tool in his upmarket outreach programme. He gives good power breakfasts with significant broadcasters as a result.

He fills his coffers not by chasing old money or old codgers, but by targeting new money with spectacular fundraising and promises of fanfare on a grand scale. His conversion rate is Damascene.

Most likely to say: "There's a book coming out with a Channel 4 series."

Least likely to say: "I've never been convinced by the power of marketing."

Drawings by Felix Bennett

"enlighten me", an exhibition by David Allsop, Felix Bennett and Dan Bernard, is at the east and west foyers of the Clore Education Centre, British Museum, London WC1 (020 7323 8299) until 29 August

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