From left, Curator Thelma Golden. | Photo © Julie Skarratt; Artist Kara Walker. | Photo by Paul Zimmerman, Getty Images


THELMA GOLDEN IS THE EIGHTH most powerful person in the art world, according to Art Review. The London-based international contemporary art magazine published its 2017 Power 100 list of the most influential figures in the art world earlier this month. The annual list includes artists, gallerists, collectors, curators, and various movers and shakers. Some theorists and philosophers are also featured this year.

Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, is the highest-ranked person of African descent. Her 2017 placement marks the first time a black person made the top 10 since the magazine began publishing the list in 2002.

Six black influencers are featured on the 2017 Power 100 list, a paltry sum, but more than in any previous year. In addition to Golden, artists David Hammons (#19), Theaster Gates (#23), Kara Walker (#56), Kerry James Marshall (#68), and Arthur Jafa (#81), also appear on the new list.

It’s the first time two African American artists made the top 25. This year, Hammons is the top-ranked African American artist. Last year, Gates achieved the highest position on the list for a black artist, ranking No. 16. Walker, Marshall and Jafa joined the list for the first time in 2017. Their debuts coincide with significant exhibitions.

Walker’s fall show at Sikkema Jenkins made news for its lengthy and provocative title referencing her celebrity status and the assumptions and expectations that accompany it. The new work she presented merited the attention. Walker is the second black female artist to appear on the list since its inception. (The first was South African photographer Zanele Muholi, whose groundbreaking work is transforming the way the LGBT community is portrayed and regarded. She was ranked No. 95 in 2016.)

“Mastry,” Marshall’s 30-year career survey, received blockbuster reviews during its 2015-17 run at MCA Chicago, The Met Breuer, and MOCA Los Angeles.

A legendary filmmaker, Jafa is on a creative spree. The artistic cinematographer’s first UK solo exhibition was on view at Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London over the summer, and he recently collaborated on videos with Solange, Beyonce, and Jay Z. The New Yorker called his latest project, “Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death,” a video installation set to Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” an ode to black America.


Artsy broke down Art Review’s Power 100 list by race, gender, geography, and position, comparing its first list in 2002 with its latest 2017 ranking. Over the years, the list has become increasingly more racially diverse. Non-white representation (Asian, Black, Latino, Middle Eastern, Mixed Race) increased from 13 percent then to 40 percent now. | via Artsy


ANY LIST OF “POWERFUL” PEOPLE is subjective (see end of next paragraph). This one is no different. Art Review says its Power 100 list is developed in consultation with an international panel of invited writers, artists, curators and critics. The unnamed experts consider the stature, standing and sway of candidates over the past 12 months. The barometer is “based on their international influence over the production and dissemination of art and ideas in the artworld and beyond.”

Outspoken German artist Hito Steyerl took the No. 1 spot this year, rising from No. 7 in 2016. A filmmaker and writer who also works in installation, she participated in Skulptur Projekte Münster (June 10-Oct. 1, 2017), the decennial public sculpture exhibition in Munster, Germany. Her work is currently featured in “Like a Moth to a Flame,” a group show at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation in Turin, Italy, which is co-curated by Mark Rappolt, who is co-editor of Art Review.

The Power list includes 17 new entries, Walker, Marshall and Jafa, among them. Artsy broke the list down demographically, comparing the original 2002 list with this year’s rankings. Over the past 16 years, the list has included more women and a few more black people. The inaugural list was 17 percent female, now 38 percent of the entries are women. Black representation has modestly improved from 3 to 6 percent. The list is slightly less European. Asian representation is up six-fold (3% in 2002 vs. 18% in 2017), while African mentions have increased marginally (1% in 2002 vs. 3% in 2017).

Over the past 16 years, the list has included more women and a few more black people. The inaugural list was 17 percent female, now 38 percent of the entries are women. Black representation has modestly improved from 3 to 6 percent.

Representation of artists has improved marginally, collector influence has decreased, and gallery dealers remain the most dominant category (27% in 2002 vs. 32% in 2017). Gallery owners who represent prominent artists of African descent maintained positions at the top of the 2017 list. Marshall, Stan Douglas, Oscar Murillo, and Chris Ofili are with David Zwirner (#5). Iwana and Manuela Wirth of Hauser & Wirth (#7), represent Mark Bradford, Ellen Gallagher, Rashid Johnson, Lorna Simpson, and Jack Whitten.



RANKED THIRD OVERALL AMONG CURATORS/artistic directors on the 2017 list, Golden is on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Obama Foundation, and New York City’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission. Her name was regularly mentioned in speculative coverage of who was likely to be named the new director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Another white male was selected for the prestigious post.)

Prior to joining the Studio Museum, Golden was a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art for a decade. She first appeared on the Power 100 list in 2003 (#58). She was deputy director at the Studio Museum at the time, and in 2005 was appointed director of the Harlem institution.

Her sustained power and influence is evident in the artists and curators she has nurtured during her tenure. The Studio Museum has identified and exhibited early on some of the most acclaimed artists of African descent working today and trained and developed an impressive group of curators that has gone on to work at major art museums across the country, including the Museum of Modern Art, MCA Chicago, MOCA Los Angeles, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

When Bradford talks about his work, he regularly recalls that it was first embraced and given a larger platform when Golden visited his studio and invited him to participate in “Freestyle” (2001), a group exhibition at the Studio Museum. The Los Angeles-based artist is currently representing the United States with a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

Recounting the moment when his practice really took shape, Kehinde Wiley cites his residency at the Studio Museum (2001-02) and the encouragement of Golden. Last month, President Obama selected Wiley to paint his official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

The Studio Museum’s ongoing series of “F” exhibitions featuring emerging artists was conceived by Golden. “Freestyle,” “Frequency” (2005-06), “Flow” (2008), and “Fore” (2012-13), introduced audiences to artists such as Bradford, Sanford Biggers, Nick Cave, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, and Mickalene Thomas. The latest in the series, “Fictions,” is currently on view at the museum, presenting work by a new crop of emerging talent, including Amy Sherald, who First Lady Michelle Obama chose to create her official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

Since Golden has been leading the museum, the Artists in Residence program has continued to thrive, providing opportunities for the next generation of critically recognized artists, including 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Njideka Akinyili Crosby, Jordan Casteel, Titus Kaphar, Simone Leigh, Meleko Mokgosi, Jennifer Packer, and Adam Pendleton.


From left, Curator Okwui Enwezor made the inaugural Power 100 list in 2002. | via Phaidon; Artist Theaster Gates has been featured on the list annually since 2012. | Photo by Max McClure


WHEN THE POWER 100 LIST was inaugurated in 2002, art advisor Kim Heirston (#49), and curators Okwui Enwezor (#57) and Lowery Sims (#82) made the cut. The executive director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Enwezor has been included regularly, with his highest ranking (#17) occurring in 2015, the year he served as artistic director of the Venice Biennale. Sims, the first and only African American curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was executive director of the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2002. Heirston and Sims haven’t reappeared on the list.

The second year, Golden debuted on the list (#58). She made the list every year from 2003-2009, fell off from 2010-2014, and has appeared annually since 2015. Over the years, she has ranked as low as No. 83 in 2007. A decade later, she peaked this year at No. 8, up from No. 29 in 2016.

David Adjaye also first appeared on the list in 2003 (#56). The British architect who is designing the Studio Museum’s new building, was ranked again in 2006 (#83). Also in 2006, collector and philanthropist Eileen Norton, who co-founded Art + Practice with Bradford, was No. 61.

Rick Lowe, founding director of Project Row Houses in Houston was ranked No. 89 in both 2015 and 2016. Hammons returned to the list, this year, after being included previously in 2011 (#83). Since 2012, Gates has been featured annually.

Over the past 16 years, a few more black artists have made cameo appearances on the Power 100—Chris Ofili was listed at No. 58 in 2005; Steve McQueen was ranked from 2011-2015; and El Anatsui was No. 98 in 2013. Meanwhile, Bradford, arguably among the most commercially successful, critically acclaimed, internationally recognized, socially involved, and increasingly influential American artist working today, has never been ranked. CT


VIEW Art Review’s 2017 Power 100 list, last year’s list, and the 2002 inaugural list.



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