A GROUNDBREAKING REPORT published in November 2018 declared the restitution of Africa’s cultural heritage was “impossible no more.” Commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron, the document is authored by French art historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and examines the history, inventory, and display of ill-gotten artifacts and art objects of questionable provenance in French museums (70,000 at the Musee du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, for example) and other Western institutions. The report calls for transparency and a restitution process that meets the demands of affected sub-Saharan African nations whose cultural wealth was plundered in the colonial era and beyond.


Ranking No. 6 on the 2019 Power 100 list, Felwine Sarr (left) and Bénédicte Savoy were commissioned by French President to author a report about the restitution of Africa’s cultural heritage. | Photos by Antoine Tempé and David Ausserhofe


The blockbuster report landed Sarr and Savoy on the latest Power 100 list published by Art Review. The team is No. 6 on the 2019 list of the most influential and powerful figures in the international art world, as determined by the London-based magazine. They are new entrants on the list which is led this year by Glenn D. Lowry, director of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. He ranks No. 1 in the wake of the “new” MoMA that reopened last month after a $450 million renovation and a more expansive and inclusive approach to the display of its vast collection. Last year, Lowry was No. 13.

Also occupying the upper ranks of the 2019 list are two female artists—American photographer Nan Goldin (2) and German filmmaker Hito Steyerl (4). The top five is rounded out by “mega” dealers Iwan & Manuela Wirth (3) and David Zwirner (5), who over the last year or so have added prominent black artists to their rosters. Ed Clark, Glenn Ligon, and Amy Sherald joined Hauser & Wirth. Zwirner began representing Njideka Akunyili Crosby and the estate of Roy DeCarava and has presented special exhibitions of works by Charles White and Bill Traylor (currently on view through Feb. 15, 2020). Zwirner was ranked No. 1 on the 2018 list and the Wirths were No. 6.

Kerry James Marshall is No. 22 this year, down from No. 2 in 2018 when the artist’s ranking was the highest-ever for a black person since the Power 100 list was inaugurated in 2002.

Represented by David Zwirner and Jack Shainman, Marshall shot up to the second spot (from No. 68 in 2017) following critical praise for his 35-year retrospective “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” (2016-17) and the record-shattering sale of his monumental painting “Past Times” (1997) at Sotheby’s in 2018. Purchased by music mogul Sean Combs, it sold for more than $21 million, the highest-ever auction price for a work by a living African American artist.

THE 2019 POWER 100 LIST includes 11 black people, artists, curators, museum directors, scholars, and a collector. Sarr is the highest ranking, followed by Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. She maintained her position at No. 8, which is where she stood in 2018.

The Studio Museum is currently without a permanent home while it constructs a new building on 125th Street designed by architect David Adjaye. Golden has used the interim period to bolster a partnership with MoMA. The two institutions established a joint fellowship in 2015 and are pursuing additional collaborations, which have had some influence on the diversity of MoMA’s programming and exhibitions.

For the first time, the Studio Museum’s artist-in-residence exhibition was presented off-site this year. The group show featuring Allison Janae Hamilton, Tschabalala Self, and Sable Elyse Smith was held at MoMA PS1 (June 9–Sept. 8, 2019). With the re-opening of MoMA, the offerings include a solo show of eight amazing paintings by Kenyan artist Michael Armitage, which is curated by Golden with Legacy Russell, an associate curator at the Studio Museum.


From left, Thelma Golden (8) is director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem and Fred Moten (16) is a poet, critic, and theorist. | Photos by Julie Skarratt and Kari Orvik


Poet, critic, and theorist Fred Moten (16) is a professor and associate chair of performance studies at New York University. He recently published a poetry collection titled “All That Beauty” and has engaged in thought-provoking and insightful public talks with many artists including Arthur Jafa (34), Charles Gaines, Lauren Halsey, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and Sondra Perry. In September, Moten was in conversation with photographer Frank Stewart about his current exhibition “The Sound of My Soul: Frank Stewart’s Life in Jazz” (Sept. 16-Dec. 13, 2019) at the Harvard University’s Ethelbert Cooper Gallery.

The list also includes artist David Hammons (26), whose latest project is a public art work on the Hudson River waterfront; artist Kara Walker (26), who recently installed a monumental water fountain for her Hyundai Commission at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall; and Cameroonian-born Koyo Kouoh (56), who was appointed executive director and chief curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, in March.

Pamela J. Joyner (35) is the sole African American collector to make the list (up one spot from No. 36 in 2018). The San Francisco-based collector and philanthropist is chair of the Tate Americas Foundation. “Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art,” presenting selections from the Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, is currently on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art (Sept. 29, 2019-Jan. 19, 2020).

    11 Black People are Featured on This Year’s List:

    6. Scholar Felwine Sarr (6)
    8. Museum Director and Curator Thelma Golden (8)
    16. Poet and Scholar Fred Moten (16)
    20. Artist Theaster Gates (20)
    22. Artist Kerry James Marshall (22)
    26. Artist David Hammons (26)
    28. Artist Kara Walker (28)
    34. Artist Arthur Jafa (34)
    35. Philanthropist and Collector Pamela J. Joyner (35)
    56. Museum Director and Curator Koyo Kouoh (56)
    86. Curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung (86)

Last year, there were a dozen black people on the list. In recent years, the group has been pretty consistent. In 2018, artists Adrian Piper and John Akomfrah and Swiss-born writer and curator Simon Njami were featured and are not included this year. Sarr is appearing for the first time on the 2019 list. Ndikung was on the 2017 list and is a re-entry this year.


From left, Koyo Kouoh is director and chief curator of of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, and Pamela J. Joyner is the sole collector on the list. | Courtesy Zeitz MOCAA and Photo by Linda Nylind


When the 2019 Power 100 list was released yesterday, Art Review stated that it was compiled in consultation with an international slate of 30 un-named artists, curators and critics. The magazine also noted that the list “continues to reflect a shift away from the traditional power hubs.”

ruangrupa is new to the list. The Jakarta-based collective is organizing Documenta 15 (2022). The nonprofit “strives to support the idea of art within urban and cultural context by involving artists and other disciplines such as social sciences, politics, technology, media, etc., to give critical observation and views towards Indonesian urban contemporary issues.”

The power of collective action in the art world is also represented with Decolonize This Place (19) showing up on the list for the first time. The activist group was among the most vocal calling for the ouster of Warren B. Kanders. The former vice chair at the Whitney Museum of American Art owns Safariland, a teargas manufacturer. His downfall has resonated as the patronage of British Petroleum (BP) and the Sackler family are rebuffed by a growing number of cultural institutions.

Goldin’s news making advocacy is similarly responsible for her No. 2 ranking. She founded Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, also known as P.A.I.N. The group regularly protests institutions that have accepted funds from the Sacklers, who own Purdue Pharma, the company that produces OxyContin. Meanwhile, #metoo (21), the “viral international movement denouncing sexual harassment and abuse of women,” dropped from No. 3 in 2018.

Dealer David Kordansky, who doubled his gallery space in Los Angeles earlier this year, concludes the list at No. 100. His roster features Rashid Johnson and Sam Gilliam and, more recently, Fred Eversley, Lauren Halsey, and Simone Leigh joined the gallery. CT


SEE FULL LIST 2019 Power 100


FIND MORE about the Restitution of African Culture report here, here, here, and here. Also check out this thorough review of the report

FIND MORE about how African officials responded to the restitution report and thoughts from artist Toyin Ojih Odutola and a historian and philosopher deeply familiar with African art


READ MORE about Fred Moten in The New Yorker


“Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem” documents the current traveling exhibition. “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” accompanied the artist’s 35-year retrospective and “Kerry James Marshall: History of Painting” was recently published. Fred Moten’s essays are collected three recent volumes “Black and Blur,” “Stolen Life,” and “The Universal Machine,” under the title Consent Not to be a Single Being. A new book, “All That Beauty,” features Moten’s poems. Published in 2016, “Four Generations: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art” documents the collection of Pamela J. Joyner and her husband Alfred J. Giuffrida. A new expanded version of the volume, coinciding with presentation of “Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art” at the Baltimore Museum of Art, is due later this month.


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