The Power of the Arts List: The Most Influential People in the Arts
The past year has been one of the most transformative in the art world in a twelve-month period. A cooler market can only explain some of the overall change – although “it is a correction, it is not a collapse,” according to Guillaume Cerutti, chief executive of Christie’s, as quoted in the Financial Times. This year saw the purchase of the Armory Show and the Chicago Gallery by Frieze, continuing optimism about Asia in the face of a general downturn in the market and an art world still trying to understand where its institutions stand in the 21st century.
Endeavor, Frieze’s parent company, has paved the way for an effective fair-market duopoly involving itself and MCH Group, owner of the Art Basel fairs, and the merger of these entities makes them feel more powerful than ever. Most galleries have been complaining about “fair fatigue” for nearly a decade, because fairs are such a huge headache. They are expensive and require the small gallery staff to travel around the world at almost all times, coordinating the shipping of expensive artwork while they stand under the bright lights of convention centers—perhaps hungry because they went out for obligatory relationship-building drinks with local art collectors the night before.
But clearly artists are putting in enough work to support galleries, and galleries cannot afford not to. The latest Art Basel and UBS Art Market Report — the authoritative report on the art economy, as presented by Art Basel — said 35 percent of gallery sales in 2022 occurred at galleries, and dealers expect that to grow in the coming years. Frieze director Christine Messineo is on the Observer’s Arts Business Power list because of her organization’s rise this year, but you’ll also find James Murdoch there, whose decision to buy a third of the MCH group in 2020 looks smarter than ever. Art Basel also saw a changing of the guard this year, with Noah Horowitz replacing Mark Spiegler at the top spot and Bridget Finn now heading up the fair in Miami.
All of this is to say that whatever is happening in the art market right now, fair culture is here to stay. This is so true that Frieze rivaled itself last September, presenting its second edition of Frieze Korea at the same time as The Armory Show. Part of that has to do with a rising dollar and the fact that the Korean won will hit a thirteen-year low in 2022 — as low interest rates encourage collections. Several Western art galleries have recently opened in Seoul, including White Cube, Peres Projects, and Thaddaeus Ropac, which announced this year that it will double its space there. Barbara Gladstone has been there since 2021, and Philips also opened a new Asian headquarters in Hong Kong this year. Asian collectors were the talk of Basel in Switzerland, picking up some of the slack left by their Western counterparts.
Meanwhile, museums have continued to change their guard as they explore their place in a changing world. This trend toward existential questioning began sometime during the Trump administration, as various institutions were protested for, among other things, their proximity to dirty money. Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, remains the institution’s best ambassador as a concept, and she, Glenn Lurie and others at the helm of New York City’s best museums remain grateful to devoted patrons of the arts like Agnes Gund, Ronald Lauder and Michael Bloomberg. These are people who are rarely affected by the trends of the moment.
But museums, while working hard to do their best in an increasingly complex cultural landscape, remain sites of climate protests, which seem somewhat bizarre and arbitrary, surrounded by calls to return historical objects to their countries of origin. However, there are bright spots. A recent New York Times headline noted that “Women Increasingly Run the World’s Major Museums,” among them the National Gallery of Art (Kaywin Feldman), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Alexandra Soda), and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum (Melissa Chiu). ) and the St. Louis Art Museum (Min Jong Kim).
What happened this year? Patrick Radden Cave’s New Yorker profile of Larry Gaugessan seemed like an event in itself. Even the most immersed denizens of the art world probably only knew half of the tales contained therein, and this piece firmly crowned him king of the art world in its current form, raising many questions about his succession. The gallery’s board of directors, including COO Andrew Fabricant, was established last year and also includes Tom Hill.
Overall, it’s been a year full of ups, downs, and transformation led in large part by the people below.