From ERC-721 to Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins, ArtReview’s Power 100 list demonstrates that the digital disruption of the art world has made its mark this year. At the same time, individuals from collective entities, as well as initiatives and ideas across diverse networks and regions, performed strongly in their rankings.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
The ongoing digital disruption of the art world made its presence loud and clear in ArtReview’s 2021 edition of Power 100—an annual ranking of the most influential figures in the art world—with NFT standard ERC-721 taking the top spot and making history as the first non-human entity on the list.
Announced on 1 December, Power 100 includes newcomers from the tech industry, such as Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg who made his foray into the metaverse, the infamous Winklevoss twins behind popular NFT auction site Nifty Gateway, and MetaKovan, aka Vignesh Sundaresan, the NFT collector who bought Beeple’s EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS for US$69 million at Christie’s earlier this year.
James Murdoch rose from 79th to 70th place, perhaps because not only is his investment company Lupa Systems the anchor shareholder of Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group, but also for his interest in the digital art market. This year, Murdoch invested in Blockchain.art, an online marketplace that allows collectors without cryptocurrency accounts to buy NFTs from art galleries.
ArtReview is aware of the contentiousness of the new tech-related entries, from Facebook’s role in the US Capitol Hill riots and its adverse impact on children and social cohesion, as well as Reuters’ report of the new NFT created by MetaKovan amidst various questionable dealings. Nonetheless, for better or worse, the digital world made an undeniable impact on the international art scene in 2021. This is especially so in the case of NFTs, which, within a single year, became a focal point in the highly polarising crypto culture war, a “mainstream obsession for many household names in tech, media, politics, art, and finance,” and a dominating presence at traditional auction sales.
At the same time, this year Power 100 seemed to grasp the art world’s constant push and pull between its obsession with materiality, along with its acknowledgement of the power of ideas and initiatives across collective networks and regions.
This juxtaposition of contradictory forces is blatantly obvious in the number-two placement of American anthropologist Anna L. Tsing, author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015), right after ERC-721. In fact, Tsing is ranked above ruangrupa—the Jakarta-based art collective curating next year’s documenta—and American social practice installation artist Theaster Gates.
Asian personalities with a strong position in the ranking seem to perform well in the latter aspect as well. Christopher K. Ho, Claire Hsu and John Tain from Asia Art Archive made their inaugural entry at 12th place, thanks to an eventful year filled with regionally encompassing public education and outreach activities, as well as new archival collections such as a Mobile Library in Nepal, archive of Green Papaya Art Projects, Manila Artist-Run Spaces Archive, and more.
Prateek & Priyanka Raja, gallerists and co-founders of Experimenter, climbed from 86th to 76th place because of their similarly inclusive programmes. Earlier this year, they organised an annual curators’ hub online with a diverse range of international speakers including Palestinian artist Emily Jacir, who helps run Bethlehem-based project space Dar Jacir.
Ranked 24th, Adrian Cheng’s contribution to the art world is once again commended by ArtReview. As CEO of Hong Kong’s New World Development and Founder of K11 Group and K11 Art Foundation, Cheng ardently initiates international artist exchanges, exhibitions, and numerous programmes to support China’s contemporary art scenes, millennial culture, and emerging artists. Also, ArtReview is collaborating with K11 Art Foundation to present the group exhibition “Breaking the Waves”, which is set to open on 17 December in Hong Kong.
On the other hand, traditional museum personalities did not do well in ArtReview’s ranking this year, as shown in the “significantly fewer” western museums on the lists, and the likes of Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum, falling to 75th place from last year’s 46th .
Mark Rappolt, Editor-in-Chief of ArtReview, acknowledged the marked shift in the list, telling The Guardian that this partly “reflects the reality that (museums) are no longer driving the dialogue about contemporary art so much as reacting to it.”
If nothing else, ArtReview’s Power 100 provides an inkling of the rising forces that might shape the future, be it accelerated and polarising digital disruptions, or collective action, or initiatives and ideas across diverse networks and regions.