These Are the 10 Most Powerful People in Art

Last week, ArtReview released its 2016 roster of the 100 most influential people in art. The top tier includes many familiar faces, with Hans Ulrich Obrist moving up three spots to steal the coveted number one position. Others, such as Tate figureheads Nicholas Serota and Frances Morris, successfully maintained their place in the fickle world of art and culture. Read below for a closer look into the leading 10, and head over to ArtReview for the entire list.

Don’t forget to read our list of the art world’s most powerful women, available here.

Hans Ulrich OMost powerful people in art: Hans Ulrich Obristbrist
Hans Ulrich Obrist, photo by Roe Ethridge

1. Hans Ulrich Obrist

“I don’t wake up in the morning and think about Franz Kline.”

As artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, Hans Ulrich Obrist takes the number one spot in this year’s list. Obrist’s influence transcends the artistic community, as the curator even starred in a campaign earlier this year for Italian fashion house Brioni.

Most powerful people in art: Adam Szymczyk
Adam Szymczyk, photo by Gina Folly

2. Adam Szymczyk

“I am not interested in an exclusive or first spectacular presentation, but I would like to show the entire Gurlitt estate in the political and aesthetic context of Documenta 14.”

At the helm of Germany’s largest contemporary art exhibition, Adam Szymczyk makes a triumphant move from number 16 all the way to number two. The Documenta 14 director has a busy year ahead of him as he continues to organise the show’s 2017 exhibition in Greece next spring.

Most powerful people in art: Iwan and Manuela Wirth
Iwan and Manuela Wirth, photo by John Phillips (Getty)

3. Iwan & Manuela Wirth

“It’s not about making a trillion dollars. It’s about enthusiasm for great works of art.” – Manuela Wirth

Serving as the art community’s Will and Jada, Iwan and Manuela Wirth are the power couple gallerists taking over the world. Though the pair no longer reign at the top like they did last year, securing two spots is still better than one – right?

Most powerful people in art: David Zwirner
David Zwirner, photo by Dirk Eusterbrock and courtesy of David Zwirner, New York & London

4. David Zwirner

“I want to be No. 1 or No. 2, right? Isn’t that natural? No. 1!”

David Zwirner is one of the most powerful art dealers, with an empire that spans New York, London and – soon enough – Hong Kong.

Most powerful people in art: Sir Nicholas Serota and Frances Morris
Left: Sir Nicholas Serota, photo by Hugo Glendinning. Right: Frances Morris, photo by Hugo Glendinning

5. Nicholas Serota & Frances Morris

“I would love to think that Tate Modern could not only be the world’s most popular contemporary and modern art museum, but one of the best local museums in the country.” – Frances Morris

The Tate’s outgoing director and new Tate Modern director, Nicholas Serota and Frances Morris maintain their shared spot at number 5. Morris’ new role is a history-making career move for the museum, as she is the first female to head the museum as artistic director.

Most powerful people in art: Larry Gagosian
Larry Gagosian, photo courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

6. Larry Gagosian

“I believe in the popularising of art. But when you get right down to it, it’s a bit of an elitist world.”

With 16 galleries spread across the globe, Larry Gagosian’s rise to the top is largely a result of his commitment towards providing a steady stream of museum-quality exhibitions. Recent artists include Carsten Höller, Alberto Giacometti, and Yves Klein this year alone.

ArtReview powerful people in art: Hito Steyerl
Hito Steyerl, photo by Tobias Zielony, courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery (New York)

7. Hito Steyerl

“An economy based on love ends up being an economy of exhaustion. It would be great to have a little bit less love, a little more infrastructure.”

The only female artist to make the top 10, Hito Steyerl’s documentary film works explore the globalised relationship between technology and media. A Berlin-based creative, the German artist also works as a professor of new media at UdK.

Most powerful people in art: Adam D. Weinberg
Adam D. Weinberg, photo courtesy of Whitney Museum

8. Adam D. Weinberg

“New York is indeed a city of great museums, and each museum uniquely and meaningfully contributes to the rich cultural landscape.”

Museum curator and director, Adam D. Weinberg helped realise the Whitney’s 2014 renovation. In an effort to maintain the museum’s original objectives, Weinberg dedicates most of the institution’s resources towards highlighting living American artists.

Most powerful people in art: Wolfgang Tillmans
Wolfgang Tillmans, photo by Spilios Gianakopoulos

9. Wolfgang Tillmans

“Clubbing and sex have great potential to go stale and become boring and repetitive.”

The first photographer and non-English winner of the Tate’s Turner Prize, Wolfgang Tillmans is constantly breaking barriers with his diverse imagery. The artist has most recently segued into the music industry, with one of his latest tracks appearing on Frank Ocean‘s visual album “Endless”.

Most powerful people in art: Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei, photo by Goo Yuan

10. Ai Weiwei

“Berlin is a little scruffy. I like that I can walk down the street and nobody pays me too much attention. Well, that’s started changing recently and now people want selfies and to shake hands. The Germans have a very firm grip; I think I’ve broken all the bones in my hand!”

Combining art with social activism, Ai Weiwei creates large-scale works that criticise global views on democracy and human rights. Weiwei’s interest in politically themed works has resulted in many publicised altercations with the Chinese government in particular.


The complete ArtReview Power 100 list can be viewed here

Fashion Editorial, Am Alexplatz, Am Alexplatz, Wilkosz & Way
Fashion Editorial: Am Alexplatz