Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Tilted Top Ten (or whatever) Lists

Ever notice how "top 100 in the world" lists are heavily slanted to their country of origin? This is understandable, I suppose, but it does make me wish for one that convinced me of its objectivity.

We have, for example, Art Review's Power 100, which, originating in the UK, seems to have an unusually high number of Brits on it. Then there's ARTNew's Top 200 collectors, which, although they've gone more global as of late (adding Ukraine's Victor Pinchuk; Mexico's Carlos Slim Helú, and Qatar's Sheik Saud bin Mohammad bin Ali al-Thani to their list in 2008), still remains dominated by Yanks. Then today comes news that Germany's Kunstkompass' annual ranking of the world's Top 100 Contemporary Artists is topped by the following ten: Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Bruce Nauman, Sigmar Polke, Maurizio Cattelan, Olafur Eliasson, Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra, Mike Kelley, and William Kentridge, respsectively. "Hmmm, " my synaptic connectors go. "Hmmmmmmmmm."

Artinfo notes how depressingly masculine that list is, but when you see that the list includes "28 artists from Germany, 25 from the U.S., 12 from the U.K., four from Italy, and four from Switzerland," you also get a sneaking suspicion that this Anglo Saxon bent is at least subconsciously reflective of a geographical bias. And when you compare this list with Art Review's list you get a truly nonsensical correlation.

Take the top 10 artists (only) listed on the Power 100:
  1. Damien Hirst
  2. Jasper Johns
  3. Jeff Koons
  4. Gerhard Richter
  5. Richard Prince
  6. Takashi Murakami
  7. Richard Serra
  8. Bruce Nauman
  9. Cy Twombly
  10. Ai Weiwei
Still depressingly masculine, but also suggesting, at the very least, that being a top artist is no guarantee of power. Moreover, Baselitz doesn't even appear in the Power 100.

Of course, it's easy to dismiss all such lists as popularity contests (and for the most part I enjoy them first and foremost as entertainment), but wouldn't it be nice to see a list that seemed more globally balanced at this point?

Labels: art world


Anonymous Marissa Neave said...

Yes, these lists have strong white-male biases, and I agree that they are mainly for entertainment, but I think they also paint a rather grim portrait of the state of art, still, over a century beyond the start of modern times. There's one thing we can probably assume -- people of every gender and ethnicity are making good art. The question is, who is buying/showing/collecting/editorializing it? It's one thing to critique these lists, but in my view they are a culmination of a much deeper issue that permeates the entire 'system' of art.

6/04/2009 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

apropos of your recent shows about art world/market/statistical analysis.

I'd like to see a chart cross referencing who collects these works with who owns publications that publicize these works with who sells these works and finally, where they meet an greet within ten feet.

I'm sure you'd find it totally revelatory and then we could all collectively turn our backs on the spectacle, and watch the little people in their ant-like struggles.

Poor little people, stuck on the production line, be it making web pages, stacking boxes or shoveling shit - how fecund these little people!

THere is an air of vapidity to the power 100 - they make art not about life, but about the safe antiseptic air surrounding big ideas - death, vacuums, space.

In this day and age their "critique" amounts to mere celebration.

Fie! Take Richard Serra's boat hulls and tag them up with Cy Twombly! Teach Cy to write instead of scribble! Make Takashi watch Rashomon until his eyes bleed and then send this warlord against the drab fortress of Jasper Johns!
Cacophany! Symphony!

How great it is to be unbranded, unsealed, free of the market, powerless, infinite! I see stars! Scream little popes, scream.

6/04/2009 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Suggestions for “a list of the unlisted”? (Gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, nationality, category of practice or political affiliation not withstanding.)

6/04/2009 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

liste du refusées?

6/04/2009 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

How about the most influential women in the art world? (Roberta Smith has gotta be up there.)

6/04/2009 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc said...

What did you mean by "a more objective list"? How do you arrive at such a thing as an "objective" list of the top 100 artists in the world? What would be the objective criteria on which that choice would be made?

I agree that these lists are biased geographically, but this is far from being the only way (gender, success, prices on the secondary market) in which they stray off the sacred path of objectivity.

6/04/2009 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous MATTHEW ROSE said...

Following on the liste de refusées

An exhibition with no refusals, all work accepted, no jury:

Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery
NYC, NY Opening Sept 10.

You are your own influence.

Matthew Rose/Paris, France

6/04/2009 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger C. L. DeMedeiros said...

I truly hope Sonia Sotomayor gonna do something about it the lack of ladies in this brunch

Jokes a part.
I've been reading those list of collectors and artist for many years
Why I'm not surprise?
The game is made by the ones who play hightest bets, I suppose.

6/04/2009 09:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Schroeder said...

I agree C.L
Im sorry but I disagree on the anglo/geography slant. These lists would be, unfortunately, the same anywhere.. It is one Jerry has been trying to address lately with MOMA. Women artists have been completely shafted. Men are not better artists than women they have just been given more critical attention and space in institutions that matter. I suppose there are many reasons for this but not one that I buy.......

Lisa Schroeder

6/05/2009 12:49:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

Lists are for sinking ships

6/05/2009 01:33:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

Now let's see how these list makers want to define 'power' or 'top' or 'contemporary'.

I doubt any would agree.

This is all advertsing, and what Henry Ford said about statistics goes quadruply for advertising.

6/05/2009 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

I find those sort of lists to inform but are hardly definitive. More weight than a quiz in Cosmo or the stars in People magazine, and less than the Forbes richest people index (because Forbes ranks people by a measurable quantity - money).

I wouldn't even try dispute who is on the list - they are clearly influential. However ... the dialogue becomes who is on the list, who isn't, why, and why the demographics on the list are or are not to people's liking. Not much about art, but a lot on the business of art.

So ... more important than a Cosmo/People story, less important than the Forbes list of wealthy people, but all in all distracting. :)

6/05/2009 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous untitled said...

How come I dont see any top artists lists for los angeles? everything in this country is new york based. new york is so cliche its not even funny. artists should simply stop moving there. they should think more creatively and draw their audiences locally, wherever they are. if artists drained individual "art centers" of their prominence by not constantly moving to those places, we'd have a more realistic scene that reflected the specifics of each area.

why would anyone move to n.y., where you have to pay 10,000 a month rent to live in a hole in the wall in manhattan, or choose instead crime-infested and depressing places like brooklyn or the bronx is beyond my understanding.

i guess most artists think being depressed is their obligation.

6/05/2009 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous untitled said...

ok, there are more men famous artists than women, but there still seem to be just as many (if not more) women in power in the artworld than men.

take a look at the heads of galleries, museums and non-profits!

women have more in the artworld than in the real world. people seem to not notice that.

6/05/2009 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Interesting thought as I perused the comments - Lists are by their very nature exclusionary. It is more about who is left off the list than the brief flicker of recognition of those that are on the list.

Let's turn this on it's head. Assume there are millions of people "in the art world" - how would the world survive without the 100 on the list? Now, flip it around. If those 100 people were the ONLY people in the art world - would it survive?

Silly old list! ;)

6/05/2009 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Lists get attention. Lists get people talking about the people on them. Lists sell magazines. And lists are completely self serving.

I never thought I'd see myself write this, but I agree with Zippy, who says, "I'd like to see a chart cross referencing who collects these works with who owns publications that publicize these works with who sells these works and finally, where they meet an greet within ten feet." Me, too.

And I heart Lisa, who says: "Men are not better artists than women they have just been given more critical attention and space in institutions that matter.

6/07/2009 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe male artists are shown more because collectors buy more art by male artists and then donate them to museums. You can't force collectors to by art by women or force people to like art from other geographic areas or art by people of certain genders/sexual persuasions. I am sure there are amazing musicians and actors from all over the world, but we mostly here about the big Hollywood names unless you REALLY study international cinema. This is life people. Thin about all those poor musicians and actors not getting picked to be in the next Hollywood blockbuster or get to play in good clubs for lots of money. This is what happens. It is called capitalism. I really don't think museums consciously keep women artists out. Certainly there are MANY prominent women artists showing in Chelsea and SELLING. So maybe in the next few years this situation will change.

6/07/2009 02:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Recently I saw a list of the 100 most expensive artworks with Pollock at no. 1, and you know just how these things are flawed: what does that make of the Monal Lisa? or the Michelangelo Chapel?

If it means that when the art is too great, it doesn't reach
a sale figure because nobody ever sells it, than God help me
make just that. Let the others have their power 100.

I'm more curious about who wins the Venice Art Biennial
or large events like that.

Cedric C (still surprised that ai weiwei is at 10, that's a long
way baby)

6/08/2009 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger George said...


That's an interesting link. I think you overlooked the sales dates on the 100 paintings. These were paintings sold at auction and all sales were after 1988. Once a painting makes it into the museum it's off the market - priceless

6/08/2009 12:18:00 PM  

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