Ai Weiwei is top artist on ArtReview Power 100

China's Ai Weiwei is the top-rated artist on Art Review's annual list of the most powerful figures in the art world, but curators and gallery directors take most of the highest spots.
Ai Weiwei, shown outside his Beijing studio earlier this year, is No. 3 and the top artist on the Art Review Power 100 list. (Associated Press)

China’s Ai Weiwei is the top-rated artist on ArtReview magazine’s annual list of the most powerful figures in the art world, coming in ahead of contemporaries such as Germany’s Gerhard Richter and artist collective e-flux.

Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot has joined the list for the first time, landing at number 57.

Like Ai, who placed third, the band members caught the eyes of the world for taking a stand for freedom of expression in their homeland and paying a huge price for it. The three Pussy Riot members were imprisoned earlier this year after staging an anti-Putin protest. One member has since been released

Power 100 Top 10

  1. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, curator.
  2. Larry Gagosian, gallery owner.
  3. Ai Weiwei, artist.
  4. Iwan Wirth, gallery owner.
  5. David Zwirner, gallery owner.
  6. Gerhard Richter, artist.
  7. Beatrix Ruf, museum director.
  8. Nicholas Serota, museum director.
  9. Glenn D. Lowry, museum director.
  10. Hans Ulrich Obrist & Julia Peyton-Jones, curators.

Source: ArtReview

Ai was atop the 2011 list after he was imprisoned for 81 days. His detention focussed the attention of the world on China’s human rights record. This year, he is in the spotlight again as the subject of the documentary Ai Weiwei Never Sorry, with his major retrospective show touring North America and an upcoming exhibit at the Venice Biennale.

American artist Cindy Sherman (No. 13) retains a strong position, as do performance artist Marina Abramovic (No. 35) and Britain's controversial artist Damien Hirst (No. 41).

Ranked at number 12 is e-flux, an artist collective that includes Russia’s Anton Vidokle, Mexico’s Julieta Aranda and American Brian Kuan Wood. The group bought the internet suffix .art, which would allow them to control all applications to host websites on this domain.

Curators, admins most powerful

But the artists took second place to powerful curators and gallery owners on the 2012 Power 100, with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of influential international art show Documenta 13, topping the list.

ArtReview said it was" not in the habit" of placing a curator atop its annual list, but argued the American curator had created something exceptional with Documenta 13, an exhibition that "was allowed to emerge through the work of the artists" and yet still seemed connected.

Other powerful figures among the top 10 include New York gallery owner Larry Gagosian, Tate director Nicholas Serota, Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry and Swiss gallery owner Iwan Wirth.

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (No. 60) and London artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen (No. 59) are among the artists in the top 50.

The list also includes collectors such as Maja Hoffmann and Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar, who heads the Qatar Museum Authority and whose family bought Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players for $250 million US in 2011.

The rankings are determined by an international jury, which weighs "a combination of influence over the production of art internationally, sheer financial clout (although in these times that’s no longer such a big factor) and activity in the previous 12 months."