It’s our favorite time of year. Why’s that you ask? Well, Art Review recently published their hilarious thoughtful pandering art world power list that starts with a dictator Qatari royal and continues through a who’s who of people — including an artist who “doesn’t make a thing” — who must appear like they have power from the London-based perch of the Art Review editorial board.
It’s a fun day (for some) when people are ranked, since the art world loves to feel on top. Well, here is our effort to highlight people, places, and things who we think deserve more attention than the rich, powerful, and well-connected. Without further ado, the infamous Hyperallergic Powerless 20!
1 — Critics, This is a particularly bad year for critics. Not a single entry on the Power 100, while print media keeps firing their full-time art critics. It’s so bad, some critics don’t even bother putting their names on scathing takedowns of multi-million-dollar shows since it really doesn’t matter.
2 — Artists making “self-portraits” instead of “selfies,” Nothing says antiquated artisan more than a skilled self-portrait. Try an unskilled selfie that reflects on the democratization of the image in the contemporary era by empowering the masses to portray themselves … oh, wait, then why do we even need artists? Never mind.
3 — Identity-Politics Curators, Between Adrian Piper pulling out of the show Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art and the artists of Jewish descent who declined to participate in the Jew York exhibition at Zach Feuer and Untitled galleries, it looks like curators who want to group or explore artists based on identity have hit hard times.
4 — “Same-ish” Art and “Modest Abstraction” Painters, Art is about being different, right? Well, you probably don’t think so if you visited the art fairs — “Oh, look, it’s another neon work saying something witty!” Whether you’re making “crapstraction,” “found stuff on tables” art, or something else that fits neatly into the white box, our advice: try harder because you seem powerless and unable to break free of the straightjacket of the commercial desires of the art market.
5 — Detroit Institute of Arts, The DIA’s director, president, and CEO Graham W.J. Beal and his board, not to mention DIA staff, members, and lovers, really must be feeling powerless as their fate seems dependent on the financial games of others. This is an institution that seems to have done a pretty good job at ensuring that the museum, in the midst of a city facing huge economic challenges, continues to make their world-class art collection available and accessible to the public. They even challenged the old axiom that Americans hate taxes and got the surrounding counties to pony up to help them survive. Well, now, in the midst of a city-wide bankruptcy, the DIA is probably looking up at the vultures circling overhead, ready to swoop down on them at the first sign of weakness.
6 — Non-Celebrity Artists, Marina Abramović! Jay Z, James Franco, Lady Gaga, need we say more? We are all powerless to stop Marina’s ascension into the realm of the absurd — or, as we like to call it, the realm of “late Elvis” — or are we? We’re tired of this cult of celebrity driving conversation, but there are no signs that it’s going anywhere any time soon.
7 — Brick and Mortar Galleries, With art fairs growing and multiplying, plus online auctions and secondary market shops (not to mention Amazon art), physical galleries are starting to look like an indulgence … except those pesky art fairs still require a physical space to ensure you a plum spot. When are they going to go post-space and just start accepting brands™?
8 — OWS, For the second year in a row, Occupy Wall Street makes the Powerless list, though they’ve moved down one spot. The non-party is over as surviving working groups ponder whether or not to keep the OWS tag in their names. Once a powerful symbol of unity against income inequality, it’s now a zombie tag. This breaks our hearts! Maybe it’s still too soon to see the true impact? #fingerscrossed
9 — Brutalism, Maybe it’s fitting that this brutally named architectural movement is being throttled today (here are seven buildings facing the wrecking ball), but for those of us who like it rough, this is a tragedy.
10 — Art Students (including those at Cooper Union), For racking up the most debt, coupled with relatively low earnings. In the case of Cooper Union, the students are still fighting an incompetent administration, and it takes a lot of strength to keep fighting institutional power like that.
11 — Interns, #obvi Someday we, society, will find a way to get you paid so that rich kids aren’t the only ones who get all that free experience, but that day ain’t now so get your parents to wire you some money because we’re going to Miami for the fairs.
12 — Political Artists, Between the various assaults by critics (e.g. Ben Davis) and fellow artists (e.g. Steve Lambert/Stephen Duncombe), political artists’ claims are being gutted as largely symbolic exercises or magical thinking that produces little or no change, and may even negatively impact society by becoming an aesthetic end point, not a beginning. Rich people love some vaguely political work on the walls to suggest they can still feel … something. And lest we forget art shows like this, which scream powerlessness at its most extreme. Ahem, SOMEBODY at Hyperallegic didn’t get the memo, but we don’t worry about crushing our contributors’ feelings! Political art?! LOL!!!!!!!!
13 — Artists Riffing on Any Decade Besides the 1970s, If it doesn’t look like re-heated Modernism, then you’ll have to wait at least five years.
14 — Kunsthal Art Gallery, which is now bereft of “Tete d’Arlequin” by Pablo Picasso, “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune” by Henri Matisse, “Waterloo Bridge” and “Charing Cross Bridge” by Claude Monet, “Femme devant une fenetre ouverte, dite la fiancee” by Paul Gauguin, “Autoportrait” by Meyer de Haan, and “Woman with Eyes Closed” by Lucian Freud. And it’s all thanks to Radu Dogaru, his accomplices, and his “helpful” mom with her stove. At least there’s going to be a movie.
15 — Freedom of Speech and Human Rights Activists in Russia, If you’re not a straight, white Oligarch in Russia — preferably Russian Orthodox Christian — with a direct line to Putin, there’s a good chance you’re on this list or in prison. If you’re not, then say hi to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in Sibera. :(
16 — Negative Criticism, This one is making a re-entry from our 2010 list, because any real critique of an artwork or show is now just undermined as “trolling” (see Matthew Day Jackson or Angel Otero). We used to want real non-PR reviews of shows. Now those are just seen as “mean.” And it appears that this isn’t only a problem in the field of contemporary art, since the new book editor of Buzzfeed says they won’t be publishing negative reviews of books. Yes, none … umm, wow.
17 — Yan Yinhong, This Chinese artist was performing a work about sexual violence against women in the city of Hai’an, north of Shanghai, and she was assaulted through her entire performance by men who “kissed and groped her, grappled her to the floor and thrust their hands up her skirt, the audience making only halfhearted efforts to help as they stood by and recorded the incident with phones and cameras.” No words.
18 — Artists Evicted from Industry City and 3rd Ward, The rent is too damn high, and there’s no sign that this problem is unique to NYC or that things are set to change. Let’s face it. Most people in the art world rent their homes, offices, and studios. We’re fucked — and apparently responsible for screwing ourselves by renting in the first place. Then again, you’re more fucked if you have a mortgage you can’t afford! Remember the mortgage bubble? Oh Jesus, what’s the solution again?
19 — Shamed Knoedler Art Dealer Ann Freedman, No one believed her when she declared “I Am the Central Victim” of the $80 million art forgery scandal at the once venerable Knoedler Gallery. I mean, if you believe that then I have a Jackson Pollock that I can sell you for a deep discount, but don’t worry, it’s real. You can ask Ann about the provenance.
20 — Photojournalist John H. White, Usually when you win a Pulitzer Prize in your field you generally think your job is safe, but not Mr. White. The award-winning photojournalist was in shock when the Chicago Sun-Times fired all their photojournalists (28 people), including himself back in May. And just in case you think that’s a fluke, the same thing happened in Georgia a few months later. People are starting to wonder if this might be the beginning of a scary trend. With 530 million photographs being uploaded to the internet every day, you can see how photojournalists might feel powerless when there’s always someone there before you ready to snap and share a pic of the latest news for free. Btw, if you were wondering what your newspaper looks like when you fire your photojournalists, check this out.
Honorable Mention — Art About or By Animals Other than Cats, The cat-domination of the art world continues. Hell, they’re even feted (ANNUALLY!) by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Dogs get no love, neither do chimpanzees, all this means cats are king.
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