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The 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World: 2014 Edition

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Don’t worry, Bear. You didn’t make the list. (via rebloggy.com)

While other art publications sing the praises of the rich and powerful, we like to look at those who are largely overlooked (or worse, exploited) in order to understand the real state of the art world and its discontents. So, here you have our annual assessment of those below the most powerful.

powerless20badgeAnd yes, we’ve finally unhitched the powerless list from the now predictable power rankings that clamor for our attention in the fall.

Here’s to hoping you’re not on it!

1 – Unpaid Interns: Yes, they’re still on this list, and they’ve even jumped 10 spots to take the lead. When respectable art publications, like the for-profit Artforum, have no problems blantantly advertising for unpaid internships, then we have a problem. Thankfully, the British Museum backtracked after it briefly advertised an unpaid position that sounded a lot like a real job. The awful stench of unpaid internships has contaminated every level of the art world, from for-profit galleriesart fairsartist’s vanity projects, well-endowed nonprofit museums (like Crystal Bridges), and even nonprofit publications like Brooklyn Rail, which barely pays anyone, depending on an army of free talent. This has to stop.

2 – Performance Artists: Still no market, eh? :(

3 – Undigitized Archives: The past year has seen a watershed of institutions releasing their digitized archives into the public domain for our viewing and scholarly pleasures. If your materials aren’t digitized and they’re locked behind a ton of fees, you’re being a cultural hoarder.

@TheodoreArt’s pic of adults with kids “critiquing” a Judd.
@TheodoreArt’s pic of adults with kids “critiquing” a Judd. (via)

4 – Parents: Keep your kids off the art!!!!!!!

5 – Purists: Marina Abramović’s Adidas commercial, Ryder Ripps’s OK Focus, Miley Cyrus’s five-foot bong and exhibition at the V Magazine office, DIS magazine’s DISown boutique at Red Bull Studios, Doug Aitken’s Station to Station with Levi’s … artist-celebrity-gallery-“critique”-corporate partnerships suggest that Ben Davis’s theory of full complicity with capitalism is here to stay. We used to just call it “selling out” and move on.

6 – Monogamous Artists: One gallery, one dealer, or one city is a bad sign for an artist. In the age of global saturation, when artists are expected to be ubiquitous, they can’t stand still. They need to spread themselves around — you know, play the field. Btw, how’s your Beijing or Berlin representation going?

tumblr_ndakiwJSTS1rqgjz2o1_12807 — Artworks: This year, if people weren’t punching artsnapping fingers off ancient statues for selfies, breaking an Ai Weiwei vase, trying to upstage it (link NSFW), or ignoring the art while they use it as a prop (looking at you Beyoncé and Jay Z) then they were taking things called #artselfies.

In other words:

@artfuckr Love your duck-face, lol!! Wait, is that a Serra behind you? #whoa #artselfie #arty #artsy #sculpture #serra #rustedsteel #menmakingart #shipyards #didsomeonegetkilledbyaserrasculpture? #museum #theworld #peopledoingtypicalthings #100intentionallyenvyprovokingdays #killmenow

8 – Artists Fighting Gentrification: What ever happened to artist Jules de Balincourt and company’s artist-owned studio project? Is anything happening at all? As 5Pointz is transformed from a graffiti hub to a bland condo perfectly perched beside MoMA PS1, the prospects for abating gentrification seem slim. Will neighborhood art communities in New York and other major cities have time to form and prosper before they’re forced to move on in what feels like the perpetual search for cheap rent? Or how about those artists who’ve worked to organize and fight developments, and then a more famous and accomplished artist comes by — with no connection to the neighborhood — to strategically change the conversation and allow the developer to do what he or she wants? Nothing seems to be working.

9 – Art Critics: A perennial favorite, art critics may have dropped a few spots, but they were still crushed this year by Jeff Koons in New YorkParis, and probably a dozen other locales where he was showing his baubles. Negative reviews are apparently meaningless to collectors, while art advisors and young artists certainly aren’t listening to warnings about the dangers of zombie formalism. At this point, can’t we just replace critics with Instagram anyway?

10 – Artists in War Zones, Occupied Territories, or simply “Arab”: You’d think an artist would be on top of the world if they were invited to show at the New Museum or to speak at New York University, but ask artist Khaled Jarrar, poet Amjad Nasser, or all the exiled Syrian artists, who not only have to cope with the harsh realities of war, a security state, or loss, but often also get pigeonholed into spokespeople for their community whether they like it or not. Have any conflict-related art we can show? And don’t bring your food to the Conflict Kitchen!

11 – Oscar Murillo’s Collectors: They can’t even stop themselves from crying at their own parties. Wait until the artist’s auction returns start to dip. As a friend told us during this year’s Miami art fairs: “No crying on the yacht!”

12 – Vivian Maier: As people continue to fight over her legacy and the copyright of her artwork, it’s only natural that our thoughts turn to the artist herself: what did she want? Sadly, we’ll never know, but we can only hope that her legacy is safe.

13 — Mid-level Art Galleries: Even though this a perpetual problem, the pace of closings appears to have accelerated. With DCKT and Dodge’s shutterings in New York, Perry Rubenstein’s bankruptcy in LA, and a wave of gallery closings in SF, we’re wondering who is next to fall prey. This phenomenon is also impacting spaces on the periphery, as we witnessed with various Bushwick galleries this year (including Regina Rex and Harbor)that were forced to abandon their Bushwick identities when they got kicked out of 1717 Troutman.

14 – Native Americans: After centuries of invasion, infection, dehumanization, massacre, exile, and humiliation, you’d think American Indians would have a slightly easier time controlling their symbols for sports teamsfashion labels, or impersonation. We guess not.

15 – Artists’ Foundations: Robert Rauschenburg’s estate is allegedly being plundered by its own trustees (they want to make $40,000/hr), and the perpetual limbo of the ART act suggests that artists’ foundations, which often provide grants and supports to other artists, won’t be seeing any of their multibillion-dollar auction market returns. Sorry, Bob. On the positive side, there was more of a chance of the bill passing this year (3%, according to GovTrack.us) than in 2012 (when it had a 1% chance), so that’s (very little) progress.

16 – The US Legal System: Sincere apologies from the art world for the hours and hours anyone had to spend listening to, recording, arguing, and debating the Knoedler case, the Perelman lawsuit, and dozens of other expensive arguments between rich people.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 1.41.14 AM17 – Creative Activists: How is it that protesters can get arrested for simply projecting a nonoffensive image on the facade of a nonprofit art museum on public land? Last September, three men associated with the now infamous Illuminator were charged with “illegal advertising,” and all of us were shocked. New York, like most US cities, selectively prosecutes “illegal advertising,” preferring to go after artists and graffiti writers while largely ignoring corporations and businesses doing the same thing. This double standard tells you what city leaders value more.

18 – Laborers in the Persian Gulf States: Gulf Labor, artist Molly Crabapple, and others have been at the forefront of challenging and reporting on the abysmal labor conditions of migrant slaves, er, workers, building the newest cultural outposts in the UAE (the Louvre, the Guggenheim, NYU) and Qatar. Ninety human rights groups are calling for reforms. We’re waiting.

19 – Museum Vandals: The infamous “Prada Marfa” vandal Joe Magnano got into a lot of trouble after he offered his artistic reaction to Elmgreen & Dragset’s installation in the Texas desert (he was forced to pay over $11,000 in damages). Then there were the two vandals at the Jeff Koons show at the Whitney Museum. Maybe we’re just getting used to them, but vandals (for better or worse) appear to be losing their ability to grab headlines the way they used to.

20 – Female Artists: Did Art Basel Miami Beach depress the hell out of you because of the lack of art by women at the main fair? Yeah, us too.

A snippet of Obama's apology letter to Prof. Ann Collins Johns (via)
A snippet of Obama’s apology letter to Prof. Ann Collins Johns (via)

Honorable Mentions

– Art Historians: If your job wasn’t already underappreciated enough, leave it to US President Obama to make an awkward comment about art history as something our economy may not need at the moment. Thankfully, Obama apologized after art historian Ann Collins Johns called him out, but then Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio made it clear he thought art history was an undesirable degree. Ugh.

— #Postinternet Artists: Those not selected by Lindsay Howard for the Paddle ON! auctions with Tumblr and Phillips: you need to come up with a new name for whatever it is you do, losers.

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