Earlier this month, Art Review announced this year’s Top 100 most powerful figures in the art world so it was only natural that we updated our more infamous list too. (Here are links to our 2009 and 2010 incarnations.)

It was a hard year to figure out who the powerless actually were — there were just too many of them — but don’t worry, we gave it a shot.

Presenting the 2011 edition of “The Top 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World!”

Left to right, Sotheby’s art handlers on strike, an iLandscape by David Hockney, pole dancers not making art.

1 — Sotheby’s Art Handlers — What does an auction house that’s had a great year catering to the 1% do? Cut out some of the 99%, of course. And that’s what Sotheby’s did in early August when they locked out unionized art handlers and brought in scabs. Keep it classy, Sotheby’s.

2 — Artists Making Work on an iDevice Who Aren’t David Hockney— The old guy has cornered the market, give up.

3 — The Last Artist in the World to Ask His or Her Artist Friends to Back their Kickstarter Project — Everyone is poor and fine artists are even poorer, so why are you asking everyone for donations. So you discovered Kickstarter, yes, you’re the only one.

4 — LA Artists Born Before 1970 Not Included in the Ginormous Pacific Standard Time Art Festival — Ouch.

5 — Martin Luther King, Jr. – Most important black leader in US history rendered as a constipated white man on the National Mall. Another slam dunk for design by a panel of experts.

6 — Art Writers — “Exposure” doesn’t pay the bills. With some wealthy art websites expecting bloggers to write for free, art magazines slashing their rates and mainstream media outlets ditching full-time art critics, this is a career path for masochists.

7 — All These Newfangled Art Print Shops — I mean how many posters can people “collect.”

8 — Hosni Mubarak’s Official Portrait Painter — After decades of honing his likeness of the modern-day Egyptian Pharoah, one friggin’ protest and he starts back at square one. Sad for a guy who probably thought he had a job for life.

9 — Work of Art — No one in the art world cares. The novelty has worn off. This isn’t the fast track but a diversion.

10 — Anybody in the Developing World — Our suggestion is you move to North America, Europe or even China.

Left to right, Martin Luther King, Jr in whiteface, people at a mail art show, Blu mural getting buffed.

11 — Jack Goldstein — So, you thought you were going to get a retrospective at LA’s MoCA? Nope, dude, you just got ditched for Deitch’s big graffiti/street art show. Thankfully, the Orange County Museum of Art has got your back … now, if only people actually went there.

12 — Artists Dependent on Wall Street Banker Patrons — Occupying Sheepishness?

13 — Pre-post-studio Mono-medium Artists — Fastest way to watch a jet-setting curator fall asleep.

14 — Political Street & Graffiti Artists — It was cute when you were starting out, still better when you were sticking it to The Man, but when it comes time to show in a museum, seems like you have to check your politics at the door.

15 — Curators Without Make-a-statement Glasses to Tell Them Apart — Otherwise just a herd of wan, black clad folks dropping bad jargon, pseudo-political theory and shit they heard from their therapist.

16 — Mail Artists — You know when they say that an artist is mailing it in? Yeah, they’re talking about you. And if the USPS closes down, we just don’t think UPS, FedEx or courier artist has the same ring to it.

17 — Pole Dancers — Y’all aren’t artists, according to the law, well, unless you’re doing it in a gallery or on a supercollector’s yacht.

18 — The American Folk Art Museum — Maybe there’s something strange in the notion that people would pay to see amateur-ish artists. Then again, until this place was about to close and a New York Times critic made a desperate plea for it to stay open, most of us barely knew it existed.

19 — New York City’s Public School Art Teachers – The Teacher’s Choice program, which was funded by the city, once reimbursed art teachers $220 dollars a year for classroom supplies and materials. But no more as the money was cut in the past budget cycle. Now teachers are forced to pay-out-of-pocket — if they can afford it. Greatest City in the World? Meh.

20 — Young Art Historians – Did you know why tenured is in the past tense? Because it’s a relic of the past, stupid! Aspire to be a career adjunct instructor that forks over $500 a pop to reproduce images in scholarly articles that seventy people (including your mom) will read.

The Editors

The Editors divide their time between Kinshasa, Brno, Goa, and Tikrit. They are fabulous and they will always be at the party you weren't invited to.

22 replies on “The 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World: 2011 Edition”

    1. “post-studio” is artists who make work outside of a studio, like conceptual art. If you’re pre-post-studio, you’re basically IN the studio all the time, which is like so passe. 

  1. The only reason Ai WeiWei was top on the power 100 is because they felt sorry for his imprisonment. Plain and simple.

    1. Agreed. Interested in participating in my student loan debt project new project? http://mygreatrecession.com/

      1. Actually I was able to escape student loan debt from art school because I attend Hunter College, pay in-state tuition and work full time. I started my masters late and was able to see what happened to my friends once they graduated with art degrees. My BA from NYU is another story, but that’s almost paid off. I like your project though. I think there should be more criticism on student loan debt by artists. Actually, if you know of any other projects, please tell me.  

    1. Not to speak for them, but I was under the impression that it implied that nobody is paying attention to artists in the developing world, and therefore the FUNNY JOKE was that they should move if they wanted to be noticed. JOKES.

      But keep up with that righteous sense of misplaced outrage, everyone finds it very endearing.

  2. It is an act of passion, to create something from your own imagination, whether or not it is widely recognized or produces income. As long as there is passion there will be art. I think that implies that there will be art no matter what adversity tries to suppress it.

  3. Wow.  Great job!  Although I disagree with this statement: “Maybe there’s something strange in the notion that people would pay to see amateur-ish artists.” Seeing Henry Darger at the Folk art museum is the best NYC outing possible.

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