Tate's Nicholas Serota named the most influential art figure in the world

Director tops Art Review magazine’s Power 100 list

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The Independent Culture

He’s the gallery director who made Tate Modern the most visited contemporary museum in the world. Now Sir Nicholas Serota has been named the most powerful figure in the global art world in Art Review magazine’s Power 100 list.

The elevation of Sir Nicholas, director of the Tate museums and galleries, who surges five places to top the influential publication’s annual survey, confirms London’s central standing within the art world.

Home to a number of world-class galleries and institutions, the capital, which entertained wealthy collectors at the Frieze Art Fair last week, has supplanted New York according to some commentators.

Sir Nicholas Serota, 68, has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch but has only now taken the top spot. The 26-member international jury recognised Sir Nicholas’ role in expanding the Tate’s global influence.


Art Review said Sir Nicholas had risen to the top in recognition of “the way in which Tate has, since the launch of Tate Modern, consistently deployed an international – rather than a national – perspective on art production.”

“Tate has come to epitomise almost all the elements of the current ‘global’ art world, where the distribution of art is arguably now more important than its production.

“Tate Modern remains the most visited modern and contemporary museum in the world and the organisation has partnerships from Seoul and Sydney to Berlin and Oman.”

Under Sir Nicholas, director since 1988, the Tate punches "above its weight in the global network of influence.”

Where commercial “mega-galleries” seek to “raise young artists on pedestals”, an exhibition at the Tate “is often considered the seal of approval for artists, and collectors want institutional approval, too”.

The Tate influences “world academia” and was praised for exporting its expertise to help similar institutions worldwide. A £215m extension, due for completion in 2016, is intended to “redefine the museum for the 21st century”.

Sir Nicholas’s successes over the past year include Tate Modern’s exhibition of Matisse: The Cut-Outs, which he personally co-curated. It attracted 562,622 visitors, a record for the institution.

Praised for his relentless energy, Sir Nicholas says his greatest achievement has been to introduced so many members of that public to modern and contemporary art.

The Tate director beat German gallerist David Zwirner, and Iwan Wirth, a Swiss gallerist who has opened a new arts and education complex in Somerset, to the top spot.

Marina Abramović, the Serbian performance artist, is a new entry at five, following her marathon 512 Hours residency at the Serpentine gallery, during which she interacted with visitors who queued for hours to obtain entry. 

Abramović  arrives ahead of Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones, the directors of the Serpentine, and the controversial American artist Jeff Koons, who soars 49 places to number seven in recognition that his “collaborations with and co-options of commerce and celebrity are today’s currency”.

Last year's list was topped by Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the sister of the Emir of Qatar, who heads the country's museums authority which spends around one billion US dollars a year developing galleries, sponsoring film festivals and public art. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei took top spot the year before.

A rival power list was produced by the Artlyst website, a London project set up by artists and galleries. Artlyst claimed that the Art Review 100 is “erroneous and tired, with a criteria based on ‘sheer financial clout.’ It is dominated by commercial gallery owners, big-buck artists, and misguided auctioneers”.

Grayson Perry, who unveiled a vase inspired by Chris Huhne’s downfall for his National Portrait Gallery exhibition, topped the Artlyst Power top ten.

The Art Review's top ten

  1. Sir Nicholas Serota: Director, Tate Galleries
  2. David Zwirner: US contemporary art dealer and gallerist with showrooms in London and New York.
  3. Iwan Wirth: Swiss owner of Hauser & Wirth international gallery which has opened new branch in 17th century Somerset farmhouse.
  4. Glenn D. Lowry: Director Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York
  5. Marina Abramović: Perfomance artist whose Serpentine “endurance” piece played to 120,000 visitors.
  6. Hans Ulrich Obrist and Julia Peyton-Jones: Directors of the Serpentine Galleries, with Hans Ulrich Obrist also the initiator of numerous international art projects and exhibitions
  7. Jeff Koons: Broke the auction world record for a living artists when his sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange) went for $58.4m at Christie's, New York.
  8. Larry Gagosian: Established gallerist with 14 venues worldwide putting on museum quality exhibitions and a new Mayfair space set to open.
  9. Marian Goodman: 86 year-old US gallerist who represents Steve McQueen & Gerhard Richter is about to open her first London venue.
  10. Cindy Sherman: Influential US photographer and film director brought a career retrospective to Europe in 2014.

Artlyst Power top ten

  1. Grayson Perry: Turner Prize-winning artist known for his work in ceramics who delivered 2013 Reith Lectures for Radio 4
  2. Clare Lilley: Director of programme at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which was voted 2014 Museum of the year.
  3. Sally Tallant:Director of Liverpool Biennial 2014
  4. Richard Tuttle: post-minimalist artist, Tate Modern Turbine Hall commission 2014
  5. Steve McQueen: Turner Prize-winning video artist, Oscar-winning filmmaker for 12 Years A Slave
  6. James Lingwood and Michael Morris: Co-directors of Artangel since 1991, responsible for building Artangel into a significant international commissioning and producing organisation.
  7. Anita and Poju Zabludowicz: Founded the Zabludowicz Collection in 2007, a space for exhibitions, commissions and residencies.
  8. Gillian Wearing: Conceptual artist, shortlisted for 2014 Netherlands Vincent Award for appreciably influencing the development of contemporary art in Europe.
  9. Anselm Kiefer: Painter, sculptor subject of Royal Academy’s 2014 Autumn exhibition
  10. Iwona Blazwick: Director of art at the Whitechapel Gallery, former head of exhibitions and displays at Tate Modern, and chair of Cultural Strategy Group, London.