A bigger splash: London rivals NY as four Britons make top 10 of world's most powerful art figures

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It is, on the face of it, an unlikely partnership: an Old Etonian and a hustling artist whose father abandoned him at the age of 12. Now, however, largely thanks to a diamond-encrusted skull, the two have been named among the 10 most powerful people in the international art scene.

Jay Jopling, the art dealer who runs the White Cube Gallery in Hoxton, London, and his star exhibitor, Damien Hirst, this week burst into the top 10 of the Power 100 list of the art world's most influential people, produced by ArtReview magazine. In all there are four Britons in the top 10; the other two are Sir Nicholas Serota, who runs the Tate galleries, and the collector Charles Saatchi, who was responsible for making Hirst's career.

The strong British showing confirms London's emergence as a rival to New York as capital of the international art market. On Friday, Sotheby's October sale of contemporary art in London raised nearly £35m. Also this past week, buyers and artists descended on the capital for the Frieze Art Fair, which has grown into a major cultural event in only four years.

Jopling is at number eight in the list, moving up from last year's 19. Hirst, who became the world's highest-selling living artist in the summer when his Lullaby Spring sold for £9.6m, climbed five places from last year's 11 to number six in the list.

The duo's sale this year of For the Love of God could help to explain Jopling's position. The work, a platinum skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds, was exhibited at White Cube earlier this year with a £50m price tag, making it the most expensive single work of art by a living artist. George Michael showed interest, only to decide he couldn't afford it. It then sold for the full price to a mystery consortium of which Hirst was a member.

Francis Outred of Sotheby's said: "Damien is a global figure now. His work has had a pivotal role in revitalising contemporary work around the world."

The world's most powerful art figure is still Christie's owner François Pinault; second is American gallery owner Larry Gagosian.

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