Every year, ArtReview drops its epic list of 100 most important people in the art world, unleashing a rippling media wave of whys, whats, and WTFs. This year, the inclusion of Pussy Riot at #57 — a move that further legitimizes the group as an activist performance art troupe and not just “a punk rock band” — made a few headlines. It also seems that Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek has become the art world’s new darling, crowned at #65, immediately following his provocative key note speech at the Creative Time Summit. And then, of course, there was that collective sigh about how this subjective stacking of curators, dealers, and artists doesn’t really mean anything. Unless, of course, there are glaring gaps. Here, our two cents about who was missing.
The first, of course, is MoCA Director Jeffrey Deitch, dropping from last year’s #48 to not making the list at all. The omission seems not only glaring but intentional, almost vicious. Granted, the aftereffects of Deitch’s move from New York have been tumultuous. While the museum has been having various financial issues, as many cultural institutions have this year, many argue that his aggressively populist curating approach has turned off visitors. 2011’s much-discussed Art in the Streets exhibit has come and gone, and this year, the crowning gem of Deitch curating may have been that James Franco exhibit. Alright. Maybe there was a bit of miscalculation here about balancing the mainstream appeal of Hollywood’s most art-ambitious handsome weirdo and maintaining art world cred. Maybe, as waves of critics were just turning against Franco’s many arty endeavors, Deitch innocently got caught in the riptide. Perhaps it was a little overconfident and showy. But we’re not sure if it warranted the complete drop from the list. After all, there’s nothing wrong with trying to feed art to the masses outside of the immediate art world, unless the list has no concern for those folks.
Brush that dirt of your shoulder, Deitch! The more we think of it, the more we realize that this list is just an internal industry memo. We asked Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic and he seems to concur on its narrow views: “I think they omitted any street artist, which shows more about what their version of the art world is than anything else.” Indeed. Just this week, Doyle’s New York Auction House held the first all street art, all graffiti auction in the US, followed by a similar event in LA. Over the last few years, street art sales have boomed, and aside from its financial importance as an art product (sigh), arguably, it’s a field that should have at least some representation on the list. What about Judith Supine, Swoon, REVS, COST, or Blu? Perhaps no one specific made a very grand splash this year, but it wasn’t like Banksy — who some would argue is the frontrunner of street-to-museum progress — made the list last year, when he almost won an Oscar for Exit Through the Gift Shop. Maybe the field of street art and graffiti isn’t up to par to ArtReview’s standards, but it speaks to many in and outside of the art world more deeply than most modern painting.
Photo credit: Artinfo
“Not a single broadsheet critic made the list,” Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City tells us. “This parallels the diminishing venues for art critics at major magazines, but frankly, I think the increasingly popular idea that art critics have little influence is misguided. Expertise is needed, and in the art world, that’s more true than ever.” And although we can argue extensively about the value of art criticism — or, at the very least, exposure — writers and editors are actually banned from inclusion on the list. We can see how it can be a little awkward for ArtReview to judge the relevance of other publications and their critics, but the exclusion of any cultural commentator leaves some fairly wide, gaping holes. Why not Jerry Saltz? His constant presence and relative Internet-savvyness make him very relevant, especially when compared to his old school peers. When else can “regular people” participate in an engaging conversation with a professional art critic just by popping by his Facebook wall?