The 2012 ArtReview Power 100 list was revealed today and several key figures from the region have weighed in on the list.
Middle East picks up artworld momentum in Power 100 ranks
Power and art have been common bedfellows throughout history as rulers tussled to amass a cache of cultural treasures symbolic of their magnanimity.
Yet the notion of having power in the artworld itself is a relatively new phenomenon. The London-based publication ArtReview has charted this over the past 10 years and released an annual league table of curators, collectors, artists and museum directors.
The 2012 ArtReview Power 100 list was revealed today and several key figures from the region have weighed in on the list, a clear sign of the Middle East's presence in an increasingly global artworld.
Notable among these are the UAE representative Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, the president of Sharjah Art Foundation, who enters the list at 84th place; and Qatar's Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani, who has jumped to 11th place from 90th in 2011.
"The bigger story of this list is about a decentralisation of the artworld in general," says the ArtReview editor Mark Rappolt. "This year really feels as if there's no one place that's the centre of everything, whereas before you could still say it was America and western Europe, and this has made compiling the list much more difficult."
Rappolt sees power in the art world as the ability to exert significant influence beyond one's own borders. Sheikha Hoor, while maintaining Sharjah's influence, has also joined the board of directors for New York's Museum of Modern Art PS1, a prominent non-profit institution.
Qatar's Al Thani family may be bringing big-name artists to Doha and breaking records for great masters, having purchased a Paul Cézanne work for US$250 million (Dh918m) in February, but funding Damien Hirst's retrospective in London this year has, according to Rappolt, rocketed Sheikha Mayassa to the fringe of the top 10.
But power isn't just down to pocket: "The ArtReview list is very much about those influencing the kind of art that's being produced," says Rappolt. "Market forces play a role but are not the ultimate concession."
Pushing the role of art as a vehicle for social change and criticism is the other big strand connecting names on this list, such as the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei (3) and the Lebanese artist Walid Raad (77). Surprisingly, the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were jailed earlier this month, have even made the list, at 57, for "their foregrounding of freedom of expression in art".
ŸThe full list will be printed in ArtReview's November issue but is available online at www.artreview100.com
* Christopher Lord