Amid mounting speculation that the days of traditional art dealing are numbered, Iwan and Manuela Wirth have today been named the world’s most powerful people in contemporary art in 2015. It is only the second time that a dealer has been ranked at the top of ArtReview’s Power 100 list since it began in 2002. Larry Gagosian was number one in 2004 and 2010.
Other dealers in the top ten include David Zwirner, who is in third place (down from second place last year), and Gagosian, who is ranked sixth (up from eighth in 2014).
The Wirths’ newfound position—in 2014 the dealers were ranked third—is partly due to what they have done “to change the model of selling and promoting art”, according to a press release from ArtReview. This includes the opening last year of their rural English outpost, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, and the impending launch of the museum standard Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles in March.
The editor in chief of ArtReview magazine, Mark Rappolt, describes Hauser & Wirth as a “relatively global business that operates in a bespoke manner”. The gallery successfully combines the “institutional operations” of the art world with “the lifestyle of collecting”, he says.
Only two artists make the top ten, and neither have particularly strong markets. The Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei takes the second spot, while the Serbian-born, New York-based performance artist Marina Abramovic is in at number eight. Jeff Koons, the most expensive living artist, has been bumped from seventh to 14th this year. Meanwhile, museum directors and curators, mainly from the UK and US, fill five of the top ten spots.
“This year’s list is more about people who seek to push art beyond its conventional art world borders, look at people like Ai Weiwei, Theaster Gates [number 30] and Trevor Paglen [83rd],” Rappolt says. “But at the same time it’s no secret that the art world runs on money, and so perhaps no surprise that people who can generate money should be on top.”