The Most Influential People in the Art World Today
The women and men on Observer’s 2023 Business of Art Power List have their fingers on the pulse of the art market, and they’re unflinchingly optimistic. In the face of market contraction, ongoing uncertainty about the role of major cultural institutions and everything else that’s happening in the art world, these power players find inspiration in everything from art’s philanthropic potential and growing reach to the rapidly changing narratives around what art is and who it’s for. In short, they’re the people wielding outsized influence on art’s present and its future.Read More
The past year has been one of more transformation than usually occurs in the art world in any given twelve-month span. The cooler market can only account for some of the sweeping change—though “it is a correction, but not a collapse,” according to Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti, as quoted in the Financial Times. This year saw the purchase of The Armory Show and EXPO CHICAGO by Frieze, continuing optimism about Asia in the face of general market retraction and an art world still trying to understand the place of its institutions in the 21st Century.
Frieze’s parent company Endeavor set the stage for an effective fair market duopoly encompassing it and MCH Group, owner of the Art Basel fairs, and the coalescence of these entities make them feel ever more powerful. Most galleries have been bemoaning “fair fatigue” for about a decade now because fairs are a big headache. They are expensive and necessitate a gallery’s small staff traveling the world at pretty much all times, coordinating the shipment of expensive artworks while standing under the bright lights of convention centers—possibly hungover because they went out for mandatory relationship-building drinks with local collectors the night before.
But artists are clearly making enough work to support the fairs, and galleries can’t afford not to do them. The most recent Art Basel and UBS Art Market Report—the authoritative report on the art economy, as presented by Art Basel—said that 35 percent of gallery sales in 2022 happened at fairs, with dealers expecting that to grow in the coming years. Frieze’s director Christine Messineo is on Observer's Arts Business Power List because of her organization’s ascendancy this year, but you’ll also find James Murdoch there, as his decision to purchase a third of the MCH Group in 2020 looks ever more shrewd. Art Basel also saw a changing of the guard this year, with Noah Horowitz replacing Marc Spiegler in the top spot and Bridget Finn now heading the fair in Miami.
All this is to say that whatever else is happening in the art market at the moment, fair culture is here to stay. This is true to the extent that Frieze even competed with itself this September, staging its second iteration of Frieze Seoul at the same time as The Armory Show. Part of that has to do with the raging dollar and the fact that the Korean Won hit its lowest value in thirteen years in 2022—low interest rates encourage collecting. Several Western galleries have recently opened in Seoul, among them White Cube, Peres Projects and Thaddaeus Ropac, which announced this year that it would double its space there. Barbara Gladstone has been there since 2021, and Phillips also inaugurated a new Asian headquarters in Hong Kong this year. Asian collectors were the talk of Basel in Switzerland, picking up some of the slack left by their Western counterparts.
Meanwhile, museums continued their changing of the guard as they probed their place in a changing world. This trend toward existential questioning began sometime during the Trump administration, as sundry institutions were protested for, among other things, their proximity to unsavory money. Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, remains the best ambassador for institutions as a concept, and she, Glenn Lowry and others at the head of New York City’s top museums are still grateful to loyal patrons of the arts like Agnes Gund, Ronald Lauder and Michael Bloomberg. These are people seldom swayed by the trends of the moment.
But museums, while working hard to do their best in a complex cultural landscape, remain sites of climate protests, which feels pretty weird and arbitrary, and are beset with calls for repatriation of historical objects to their home countries. There are bright spots, however. A recent New York Times headline pointed out that “Increasingly, Women Are Running the World’s Great Museums,” among them, the National Gallery of Art (Kaywin Feldman), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Alexandra Suda), Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum (Melissa Chiu) and the Saint Louis Art Museum (Min Jung Kim).
What else happened this year? Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker profile of Larry Gaogisan felt like an event in and of itself. Even the most embedded art world denizens probably only knew half the anecdotes contained therein, and the piece firmly crowned him king of the art world in its current form, raising plenty of questions about his succession. The gallery’s board, including COO Andrew Fabricant, was established last year and also includes Tom Hill.
All in all, it’s been a year packed with ups, downs and transformation driven in no small part by the people below.
- Josh Baer
- Ngaire Blankenberg
- Michael Bloomberg
- Andrew Fabricant
- Kaywin Feldman
- Bridget Finn
- Katherine E. Fleming
- Larry Gagosian
- Nicole Sales Giles
- Barbara Gladstone
- Arne Glimcher
- Thelma Golden
- Aaron Richard Golub
- Marian Goodman
- Brett Gorvy
- Michael Govan
- Ken Griffin
- Agnes Gund
- Sandy Heller
- Katy Hessel
- Noah Horowitz
- J. Tomilson “Tom” Hill
- Max Hollein
- Tony Karman
- Ronald Lauder
- Todd Levin
- Glenn D. Lowry
- Christine Messineo
- James Murdoch
- Nicholas Olney
- Laura Paulson
- Ronald Perelman
- Jorge Pérez
- Emmanuel Perrotin
- Joshua Rechnitz
- Legacy Russell
- Larry Silverstein
- Darren Walker
- Daryl Wickstrom
- Manuela and Iwan Wirth
- David Zwirner
- Art advisor, Founder of The Baer Faxt newsletter and The Baer Faxt+
What would the art market be like without Josh Baer? “As a kid, Robert Smithson or Clement Greenberg would come over to the house for dinner, or we’d go to see a show with Jasper Johns,” the son of minimalist painter Jo Baer, now in his late 60s, remembers. Josh Baer dabbled in the artist-run nonprofit and gallery world in the 1980s before launching the fax-distributed newsletter Baer Faxt in 1994. He enabled $500 million in transactions, counts David Zwirner as a close friend—Zwirner was his first subscriber—and whispers in the ears of industry leaders.
Baer still puts out his weekly art market intelligence report of insider round-ups of auction results, gallery openings and artist signings, but with more than 10,000 readers and a run of 30 years, his newsletter has become the springboard for other ambitions. Starting in 2021, the original newsletter service has grown to encompass a series of podcasts and digital content under The Baer Faxt+, an auction database (including buyers and under-bidders) and tailored, on-demand art advisory—priced at $3,000 per year plus a two-tiered commission. Next year, Baer is looking forward to expanding the art advisory membership program. "In what may potentially be a diminished art market climate for some temporary period," he tells Observer, "we're especially looking to expand in Asia and to a younger clientele." It's still a must-have for those who want to be in the know.
- Former Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Founding Director of the Institute for Creative Repair
Ngaire Blankenberg was at the helm of the National Museum of African Art for two years before her abrupt departure last May. She had ambitious plans for the institution that touched upon thorny yet timely issues—in particular, the restitution of wrongfully acquired art objects. Her appointment in 2021 came in the wake of calls for systemic change in the cultural sector, and Blankenberg’s objective was twofold: to reposition the museum internationally with new partnerships with Africa-based institutions while keeping younger audiences in mind. She led the museum’s ethical return policy and put it into practice with the removal of Benin bronzes from display and their return to Nigeria.
“If we are still committed to changing museums for the better (which I am), it's important to have a clear idea as to where the resistance lies and how it manifests,” she told the Art Newspaper. She’s now working in the art and heritage space with a new South African-based initiative: the Institute for Creative Repair. “I am looking forward to hitting the ground running with my new initiative and the work we are doing to ensure reparative restitutions on the continent,” Blankenberg tells Observer. “We are bringing together the public sectors, the 'art' and 'heritage' worlds, artists, designers, scholars, philanthropists and traditional healers to revitalize public spaces for healing and joy.” And on top of that, she has set a path for others to follow on restitutions, however sinuous that road may be.
- Philanthropist, Arts Patron, 108th Mayor of New York City
“I’ve always believed that culture attracts capital, and as cities re-build from the pandemic, the creative sector can be a powerful force for revitalizing neighborhoods and bringing communities together,” Michael Bloomberg tells Observer, and he puts his money where his mouth is. Twenty years in the making, the 129,000-square-foot Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC) opened in September at the World Trade Center, and Bloomberg has been a driving force behind the revitalization of Lower Manhattan overall and specifically a leader in this project, donating a personal contribution of $130 million (he gave a similar amount to the Shed, supporting Hudson Yards development).
Bloomberg became PAC NYC’s chairman in 2020 and helped raise the visibility of the center as well as propelling new energy into its fundraising efforts. The space is a “beacon of potential” that will no doubt significantly influence Downtown’s scene. This involvement is in addition to his other roles—Bloomberg is also chairman of Serpentine Galleries—and the arts program of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which supports public art in dozens of cities across North America, local art organizations and art internships for students. That bit of philanthropy is behind major culture-defining commissions, including the Met’s Rooftop.
- Chief Operating Officer at Gagosian Gallery
Is he Larry Gagosian’s successor? In the New York Times, Gagosian, who re-hired him in 2018, calls Andrew Fabricant a “great strategic thinker.” For Fabricant, it was a return home after leaving the gallery in the 1990s. At the helm of operations during the pandemic, Fabricant had to navigate decisions across the multiple countries where the mega-gallery operates. Gagosian’s unofficial number two tasked with overseeing all aspects of the gallery’s business, he sits on the new board that Gagosian established in 2022 as one of the few internal members, signaling possible leadership changes (his spouse, Laura Paulson launched Gagosian Art Advisory in 2019). Fabricant is well-respected in the industry, as a seasoned art dealer with extensive networks, and in the looming Gagosian succession plans, he will no doubt have a key role to play.
- Director of the National Gallery of Art
The board elected Kaywin Feldman to the National Gallery of Art in 2019, making her the institution's first female director. She joined from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where she doubled the institute’s attendance, opened its doors to community engagement via free memberships and established a Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts. She also added new galleries for African art and expanded the institute to feature contemporary art. Under Feldman's leadership at the National Gallery, Evelyn Carmen Ramos was named chief curatorial and conservation officer in 2021—the first woman of color in this role. In 2022, Feldman led the repatriation of a Benin bronze to Nigeria (a first), together with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. She firmly believes that practices are radically evolving, stating several years ago to the Art Newspaper, “It’s been a landslide change in collecting policy, procedures and ethics.” Considering the size and weight of the National Gallery of Art, Feldman will likely influence significant change on this issue and others.
- Director of Art Basel Miami Beach
Bridget Finn took over Art Basel Miami Beach in September, filling a two-year vacancy. She will be based in New York, and her role is new at Art Basel, signaling an internal reshuffle. She previously worked in galleries (Reyes|Finn, Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery, Anton Kern Gallery) as well as on curatorial projects. She’s also a board member of Independent Curators International, where she served as director of strategic planning and projects. Finn co-founded the collaborative curatorial space Cleopatra in Brooklyn in 2008 and Art Mile Detroit in 2020, which brings together dozens of galleries, nonprofits and other institutions to showcase art in the city. Finn will lead the 2024 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach, a high note of the global art calendar—and Art Basel’s only U.S. fair. “The show is at the physical and cultural juncture of North and South America. It is hard to overstate its importance,” she told Artnet upon their announcement of her appointment.
Katherine E. Fleming
- President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust
Katherine Fleming, a climate-conscious NYU scholar of Mediterranean culture, civilization and history (and provost since 2016), joined the Getty Trust as President and CEO in 2022. In that capacity, she oversees 1,400 staff members; the Trust’s strategic, programmatic and operations priorities that encompass Getty's philanthropic work (over 9,000 grants totaling $490 million since 1984); research; and training programs, along with the two-location museum. Under Fleming's leadership, the Getty awarded grants amounting to $17 million to Pacific Standard Time, an arts event that has brought more than 50 SoCal institutions together since 2011, marking a three-fold increase since its last round of grants. Now rebranded as PST Art and shifted to a quinquennial cycle, its next edition, “Art & Science Collide,” is scheduled for September of 2024 and will feature more than 800 artists and 50 exhibitions, partnering with Frieze Seoul and Frieze London on commissions, as well as other institutions next year.
“Based on what our partners are cooking up, it is going to be a mind-blowing array of projects and exhibitions exploring that theme from all sorts of angles,” Fleming tells Observer, adding that her “broader goals in the cultural sector have to do with building strong partnerships, looking at pressing questions from multiple perspectives and enabling the power that’s harnessed when you have lots of different types of brains working together on big questions.” Indeed, PST Art will engage with themes encompassing environmental justice, A.I. and Indigenous Futurism, elevating SoCal’s art ecosystem.
- Founder and Owner of Gagosian Gallery
Larry Gagosian has built an empire. The New Yorker devoted a lengthy profile to him this year, painting a compelling picture of how the art dealer turned celebrity has shaped the art world. His company revenues are estimated to generate $1 billion annually, and he leads 300 staffers in 19 galleries across seven countries, while retaining 100 percent ownership. He represents many of the greatest artists of our time and their estates—more than a hundred. His galleries mount museum-quality shows; his latest Frieze New York booth honoring Nan Goldin’s works was riveting and showed no sign of him or his gallery slowing down. If Larry sneezes, the art market catches the flu. Rumors of an LVMH acquisition swirled last year before being dismissed just as he established a board of directors composed of internal and external members. For all his chutzpah, the clock is ticking for Larry’s succession plans—he reigns at 78 years old without a designated heir, meaning there’s a lot at stake.
Nicole Sales Giles
- Vice President and Director of Digital Art Sales, Christie’s
When Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5,000 Days—an NFT work minted exclusively for Christie’s—was sold by the auction house for $69 million in 2021, Nicole Sales Giles was business lead. And when Christie’s launched an NFT gallery and virtual auction room using Ethereum’s blockchain—Christie’s 3.0—in September of 2022, Sales Giles was also behind the venture. She has helped the auction house navigate an evolving contemporary art space, positioning Christie’s as a proponent of NFTs and breaking ground when it became the first major art auction house to host on-chain sales.
Never mind the crypto winter, Sales Giles oversees this rapidly changing field for Christie’s, assuming the digital and NFT market will continue expanding in size and acceptance. She educates traditional collectors on NFTs (Christie’s hosts the annual Art + Tech Summit) and is introducing an NFT-native community to featured emerging artists. To her, NFTs make sense when technology is part of the art or creating value, but she acknowledges tokenizing art doesn’t necessarily work for all projects. As such, Sales Giles has positioned the auction house as a pioneer, establishing partnerships with leading artists and curated sales, and driving increasing interest from collectors, creators and watchers. “In 2024, I’m looking forward to collaborating with inspiring artists on groundbreaking projects—presenting extraordinary new art directly to collectors via novel storytelling, while still capitalizing on the traditional benefits of a global auction house,” she tells Observer.
- Owner of Gladstone Gallery
Barbara Gladstone has been in the business for more than 40 years and has previously compared art dealing with parenting in how it requires nurturing growth and talent. A pioneering woman gallerist, she now represents some of the hottest and most recognizable contemporary artists in the world, including Keith Haring, Shirin Neshat, Wangechi Mutu and Ugo Rondinone. The arrival of art dealer Gavin Brown reinvigorated Gladstone’s gallery with his roster of artists, and she has expanded into Brussels, Los Angeles and Seoul. But don’t mention becoming a mega-gallery, because that’s not in the cards. “We do not need an outpost in every city, like a retail shop. Rather, my gallery remains attuned to the granular movements and energies that best serve artists and the spirit of their intentions in a localized and nuanced way. I still think of it as a small operation built solely on relationships and the hard work of getting better at what we do,” she told Artnet in 2020. Gladstone proves that one can be big while thinking small.
- Founder and Chairman of Pace Gallery
Sixty years after its founding, mega-gallery Pace’s expansion continues, with a 70,000-square-foot, eight-story space in Chelsea in 2019, the surprise opening of a new gallery in Berlin this year, and plans for a Tokyo outpost in 2024. Though he stepped down as CEO in favor of his son Marc in 2011, Arne Glimcher remains active as Chairman and involved in global shows: “I look forward to experiencing new art that takes me to the edges of perception and being astonished by the continuing practices of the mature artists I love," he tells Observer.
In 2022, at age 84, he decided to open his own gallery in Tribeca related to Pace: Gallery 125 Newbury, a 3,900-square-foot space named after Pace’s original Boston address. With an attention to hands-on curatorial endeavors and around five shows annually, Gallery 125 Newbury is Glimcher’s creative outlet—a return to his roots. “I always wanted to be the director of MoMA. So this is my little modern art museum,” he told the New York Times. It’s never too late to experiment.
- Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum
As we eagerly await the reopening of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Thelma Golden has been thinking about art spaces of the future and reimagining the presence of the museum outside its walls, partnering with other organizations and venues to maintain its flagship offerings, including the artist-in-residence program. “Physical space is complex because it’s attached to our relationship to ownership, autonomy, community development and economic equity. It was important for us to acknowledge what had happened in the building—that the space was a place,” she told DOCUMENT. Golden, who was the 2023 recipient of the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize—the first institutional leader to receive the award in its 30-year history, is interested in piloting new ways for the Studio to be in the community without its physical site until the new purpose-built, six-story building designed by Sir David Adjaye in the cultural beat of 125th Street opens (expected in 2024 upon substantial completion, after some delays). It’s going to be a big year for Golden and the Harlem arts scene, given both the anticipation and the Studio’s institutional significance.
Aaron Richard Golub
- Art world attorney
Aaron Richard Golub made a name for himself representing high-profile celebrities such as Gisele Bundchen and Donald Trump, but he’s been described in particular as the art world's Johnny Cochran. Golub's notoriety comes from his work on cases such as the contested $25 million art collection in the Amon divorce (Golub represented Tracey Hejailan-Amon) and Steven A. Tananbaum’s suit against Gagosian Gallery and Jeff Koons LLC (he represented Tananbaum). He sued David Zwirner on behalf of collector Craig Robins in 2010 and art dealer Judith Hess over unpaid fees for a Monet in 2015 (in a suit later withdrawn). As the Nahmad family’s attorney, he defended the billionaires’ claims to a Modigliani painting amid suspicions of a Nazi loot. Golub has been George Condo’s lawyer for a while and, as such, helped him fight counterfeits. He also represented the interests of an unnamed collector in a lawsuit against Andre Sakhai last April over the contested ownership of an Anna Weyant painting, which will be closely watched. Never one to shy away from controversy, Golub is likewise described as a “longtime fixture in the art world” and certainly wields outsized influence in his way.
- Founder and CEO of Marian Goodman Gallery
Marian Goodman, described by the New York Times as “art’s quiet matriarch,” commands respect with grace. She’s been in the business since 1977 and has seen it all—from humble exhibitions to the age of mega-galleries. She invests in her artists for the long haul. “People spend their lives waiting to be invited by Marian,” Goodman artist William Kentridge told Artnet. Under her loyal care, art is the center. “Marian’s very deliberate and the amount of work you put into a piece, she tries to meet you there with how she considers how to handle that work,” said Julie Mehretu, also represented by Goodman. That personal, genuine touch pays off in relationships, which increase the visibility of her artists and help secure large commissions as well as institutional placements. There’s a reason why her booth is a cornerstone of major fairs. This year, she announced her gallery's move to Tribeca, joining other flocking galleries, just as she’s opened a new outpost in Los Angeles. Goodman may be one of the more private art dealers, but she’s also one of the most influential.
- Co-Founder of Lévy Gorvy Dayan
Brett Gorvy was the ‘G’ in LGDR, the two-year-old blue-chip Upper East Side gallery founded by four prominent art dealers that split in the summer after Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn’s departure. Gorvy joined the LGDR venture with gallery associate Dominique Lévy by way of two decades at Christie’s, where he authoritatively led Post-War and Contemporary Art. At the auction house, Gorvy played an instrumental role in headline-generating, record-breaking sales, which included a Picasso for $179 million and a Modigliani for $170.4 million, positioning Christie’s as a market leader. At the time, his parting was read as evidence of growing ties between auction houses and art dealers. Rebranded Lévy Gorvy Dayan, the gallery now operates on E 64th Street (with exhibitions in London, Paris and Hong Kong, plus advisory services), and Gorvy remains active and well-followed on Instagram, showcasing artworks and writing. “It’s about collaborating to move culture,” Gorvy said of the partnership.
- Chief Executive and Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
There have been many changes at LACMA since Michael Govan joined in 2006 by way of the Dia Foundation and elevated the museum to its current place as a leading West Coast institution. Under his plans for renovation and expansion, which have included the acquisition of 35,000 objects for the permanent collection and doubled gallery space in programs, visitors have increased twofold to reach upward of 1 million annually. In 2023, the museum surpassed its $750 million fundraising goal for a major overhaul in an outreach effort Govan helped personally drive. The museum also launched a collaboration with Snap Inc., LACMA x Snapchat: Monumental Perspectives, which engaged local artists and tech specialists to create new murals and monuments (narrated via Augmented Reality stories) of and to the historically marginalized.
That community-facing element is central to Govan, who upholds the museum’s civic and public program mission. Art is made in LA, and it is also shared. "We have an exciting slate of exhibitions to look forward to in 2024,” he tells Observer, “from a major Ed Ruscha retrospective and a Simone Leigh survey to ambitious exhibitions at the intersection of art and science that are part of PST Art. In the later part of the year, expect the scaffolding covering the new galleries to be removed, revealing a new vision for LACMA's art that's more accessible, more equitable and more exciting."
- Philanthropist, Collector, Founder and CEO of Citadel
A major donor to the Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and more, mega-collector Ken Griffin has made some headline purchases over the years. A $300 million de Kooning, a Pollock for $200 million, a Basquiat for $100 million, a record for Barnett Newman ($82.4 million) and a rare copy of the first printing of the final text of the United States Constitution for $43.2 million, among other acquisitions.
Part of his art collection had been on show at the Art Institute, but when Griffin’s hedge fund moved to South Florida, following him and his family, he took his collection along. The Florida native moved high-visibility pieces to be hosted at West Palm Beach’s Norton Museum of Art as the institution embarked on an expansion plan, which included the new 59,000-square-foot Kenneth C. Griffin Building completed in 2019 (Griffin donated $20 million, and Norton’s directorship is also named after him). His relocation to Florida could presage more arts patronage there as his goodbye gift to Chicago included a donation of $130 million to 40 local art, science and education organizations. He has donated more than $2 billion to charity in his lifetime, and this year he established Griffin Catalyst, a new civic engagement initiative encompassing his philanthropic and community impact efforts, including support for strong and vibrant communities with accessible public spaces and inspiring cultural institutions.
- Collector, Philanthropist, Chair of the Art For Justice Fund
Since founding the Art for Justice Fund in 2017, a “decarceration” fund for artists, Agnes Gund was instrumental in awarding more than 300 grants totaling $125 million, in addition to holding exhibitions (“Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” at MoMA PS1 in 2020-2021) and related policy work. The time-limited fund, which was sunset this year, supported cultural projects that reimagined a society without prisons and mass incarceration. In addition to criminal justice reform, Gund is also a strong advocate for reproductive rights, and she is known for selling art from her private collection to fund her philanthropic pursuits—famously liquidating a Roy Lichtenstein to set up the Art for Justice Fund and then selling another painting in support of reproductive rights organizations.
“I am most looking forward to people continuing to realize that the art world is not just the art market,” Gund tells Observer. “There has been momentum building as people continue to embrace the transformative power of art—art changes minds, creating the compassion and empathy necessary to drive social change.” Gund has climate change on her radar, and more of her collection could go toward fundraising for high-impact initiatives in the wake of Art for Justice Fund’s successful model. “She would say that there’s less art to sell,” Helena Huang, Art for Justice’s project director, tells Observer, “but she’ll continue to leverage everything that she has.”
- Art Advisor, Founder of the Heller Group
Sandy Heller, “possibly the biggest art adviser in the world” according to a Financial Times’ source, has seen some of the world’s most magnificent masterpieces and collections. He has a discerning eye and a wide network, advising Roman Abrahamovic and Steven Cohen. Heller played a part in the famed auction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold at Christie’s in 2018 for $450 million, and Steven Cohen’s much-talked-about loan of Damien Hirst’s shark to the Metropolitan Museum. But that was just one of hundreds of institutional loans Heller helped facilitate. He’s been in the business for two decades and treasures the awe of great artworks and the discussions with clients. “What I love about art is, we’re all students here—if you’re a viewer of art, you’re a student. And art is the teacher,” he said in an interview.
- Author, Art Historian
We can’t write art history without the women who shaped it, but for a long time, women were left out of the narrative. Guardian columnist and art historian Katy Hessel has made honoring history’s women artists the core of her work. The Instagram page (@thegreatwomenartists) she founded in 2015 has more than 350,000 followers, and this year, she released The Story of Art Without Men, a book that radically re-assesses the canon and sparked many long overdue conversations. “I was so fed up with women being seen as the wife of, the muse of, the daughter of, the sister of,” Hessel told Vogue.
The lens she all but created forces us to reconsider names, connections and the value ascribed to artists who have often been relegated to ‘muse’ or left out of art history entirely. This is contributing to a wider movement in the art world that’s seeing more women step into key roles: we’re seeing all-women line-ups in curatorial teams, more women heading up major institutions, the new women-only art fair off Frieze London this fall, Christian Levett’s all-female museum and a segment called “Modern Women” at Frieze Masters. That transformation is here to stay, and Hessel is already working on new projects that build on the buzz around her initial book concept. She’ll be partnering “with institutions around the world in spotlighting the women in their collections, as well as working on two new books and a major exhibition that will be the 2020s answer to Sensation,” she tells Observer, and she anticipates that 2024 will be the most hopeful year yet.
- CEO of Art Basel
Noah Horowitz rejoined Art Basel in 2022 after a short stint with Sotheby’s. He formerly led the fair’s American engagement (and was a key player in developing Art Basel Miami Beach). His appointment coincides with other strategic changes within MCH/Art Basel, including the onboarding of James Murdoch. Horowitz has hinted at evolutions, notably a plan to consolidate the fair's expanded footprint in Asia and to consider Art Basel as a full brand with its four fairs and derived visibility. Beyond the fairs, Art Basel produces The Art Market in partnership with UBS. With current headwinds, could this mean branching out to other cultural spheres in addition to the fundamentals? His focus is clear: “The best art, the most ambitious projects, programming, galleries, curators, etc. For the next five to ten years, that is the North Star priority for us,” Horowitz told the Art Newspaper in 2022.
J. Tomilson “Tom” Hill
- Philanthropist, Collector, President of Hill Art Foundation
J. Tomilson Hill, once behind the $14 billion merger that resulted in Time Warner, opened the Hill Art Foundation in 2019. “My major motivation is that I have all this art and I would like to express how I feel, and I would like to have a venue to do that,” he told ARTnews ahead of its opening. With 7,700 square feet of space in Chelsea, the nonprofit organization supports exhibitions and educational programs and is now an established presence in an otherwise crowded space.
An avid super-collector, Tom Hill has amassed an eclectic collection with hundreds of works spanning Old Masters, post-war works and bronzes, as well as de Koonings, Twomblys and Bacons. (Hill may even be the discreet buyer of the “lost Caravaggio” in 2019.) The former CEO and President of Blackstone Alternative Asset Management likes to pair objects from different art contexts and have them in conversation. Since 2021, Hill has been the Board Chair of the Guggenheim Museum, and he also has a seat on the Met’s board.
- Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum
Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2018, also became the museum’s CEO in July of 2023, combining oversight of both the programmatic and strategic direction of the institution with its day-to-day operations. Hollein’s career is impressive; he led prominent art institutions in Germany (the Schirn Kunsthalle, the Städel Museum, the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection) before assuming the role of Director and CEO of San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums. Hollein has already overseen more than 100 exhibitions at the Met, and his consolidated leadership there comes at a critical time.
His responsibilities include capitalizing on the post-pandemic surge of visitors while upholding internal reforms and a vision for the Met of tomorrow. Important renovations and extension plans are in the works, including the new 135,000-square-foot Tang Wing for Modern and Contemporary Art, skylights on the European paintings, the renovation of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing dedicated to pre-Columbian Americas, Oceania and Africa, and new galleries for the Ancient Near Eastern and Cypriot Art collections. All of that in addition to what are sure to be more hit shows, given the success of the Van Gogh "Cypresses" exhibition and Alice Neel's "The People Come First."
- President and Director of EXPO CHICAGO
Tony Karman has been active in the Chicago art scene for decades, working in several Chicago-based institutions. In 2023, EXPO CHICAGO celebrated its tenth anniversary with hundreds of galleries representing more than 30 countries, as well as a lively annual Curatorial Forum (with Independent Curators International) and a Directors Summit, which gathered emerging art museum leaders to discuss the future of these institutions and reforms. “The civic and cultural leadership of Chicago is actively engaged as we prepare to welcome the world this April," Karman tells Observer. "A continued goal of mine is for us to continue to create more local, regional and international collaborations in support of our participating dealers and patrons, and in service to the greater arts community.”
EXPO CHICAGO has an international reach, but Karman also pays attention to anchoring the fair in Chicago’s lively ecosystem, propelling the city’s galleries, artists and institutions along. EXPO ART WEEK lifts the city and its artistic profile every April. At the helm of the fair since its beginnings, Karman has successfully placed the city on the global art calendar, so much so that Frieze announced its acquisition of EXPO CHICAGO last summer and will likely do much to further expand Chicago’s attractiveness.
- Philanthropist, Collector, President of the Neue Galerie
Cosmetic heir, billionaire collector and co-founder and president of the Neue Galerie, Ronald Lauder is giving back. Last year, on the Neue Galerie’s 20th anniversary, he publicly displayed his 500-artwork-strong collection for a show, heavy on German and Austrian art, Kunstkammer objects, medieval Italian paintings, Flemish tapestry and Greek and Roman sculpture. The Met Museum’s Department of Arms and Armor was renamed for him in 2020 after a major gift of 91 objects. “I consider myself a temporary guardian of the works in my collection, which belong ultimately to the public,” he told Artnet in 2022, when his focus was on future major gifts that would protect the integrity of his private collection. Earlier this year, he restituted and then repurchased a 1910 Klimt from the heirs of those who owned the painting before WWII and the Holocaust. In that, Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress and a foundation supporting Jewish education in Europe, sets an example for other collectors.
- Art Advisor, Director of the Levin Art Group
With thirty years in the business, Todd Levin has helped major clients build in-depth, museum-quality collections. He describes his work as that of a curator for high net-worth individuals and likens art fairs to educational opportunities. He takes care of his clients personally—trust is key. “Over the decades, I’ve worked with many museums in terms of placing works with them, or conducting lectures"or even giving off-the-cuff advice to some of their trustees or committee members when they needed help with a specific question,” he said in a 2021 interview, highlighting how his network spans galleries, collectors and institutions. This provides longevity and a way forward in a wider ecosystem of public and private engagements.
His group has reviewed over 20,000 artworks and led the purchase of around 1,500 pieces with a cumulative value above $1 billion. Levin is upbeat in his thinking about 2024: “As I enter the fifth decade of my advisory career, I’m looking forward to the Met’s 'Harlem Renaissance' exhibition and the Rijksmuseum’s Franz Hals retrospective," he tells Observer. "In galleries, I look forward to discovering a terrific artist previously unknown to me. In the broader art world, I’m thinking of the privilege of working every day with those I wish to work with. And I’m looking forward to enjoying the occasional wee dram of Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Bourbon.”
Glenn D. Lowry
- Director of the Museum of Modern Art
The lines formed again around MoMA this summer, hinting that the museum is slowly recovering from the pandemic and budget cuts. A major cultural figure of the New York and global scene, Glenn Lowry has headed MoMA since 1995 and is set to stay on until 2025. This will make him the institution’s longest-serving director. MoMA isn’t just a museum; it’s a solid brand recognizable globally. Lowry's achievements are significant and encompass the merger with PS1 in Queens, fundraising for the institution’s expansion with 30 percent additional exhibition space opened in 2019, establishing a new Media and Performance Art department and the UNIQLO partnership that has provided free entry to NYC residents every first Friday of the month since 2022.
Under Lowry, the museum has also mounted blockbuster exhibits, including the institution’s first Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective since 1946 and Refik Anadol’s mammoth Unsupervised. “I feel very strongly that museums should not be places that provide answers, museums should be places that provoke questions,” he said in an interview earlier this year.
- Director of Frieze LA and Frieze New York
Christine Messineo's appointment in 2021 signaled a consolidation for the U.S. fairs’ leadership, which previously included two separate directors. She has bicoastal experience, having worked in galleries in both cities. A year into her tenure, Frieze New York celebrated its tenth anniversary at The Shed, which brought together galleries and nonprofits, including Plan Your Vote, a nonprofit established by Messineo in 2020 to encourage voting in the midterms via the visual arts. It’s now a project of Vote.org, and Messineo has facilitated partnerships with more than 200 artists and organizations to help advance that agenda.
Messineo's Frieze fairs beat the drums of the spring season with their distinctive identities. “It is really important to me for Frieze to continue to be a crucially important organization for our galleries while acknowledging and having a presence throughout the city,” she told NY Mag. As Frieze takes over the Armory and EXPO CHICAGO amid a plethora of fairs, Messineo will continue to distinguish Frieze from other brands with its media outreach.
- Founder and CEO of Lupa Systems, Anchor shareholder of MCH Group
James Murdoch, son of Rupert, stepped into the art world during the pandemic when he acquired a 38 percent stake in MCH Group, becoming majority stakeholder of the Swiss company behind Art Basel (with an option to acquire up to 49 percent). Art Basel has branched out into Asia to diversify its revenues, a strategy accelerated after Murdoch’s share acquisition. In 2022, MCH invested in Singapore’s new fair, Art SG, which launched in January of 2023, and it advises SEA Focus, a young Southeast Asian contemporary art fair, on expertise and client outreach. It is also involved in Art Week Tokyo. “I think there’s other cultural events that aren’t art fairs that the Art Basel brand can also be thinking about over time. It’s early days,” he teased in Artnet. His main company, Lupa Systems, launched Arcual, a smart-contract solution for the art world, and Murdoch announced that there will be more to come, notably focused on sustainability in the art sphere.
- President of Kasmin Gallery
Nicholas Olney, Director and Managing Director of Kasmin Gallery for two decades, succeeded Paul Kasmin as new President in 2020. Olney now helms the representation of more than 40 artists and estates, including Max Ernst, Lee Krasner and Robert Motherwell, and emerging artists such as Cynthia Daignault and Sara Anstis. Since 2021, Olney has expanded the multi-location gallery to encompass other ventures, such as publishing (Kasmin Books launched in 2022, following The Kasmin Review in 2021). He recently co-founded an experimental arts space with fellow gallerist Boris Vervoordt in Mexico, which has grown into a contemporary art destination as other gallerists have opened Mexico City outposts. Located on the Oaxacan coast, Meridiano is an exhibition space for experimental, long-form, site-specific projects for global and multidisciplinary artists.
“I’m thrilled about the year ahead, as 2024 will mark the culmination of a number of ambitious efforts with the introduction of new artists to New York, landmark shows of some of our most prominent contemporary artists and historical estates and international offsite projects that have been years in the making,” Olney tells Observer. Notably, he also serves on the Board of the American Art Dealer’s Association and the Selection Committee of EXPO CHICAGO (notably acquired by Frieze), and he contributed to Addison Gallery of American Art’s inaugural Bartlett H. Hayes Jr. Prize.
- Chief Operating Officer of Gagosian Art Advisory
“I don’t really think about the value,” Laura Paulson has said of her role as former global chairman of 20th-century art at Christie’s—except that she’s quite the rainmaker, detecting artists' marketability ahead of others, such as with Jeff Koons. Paulson launched Gagosian Art Advisory in 2019, seeing opportunities during the pandemic to “buy strategically and thoughtfully and to continue to focus on quality.” She registered appraisals for around $1 billion worth of materials in 2020.
Paulson is well acquainted with major collections, which gave her a knack for understanding individual tastes and preferences and a robust familiarity with gallerists. She previously advised auction sales adding up to around $1 billion and credits her early career knowledge-building for having deepened her passion. “What I find so interesting is the correspondence, the ephemera around the collection,” she said, with archival intention. It provides context and storytelling about how a collection and artworks have come to be—and stories, as we know, are priceless.
- Collector, Philanthropist, Chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes
Billionaire dealmaker and investor Ronald Perelman has collected around one thousand art objects over the years to create a collection estimated to be worth $3 billion. Before a recent fallout, Perelman bought and sold with Gagosian, racking up 200 transactions. In 2020, amid financial issues, Perelman started selling his collection, including design pieces auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2022. Through it all, he has donated generously to the arts. His lead gift of $75 million catalyzed momentum for PAC NYC—full name, Ronald O. Perelman Center for the Performing Arts—at the World Trade Center, together with a donation from Michael Bloomberg. Perelman also donated $30 million to Carnegie Hall, where he held a board position, in addition to trustee positions at MoMA and the Apollo Theater. In April of 2023, he announced a new donation of $25 million to establish an arts district at Brown University—the Ronald O. Perelman Arts District—with a focus on teaching, scholarship and performance.
- Founder of the Related Group, Philanthropist, Arts Patron
Billionaire real estate developer Jorge Pérez is one of the biggest supporters of Miami’s ongoing cultural renaissance. “We are probably the city where public, quasi-public or private collections interact most with each other,” he told Sotheby’s not long after the opening of his experimental arts center and private museum, El Espacio 23, which houses his significant holdings of artwork. Pérez, who kicked off his art collecting journey by amassing works by Latin American artists, has funneled a substantial part of his fortune toward the city’s art scene via the Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation, Related Group’s public art initiatives and direct donations.
That scene is propped up, to a degree, by Pérez’s collection. He has donated 95 percent of his Latin American artworks (valued at $20 million) to what was once known as the Miami Art Museum—making room in his collection for works by Kenneth Noland, Alex Katz, Sol LeWitt, John Chamberlain and others. A $20 million cash contribution in 2011 prompted the institution to change its name to the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County. Five years later, he gave what’s unofficially known as Pérez Art Museum Miami, or PAMM, an additional $10 million in cash and has pledged his entire collection, which also includes works by artists like Ai Weiwei and Kiki Smith, to the institution upon his death. “I’ve always believed that no city is truly great without a world-class art museum,” Pérez said in a statement after donating another $25 million to PAMM at the museum’s 2023 gala.
- Founder and Owner of Galerie Perrotin
At 23, Emmanuel Perrotin staged Damien Hirst’s first commercial show. According to the New York Times in 2018, he’s “one of the savviest showmen on the global commercial art scene,” and he’s friends with many of his artists while also attracting celebrities. Perrotin reported an estimated $150 million in sales in 2022, and his contemporary gallery represents around 60 artists and eight estates, including JR, Sophie Calle and Takashi Murakami. He’s also in expansion mode, announcing a 60 percent stake sale to real estate investment company Colony Investment Management that may augur new openings in addition to the gallery’s ten or so existing locations. (Perrotin opened new galleries in Dubai in 2022 and Los Angeles in 2023.)
He expects to stay in charge after the Colony Investment Management deal—and extend the gallery’s reach. “It is always my goal to continue growing for our artists, and next year will bring the opening of our Los Angeles gallery,” he tells Observer. “Beyond physical space, we are constantly working to develop new initiatives, partnerships, and tools to better serve our artists and give them more opportunities for exposure.”
Philanthropy is a family affair for Joshua Rechnitz. His grandparents and parents actively supported art institutions and causes, and Joshua—also a collector—upheld that tradition when he donated $180 million to transform Brooklyn’s “Batcave” into the nonprofit cultural hub, Powerhouse Arts. Rechnitz acquired the six-story industrial building on the Gowanus Canal in 2012 for $7 million. He contracted leading architecture companies, including Herzog & de Meuron (previous projects: Beijing’s bird nest-shaped national stadium and London’s Tate Modern), to redesign the building that was once a decrepit shell. Opened to much fanfare in May of 2023, Powerhouse Arts boasts 170,000 square feet of below-market-rate artist production facilities—for ceramics, printing and more—and event space with a sumptuous Great Hall.
“I believe in the redemptive power of art, I believe it to be one of the finest things we have to help us understand ourselves and the conundrum of being," he said in a statement given to Observer. "Art illuminates and reflects, reveals us to ourselves: flawed, struggling, torn or triumphant. It broadens our tenuous grasp of the world and our ideas about our place in it.” Rechnitz stepped back from the project last year when the building’s refurbishment was complete and continues to maintain his signature low profile. Together with Arts Gowanus, Powerhouse Arts is expected to boost the area’s creative economy significantly.
- Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Kitchen
Legacy Russell has been described as “a force in the city, of the city.” She has curated gallery shows and public art commissions with Los Angeles’s ICA, Hauser & Wirth and MoMA PS1. In 2022, Russell became the new Executive Director and Chief Curator of the iconic experimental nonprofit art space The Kitchen in Chelsea and the first Black person to hold those roles, after a curatorship post at the Studio Museum and publishing her book Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto (2020). “How can we honor history as a site of experimentation, but also keep redefining, reexamining, restructuring, reimagining what avant-garde even means?” she asks.
The Kitchen sits in a space of counter-dialogue that is neither following the model of commercial galleries nor attempting to replicate museum collections. Because of this flexibility, The Kitchen is a venue that can push boundaries and afford to take risks. "My hope for the future of the art world is that institutions continue to commit to holding space for artists for risky play and the discovery of new directions," she tells Observer. A radical thinker in internet culture, Russell is at work on a second book, Black Meme, which is sure to make some noise.
- Founder and Chairman of Silverstein Properties and Public Arts Patron
The lore goes that real estate magnate Larry Silverstein’s passion for public art was sparked in the late 80s by the blandness of the original 7 World Trade Center design, which he has likened to a “mausoleum.” On a mission to add a pop of color, he and his wife Klara embarked on an art tour of New York City, ultimately buying Al Held’s The Third Circle for the building’s lobby. The couple was hooked. From there, they outfitted the skyscraper with works by Louise Nevelson and Roy Lichtenstein and commissioned pieces from artists like Ross Bleckner. “Great art in public spaces has the ability to elevate those spaces and make them sing,” Silverstein has said, and the rebuilt World Trade Center properties embody that philosophy, with art on display by artists including Jenny Holzer, Frank Stella, Andrew Kuo, Ran Ortner and Beverly Barkat, whose work Earth Poetica was installed in WTC 3 this year.
After promoting the arts in his buildings for the past 30 years, Silverstein is still bringing artists to Downtown Manhattan—and inspiring a new generation of arts patronage. He helped his grandson, Cory Silverstein, co-found Silver Art Projects with a startup donation of $500,000 and 44,000 square feet on the 28th floor of 4 WTC via Silverstein Properties. The organization, which gives rising artists otherwise priced out of Manhattan free studio space for a year, received a grant from Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Fund in 2022, and now reserves several of its residencies for formerly incarcerated artists.
- President of the Ford Foundation
Darren Walker joined the Ford Foundation from the Rockefeller Foundation; co-chairs NYC’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers; and serves on the boards of many cultural institutions, such as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. At the helm of the $16 billion social justice foundation for the past decade, Walker has overseen its many programs and grants, which have supported the Dia Art Foundation, Perez Art Museum Miami, the Studio Museum in Harlem and so many more.
“As we navigate through divisive challenges and polarizing rhetoric, we need art and artists more than ever to help us confront injustices and to reveal the beauty of our shared humanity,” Walker tells Observer. He deaccessioned the Foundation’s art collection to purchase works in line with its values and firmly believes that museums need to walk the talk on diversity and inclusion. Walker also sets strategic direction. He announced that the Foundation would divest from fossil fuels in 2021, presaging a time when partnerships with fossil fuel companies would come under greater scrutiny in the art world. Times are changing.
- Co-Founder and Partner, Patti Wong & Associates
Daryl Wickstrom worked for two decades at Sotheby’s as executive vice president and deputy chairman, and in that capacity directly contributed to its expansion in Asia (he was based in Hong Kong). As a result, Wickstrom acquired a deep knowledge of China’s business environment and key trends. This year, he opened an art advisory company with fellow Sotheby’s veteran Patti Wong, aimed at helping clients across the Asia-Pacific region collect luxury items: art plus jewelry and fine wine.
“Asian collectors have transformed the market over the past twenty years, with new collectors building comprehensive collections and seasoned collectors competing for works at the highest level,” he tells Observer. This is in line with the art world's greater interest in Asia as more big players are establishing or consolidating their presence in the region—including new fairs, auction houses and gallery openings in South Korea and China. In fact, Greater China is now the second largest art market in the world and many are trying to catch up, an ideal position for Wickstrom in this growing market.
Manuela and Iwan Wirth
- Co-Founders and Presidents of Hauser & Wirth
Mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth represents around 90 artists and estates and the commercial gallery is also a publisher, releasing around 20 titles annually. Power couple Manuela and Iwan Wirth have also driven the residency program Hauser & Wirth Somerset, an art center offering experimental and generative space for artists since 2013. That farm-meets-art model has expanded to include a curatorial residency and a space in Menorca where the gallery has a presence. Notably, they're not doing it alone. Hauser & Wirth co-president Marc Payot has played a central role in the gallery's evolution, spearheading new locations including, most recently, Paris—building upon the gallery's deep connections with institutions and collectors in the French capital and beyond.
As philanthropists, the Wirths support the Reykjavik Arts Festival as well as several human rights organizations and charities. They are also further reinventing their art brand with stakes in the luxury hospitality business, building on Somerset. Under Art Farm, they own several restaurants and a boutique hotel, including London’s exclusive Groucho Club. Not a bad diversification move considering art market headwinds—it will be interesting to see if others follow suit.
- Founder and Owner of David Zwirner
“When I opened, in 1993, we had a couple of hundred galleries and a few hundred collectors. And now we have, what, a couple of thousand galleries and a couple of thousand collectors,” David Zwirner said in a 2013 New Yorker profile. Yet his mega-gallery, comprising several locations worldwide, towers above the pack in the exclusive club of “megas.” His gallery’s annual revenues are said to have tripled in the past decade, reaching an estimated $800 million pre-pandemic.
Much has been written about the rivalry between Zwirner and Larry Gagosian, which fuels big artists' moves and sales. Zwirner, who represents more than 70 prominent artists and estates, recently lost a few to Gagosian, such as Harold Ancart and Carol Bove (while Zwirner welcomed Joe Bradley). He launched Platform: New York to spotlight and sell works by solo artists represented by a dozen smaller galleries during the pandemic, mounted a blockbuster Yayoi Kusama show in the spring, and became the lead funder of the sexy new litmag, The Drift. Zwirner doesn’t have a succession problem, but real estate setbacks compounded with a more prudent market outlook could determine how he might change gears to comfort his position.