The art world in 2021 is making a roaring comeback. After a pandemic that kept many artists from each other, museum-goers from museums, and institutions craving financial funds to make up for it, the year of struggle has been followed by a miraculous return. With the implementation of vaccines, socially distanced art practices, stellar exhibitions that are difficult to miss and online programming, the art world is back. 

Not that it hasn’t changed. Few of us knew what an NFT was before the pandemic. We couldn’t foresee how auction houses would adapt to such disruption. And with that, more surprises came along. An interest in the art world from new angles and industries took rise, leading to a sharp reckoning with issues of racial justice, economic equality, and institutional associations. The art world in 2021 claims to care about justice, access, and creating a more sustainable art world for the future.

Observer’s Arts Power 50 represents the most influential people leading that conversation in the art world. From artists, auction professionals, founders, government officials, lawyers, and even the creator of a meme page. Those on the list may or may not shock you; either way, you have to pay attention. 

This is a list of the most disruptive and powerful people in an industry of creative professionals constantly shifting. With much consideration of how 2021 has changed the stakes so far, these individuals create today’s art world. What happens in five years will inevitably reflect what these power players did in one of the most volatile years.



Writing: Erin Taylor, Paddy Johnson, Helen Holmes, and Annie Levin
Editing + Production: Erin Taylor
Photo Editing: Julia Cherrualt
Logo Design: Steph Novak
Editorial Direction: Mary von Aue


Dr. Elizabeth Alexander

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Edward Dolman


Dr. Kymberly N. Pinder

Yale University

David Zwirner

David Zwirner Gallery

Daniel Weiss

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Marc Payot

Hauser & Wirth

Marc Andreessen

Andreessen Horowitz

Marc Spiegler

Art Basel

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