The Dealer Wins: Richard Cork Is Alarmed to Find That Artists Count for Little on a List of the Powerful
Cork, Richard, New Statesman (1996)
The year is 2001, and Madonna hands over the Turner Prize cheque to the intensely controversial Martin Creed for his empty room where the lights go on and off. Uttering a four-letter swear word live on Channel 4 before the 9pm watershed, she tells the assembled audience: "Art is always at its best when there is no money, because it is nothing to do with money and everything to do with love."
Somehow I doubt if many of the people on Power 100, the latest list of heavyweight movers in the feverish world of modern art, would understand what on earth Madonna was talking about. Looking through the roll-call of names, published in the latest issue of Art Review, I soon began to feel that it all hinged on extreme wealth. Whether Madonna approves or not, Martin Creed's financial prospects were given a huge boost by his Turner Prize win.
I wan Wirth, the 34-year-old dealer displaying Creed's new show of balloons in the swankiest of Piccadilly premises, has climbed to number 11 on the list. With his wife, Ursula Hauser, whose family owns a retailing fortune, Wirth now has high-profile galleries in New York, Zurich, St Gallen and London.
But even Wirth pales beside Larry Gagosian, known to his friends as GoGo. The ultimate self-made businessman, Gagosian began his stellar career selling bargain-basement posters. Now he has shot to the top of Power 100 as a hugely successful dealer with five galleries in Beverly Hills, New York and London. His latest venture, a monumental space near King's Cross Station, opened this year with a spectacular array of new paintings by the veteran artist Cy Twombly, whose work can command as much as $5.5m on the market. GoGo sure knows how to put on a show: in the past few years, I have seen enormous exhibitions by Damien Hirst and Richard Serra at Gagosian's New York gallery. They both felt more like museum-scale events than dealer's offerings.
So maybe it is significant that Gagosian is placed above Glenn Lowry in Power 100. Lowry, whose big directorial moment will arrive later this month with the long-awaited reopening of New York's Museum of Modern Art, has been instrumental in raising the colossal $850m needed to revamp and extend the classic old Manhattan premises. It promises to be a formidable achievement by any standards. But according to Power 100, Lowry is eclipsed by a dealer able to wield an even more supreme influence than does the MoMA director.
The barriers formerly separating one sphere of the art world from another are being torn down. Take Maurizio Cattelan, who has risen to become the top-ranking artist on the new list. He first came to prominence as the brazen producer of works as inflammatory as his sculpture of the Pope struck down by a meteorite, which was shown in the Royal Academy's "Apocalypse" exhibition in 2000. Since then, the resourceful Cattelan has diversified tirelessly, producing magazines, starting a gallery and, in the near future, curating the Berlin Biennial.
A similar appetite for crossover activities has made Takashi Murakami the second-ranking artist--not for his artworks, expensive though they are, but for his role in creating more than $300m worth of Louis Vuitton merchandise. Then there is his ability to create "the entire visual identity" of Tokyo's upmarket Roppongi Hills development with the recently opened Mori Art Museum, lodged at its centre. …