Non-Fungible Tokens Are Deemed the Most Powerful Entity in the Art World in ArtReview’s 2021 Power 100 Ranking

Some of the usual, sentient, suspects still made the cut.

A photo illustration of the ethereum cryptocurrency. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images.

ERC-721, the technical term for NFTs, has been given the top spot on ArtReview‘s annual Art Power 100 list, and if it was meant to get our attention, it worked.

The nonhuman Ethereum blockchain specification secured the number one placement, a testament to just how much the NFT and cryptocurrency boom has created waves in the art industry this year.

Another newcomer to the list is Anna L. Tsing, an anthropologist and author of the 2021 book The Mushroom at the End of the World who is listed as number two. The Indonesian art collective ruangrupa, which is curating the 2022 edition of Documenta, has fallen back one place from two to three, and influential poet and cultural theorist Fred Moten has fallen from five to six.

Theaster Gates enters the top ten at number four and Anne Imhof, who had a buzzy exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo this year during FIAC, has crashed in at number five. Curiously, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg has quietly entered the raking for the first time, at number 100.

Anne Imhof. Photo: Roberto Chamorro.

Surprisingly, Black Lives Matter, which was listed at the top of the 2020 power list, has fallen off the list entirely as has the #metoo movement, which was at number four last year. Important female Black artists were nevertheless present, including Carrie Mae Weems, whose photos explore Black female subjectivity, in at number nine. Painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye ranked 65, and Zanele Muholi, whose piercing images investigate queer Black experience, was listed at 54.

ArtReview‘s editorial team explains that the 2021 list, which was formed by 30 panelists, encompasses the art world’s “inherent contradictions,” from the speculative world NFTs to the climate emergency and social justice movements.

Indigenous media group Karrabing Film Collective, who create works to challenge the injustice against Aboriginal people in Australia, sit at number at eight. Also included are two U.S. curators, Ebony L. Haynes, ranked 35, and Antwaun Sargent, ranked 68, who were each tapped by major galleries to help create structural change the gallery world. Haynes is helping steer a new gallery at Zwirner and Sargent was tapped by Gagosian at the beginning of this year. Ghanaian star painter and market darling Amoako Boafo is in at 77.

Despite the advent of NFTs rearranging the game and taking the top spot, the usual art industry gatekeepers are still there. David Zwirner is listed at 23, Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers have ranked 66, and other major dealers Emmanuel Perrotin and Larry Gagosian have come in at 52 and 25, respectively.

There are some other new arrivals to the art world on the Power 100 list apart from ERC-721, including the buyer of that $69.3 million Beeple, Metakovan has been ranked number 42 (Beeple is notably absent). Somewhat confusingly, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who has snuck in the back door at number 100. And James Murdoch, who bought a 49 percent stake in Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group last year is listed at 70, jointly holding this spot with industry veteran Marc Spielger, Art Basel’s global director.

See the full list here.

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