A Year of Creative Disruption? Nan Goldin, Ruangrupa, and Climate Activists Take Prime Spots on Monopol’s Top 100 List

Fashion's growing influence in the art world was also notable.

Protesters from the action group Ultima Generazione glue themselves to a wall after throwing soup on Vincent Van Gogh's painting Sower at Sunset. Photo: Laura Lezza/Getty Images.

The German art magazine Monopol has released its annual list of the 100 people it judges to be most important in the contemporary art world. As one of the first of such rankings to be published this year, the magazine’s selection offers an early indication of who managed to stand out in a year jam-packed with successes and controversies.

Assisted by an advisory board of experts, the magazine tossed out objective measures like auction sales in favor of evaluating “influence and visibility.” The list fluctuates greatly from year to year; Only Marc Spiegler (10), whose next move is being closely watched after he recently stepped down as global director of Art Basel, and the Indonesian curatorial collective Ruangrupa (2) made Monopol‘s top 10 in both 2021 and 2022.

“It goes without saying that a magazine from Accra or New Delhi would set different priorities,” the magazine’s editorial team prefaced. “We see this list primarily as a contribution to the debate and as a homage to all the people who live art every day and make it tangible.”

So, who made the cut this year? 

Ranking first is Nan Goldin, a reliable favorite among art power lists across publications over the past few years thanks to her powerful activism against the art world’s embrace of funding from the Sackler family, art patrons who amassed much of their wealth through the sale of the highly addictive opioid painkiller Oxycontin.

Nan Goldin at the 60th New York Film Festival in 2022. Goldin took fist place in Monopol magazine’s Top 100 for her activism. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for FLC.

Her protests have been staged in museums since 2018, but this long battle has only recently made some major gains. This year the British Museum, the National Gallery and the V&A, all in London, announced that they would remove the Sackler name from their galleries.

Perhaps more surprising is the inclusion of the climate protestors (19) who have made endless headlines since spring for their own museum-based activism, going so far as to glue themselves to frames or attack masterpieces by artists like Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Monet with soup or mashed potatoes. Though Monopol questioned whether their tactics made sense, it concluded that they “emphasize the value of art for society.”

When the collective Ruangrupa placed fourth last year for their radical rethinking of curatorship ahead of this year’s Documenta 15 in Kassel, nobody could have foreseen the controversies that would besiege the exhibition. They certainly remained influential and visible, getting bumped up to second place this year. It is little surprise that Meron Mendel, director of the Anne Frank Educational Center, comes in high at number 8, having been brought on to deal with the disputes over anti-semitism

Indicative, surely, of fashion’s growing influence in the art world, the Georgian creative director of Balenciaga, Demna, came in at fourteenth place. The list cited his bold and provocative ideas, including dedicating the fashion house’s winter 2022 collection to refugees, a concept based on his own experience, and the mud pit runway at Paris Fashion Week that went viral just last month.

Demna Gvasalia attends the 2021 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York City. (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Hot on his heels was Miuccia Prada (15), just above artist Hito Steyerl (16) and dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth (17); the fashion designer played a big role this year with a string of powerful shows at her foundation in Milan, and also during the Venice Biennale at its lagoon palazzo.

Art collector Bernard Arnault, responsible for the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, was ranked at 71, perhaps due to the widespread rumors that his luxury empire LVMH would acquire the mega-gallery Gagosian. 

Other high ranking individuals include the artist Francis Alÿs (3) who represented Belgium at the Venice Biennale. Curator of the biennale’s “The Milk of Dreams” exhibition, Cecilia Alemani, reached fourth place. American performance artist Joan Jonas came it at position 5 (surely due to her major survey at Haus der Kunst in Munich that opened this fall). Max Hollein, director of the Met, reached sixth place, and the sculptor Simone Leigh, who represented the U.S. at the Venice Biennale, was listed at 7th place. 


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