The Power Trip 2014: The 50 Most Powerful People in Australian Art

Art Life Dec 21, 2013 21 Comments

First off – what’s with 2014? What happened to 2013? For our second Power Trip list of the 50 most powerful and influential players in the Australian art world, we decided to take the year book approach and make the new list all about the coming year. So 2013 is gone like a Labor Government low income tax cut – see ya!

Second off – how do we define power? There are three categories of power in the Australian art world: there’s money and influence of the kind held by philanthropists, super collectors and major gallery directors; then there’s the administrative power of curators, bureaucrats and lower echelon collectors and gallery people; and then there’s the illusion of power conjured out of nothing by people with a public profile, an axe to grind and soapbox to yell it to the world. All three kinds of power made it on to our list.

How did we compile the list? Well, we used the same combo of  chicken entrails, tea leaves and scented smoke as last year… Which brings us to the winners and the losers.

You’ll see some new additions to our list, and you can read the reasons why they’re there, but there were quite a few that dropped off. The old adage “use it or lose it” comes into play, and while collectors like Dick Quan and consultants such as Amanda Love aren’t on the list this year, they’ll be back. Others are unlikely to be back anytime soon: Charles Waterstreet only had one art world client on his books this year and that was a total wash out. And with the absurd wrangling over whether the Coalition will honour the education spending commitments of the former government, “giving a [David] Gonski” is now a term of abuse.  Speaking of politics, was here ever a more ill-timed tilt at power than Simon Crean‘s attempt to bring on a spill against Julia Gillard? Not only was Crean cut down by the Pretorian Guard of the Labor party, he lost his Arts portfolio in his banishment to a proverbial Elba. With a new government we have a new arts minister in the compact form of George Brandis, a man who was made to stride into rooms with the Imperial Theme from Star Wars playing… 

But enough of the preamble – now for the list…


Power Trip 2014 new


50. Scott RedfordNEW

Starring in Scott Redford vs. The World must be exhausting when you’re the star, director and producer of some of the most outrageous web commentary around. In early December Scott Redford got into a stoush with Richard Bell after Redford was given enough rope by a cub reporter at Crikey’s new culture pages. Mid-year Redford was in a public imbroglio after he claimed that one his works in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia was “fraudulent”. And he somehow found time to loiter with intent on a variety of blogs and websites from The Guardian Australia to The Art Life letting the world know he’s not happy, and what’s more, you’re all just a bunch of goddamn phoneys.

49. Gordon MorrisonNEW

With a permanent collection that rivals the holdings of most of Australia’s capital city museums, and with a roster of excellent curated exhibitions and annual prizes, the Art Gallery of Ballarat [“…the most significant gallery in regional Australia” claims their website] continues to punch way above its weight. Under the directorship of Gordon Morrison this gold fields gem boasts some wins in 2013, not least of which was The Victorian Indigenous Art Award while in 2014 the gallery continues its good work with The Rick Amor Drawing Prize and Three Os: Orban, Olsen & Ogburn.

48. Sandra McMahon – NEW

The Tamworth Regional Gallery enjoys significant local community support with a strong roster of exhibitions and it has an impressive permanent collection used for teaching, education and community outreach. While all those things are worthy and notable, what gives Sandra McMahon’s tenure as gallery director a much broader reach and influence is the Tamworth Textile Triennial, about to launch its second iteration in 2014. Promising a strong selection of artists working across a variety of forms, the TTT will be immensely popular with punters as it tours the country.

47. Vasili Kaliman – LY 44 | – 3

It’s been a bit of a mixed year for Vasili Kaliman: his online presence continues apace with more than 85,000 followers to his Twitter account, and his mini media empire of web sites and blogs have retained their devoted followings. He married artist Jess Johnson and power schmoozed his way through Sydney Contemporary. That’s all good. But what of the gallery? Jarrod Rawlings departed both gallery and partnership to take up a junior curatorial position at the art world’s very own Jurassic Park, the Museum of Old and New Art. The art scene will be watching with interest the developments at Kaliman’s now solo gallery over the coming year.

46. Susi Muddiman – LY 46 | –

In her second appearance in the Power Trip, the much-loved Director of Tweed Regional Art Gallery’s  Susi Muddiman is currently overseeing construction of the Margaret Olley Art Centre – a large purpose-built extension to the visitor-friendly building. Known locally as ‘Olleywood’ the extension, projected to open early 2014, will provide an extra reason for turning off the highway just short of the Queensland border. The new building will cater for a large collection of the late artist’s work with part devoted to a reconstruction of Margaret Olley’s Paddington studio.

45. Judith Nielsen – NEW

When it first opened in 2009 White Rabbit Gallery lay in the centre of a semi-industrial inner city stretch surrounded by old warehouses and a sprinkling of artist run galleries. Chippendale’s emerging “Renaissance” as a new creative precinct and “next arts mecca of Sydney” puts Judith Neilson’s supremely tasteful warehouse conversion and its ever-growing collection of Chinese post-2000 contemporary art in prime position. While Neilson may not have the media pull of Tasmania’s David Walsh, this private gallery owned by The Neilson Foundation attracts important Chinese visitors and local crowds alike and, like on old-school Medici, Nielsen has influence outside her kingdom, getting her daughter Paris on to the board of the Biennale of Sydney, and former Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Edmund Capon, to curate Serve the People, currently on show. Neilson says her mission is to show the best in contemporary Chinese art to the West, and while the logistics of doing so are occasionally difficult, Sydney audiences are the winners.

44. Kent Buchanan – LY 48 | +4

Kent Buchanan’s continuing gig as the curator of the Western Plains Cultural Centre is a prime example of how to do contemporary art in a regional gallery, mixing crowd-pleasers like the travelling Archibald, matched with touring shows like True Self, a survey of the work of David Rosetzky, alongside home grown projects such as Take Your Best Shot, an exhibition by artist-in-residence Emma Thomson of portraits of female hunters from the area. Buchanan moves up the Power Trip list for his astute handling of the controversy that erupted around the exhibition when animal rights activists protested the show, and the artist received death threats. Nice work.

43. Michael Zavros & Alison Kubler – LY 43 | –

M. Zavros and A. Kubler are the goodwill ambassadors of the Queensland art world, impeccably dressed and well mannered, more like minor art royalty than mere punters, as they move amongst us on their way from board meetings to gallery opening to canapés on board a private yacht, he a secret agent, she a Hollywood starlet…We might be dreaming all this but it feels real…

42. Danie Mellor – NEW

Danie Mellor, artist and lecturer at Sydney College of the Arts, has been a member of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for several years – as well as its latest Chairman. The recent rejig of the Department saw him appointed Chair of the newly styled Visual Arts Sector Panel. In other words, alongside Julie Lomax he’s the go-to guy for the Ozco Board on visual arts matters and wields influence in such areas as visual arts strategy, funding and organisation. On a personal level, a Mellor work was recently included in the Australia exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London and Exotic Lies Sacred Ties, a major survey exhibition of his last ten years work, opens at the University of Queensland in January.

41. Sullivan & Strumpf – LY 41 | –

They’re still nice and they’re still ladies as Ursula Sullivan & Joanna Strumpf’s Zetland gallery hangs in there among the ever-diminishing pool of Sydney’s contemporary art spaces. Staying power counts for a lot but the gallery’s strengths – and thus its influence – comes from a consistent roster of good to great gallery exhibitions, including an 80th birthday exhibition for Sydney Ball, and notable international shows for Sam Jinks and Sam Leach.

40. Nicole Durling – NEW

As the senior curator of MONA, a job she shares with the worldly Olivier Varenne, Nicole Durling has managed to walk a sometimes tricky tightrope between being David Walsh’s agent and her own curatorial ambitions. Her range as a curator of international standing was evident in 2013 with the success of the blockbuster international show the Red Queen as well as the beautifully modest solo survey exhibition of the work of Australian artist Todd McMillan. And she proves that the smart girls can still rock red lipstick.

39. Jeff Khan & Bec Dean LY 39 | –

While Jeff Khan and Bec Dean are rightly considered the Sonny and Cher of the Sydney art world – and much loved for their penchant for quirky speeches and public presentations – it’s their highly professional and peerless co-directorship of Performance Space that sets the duo apart. In a year that saw a number of excellent headline shows it was You’re History, a celebration season for the gallery’s 30th anniversary, that was the real achievement. With Dean departing her post to begin a PhD in 2014 we can only hope there may be reunion special or two in the pipeline.

38. Lisa Havilah – LY 39 | +1

Under Director Lisa Havilah, Sydney’s Carriageworks is moving from strength to strength. A sophisticated transformation of the venue’s internal spaces in September led the way for the raging success of the first Sydney Contemporary Art Fair. With Anna Schwarz Gallery as a permanent resident, Carriageworks also attracted a major installation by internationally renowned artist Ryoji Ikeda. In 2014, Havilah is hoping to a double of size and attendees to its artistic program, and highlights include Christian Boltanski’s monumental Chance – part of the Sydney Festival commencing in January.

37. Tamara Winikoff – LY 40 | + 3

For a while there it looked as though Tamara Winikoff might slide a few spots until she made a media splash last week with the ‘National Visual Arts Agenda’ – a new campaign by the National Association for the Visual Arts (of which Winikoff is Executive Director) to rejuvenate the sector. While there’s no doubting NAVA’s strength as artist’s advocate we’re not so sure whether launching NAVA’s bold vision for the future in the current political climate represents total delusion or achievable ambition. Of course TAL is hoping for the latter. Good luck with that!

36. Philip Bacon – LY 36 | –

In a rock solid Brisbane art world seemingly untouched by the closures and contractions of the commercial gallery sector in the southern states, Philip Bacon presides over one of the city’s most prestigious and longest running galleries. As the executor and trustee of the Margaret Olley Art Trust, Bacon has been instrumental in the establishment of the facsimile of Olley’s studio and extension soon to open at the Tweed Regional Gallery.

35. Eleonora Triguboff – LY 22 | – 13

Taking a tumble of 13 places down the Power Trip list since 2012, Eleonora Triguboff maintains her seat on the Board of Trustees at the Art Gallery of NSW, and she’s widely respected for her educational and publishing ventures. But it takes a special kind of chutzpah to rebrand one of country’s oldest mastheads, especially one that styles itself as the journal of record of the Australian art world. Now confusingly called ARTAND [with the addition of Architecture, Fashion and Design depending on the contents of the latest issue] the new look dumps the old format for a larger, unwieldy but coffee-table friendly look. With much the same kind of content as it has always carried, the new look is ill conceived at best, and in an age when magazines are dying everywhere, trashing a masthead that has survived for decades is either batshit crazy, or awesomely inspired. Check back here next year…

34. Dr. Gene Sherman – LY 21 | – 13

The Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation has followed the idiosyncratic path set down by its founder Dr. Gene Sherman since its transformation from a gallery to a would-be cultural institution. With exhibitions that have maintained SCAF’s highbrow aspirations, such as Andrew Burn’s Crescent House and Olafur Eliasson’s The Cubic Structural Project, as well as Collection+ where curators are invited to make a show out of the Gene and Brian Sherman collection, the foundation has maintained a museum-quality roster of exhibitions both on and off site. But it only takes one misstep to send a gallery off the rails and Feel & Think: A New Era of Tokyo Fashion, in which fashion designers made art, and featured a catalogue essay lecturing the fashion scene on semiotics, was absurd.

33. Michael Reid – LY 35 | +2

As usual gallery owner Michael Reid has been go-go again this year running back and forwards on weekends between his Sydney and Murrurundi Galleries. In addition there’s been flights to Europe where Reid has combined visits to his new Berlin Gallery with side trips to advocate for his artists on the international scene. In 2014 the Berlin Gallery will hold exhibitions in Munich and Oslo. Although an attempt at a London Gallery proved too difficult to pull off, the indefatigable gallerist is planning London representation and is now looking at sites in New York. Aside from opening spaces when other doors are closing, Reid’s Gallery was one of few that made significant sales at September’s Sydney Contemporary Art Fair. With 3000 Facebook friends ready to celebrate his latest luxury watch purchase or the magnificence of his country veggie garden, MR’s boundless enthusiasm for the Australian art world is rewarded this year with a leap of two spots.

32. Alexi Glass-Kantor – LY 32 | –

Alexi Glass-Kantor maintains her possie on the Power Trip list at the same point as last year, but it’s with an entirely new hat. As the newly minted director of Artspace in Sydney, Glass-Kantor leaves Gertrude Contemporary in fine shape but what her new management will mean for this venerable Sydney institution remains to be seen. On the strength of her work in Melbourne, and her co-directorship of the Adelaide Biennial in 2012, expectations are high. And as an added bonus, if her recent speech at the UNSW College of Fine Arts honours year show is anything to by, Glass-Kantor’s oratory style is unafraid of the occasional f-bomb. It’s just what the harbour side gallery needs – a director who can swear like a sailor.

31. Nick Mitzevich – LY 31 | –

Sequestered in Adelaide for his third year as Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Nick Mitzevich seems to have been too diligent this year to allow time for many East Coast appearances. Developing relationships with private donors has seen the Gallery pull in several new acquisitions including the $3.5 million Baptism on the Ouse River by Rev. Henry Dowling 1838 by John Glover and a new contemporary sculpture by post-YBA British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster. While Bill Henson’s withdrawal from next year’s Adelaide Biennial was an unfortunate result for Dark Heart, Mitzevich, as head curator, has assembled an interesting bunch of contemporary artists for the show. He’s “after an inherently emotional and immersive exhibition, one that is unafraid to ask difficult questions and expose the underbelly of society” which is nicely in keeping with the whole Adelaide/murder vibe.

30. Russell Storer – NEW

With Tony Ellwood now ensconced at the National Gallery of Victoria, it took some time before Queensland Art gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Director, Chris Saines, finally had his first day at the desk in April. By October, Saines released his vision for the future but his real influence at the helm has yet to be felt. In the meantime, Russell Storer, Curatorial Manager for Asian and Pacific Art at QAGOMA has overseen both the latest incarnation of the Asia Pacific Triennial (#7) and in a coup for the Gallery, a new exhibition by internationally famous Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, Falling Back to Earth. In August, Ian Walker, Queensland Minister for the Arts (and other things) boasted APT7 had boosted the Queensland economy by $26 million with attendance figures of over half a million people. Not bad.

29. Daniel Mudie Cunningham – LY 34 | +5

As the Senior Curator at Artbank, Daniel Mudie Cunningham must have the best job in the world – spending other people’s money on art, making young careers and travelling the country. But what’s kicked young DMC up the list is the launch of Sturgeon, an official Artbank magazine designed to show off the organisations collection, but which has the temerity to read like a real magazine, like they used to have in the olden days. As editor, Cunningham has brought his taste, and his eye, to the publication, which rivals the commercial titles for style and content. We’ll be looking forward to issue 2 in 2014.

28. John Oster – LY 28 | –

It may take the Indigenous Art Code a while to be accepted industry-wide but as its CEO and co-author – along with a leading Indigenous artists and curators – John Oster is on the side of the angels.

27. Susan Borham – LY 27 | –

When a host of external problems – the GFC and natural disasters in Queensland and New Zealand – put Australian Art Collector’s sister publications in peril it looked as though the most commercially successful privately owned art magazine in the country was on the way out as well. But after the publication was bought by its new owners Magnesium Media, the magazine hardly missed a beat. Presiding over the change was editor-in-chief Susan Borham who directs the magazine into its 16th year, a new look but with time tested editorial content.

26. Wayne Tunnicliffe – LY 26 | –

The indefatigable Wayne Tunnicliffe makes his job as head curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW look easy, a testament to his dedication and talent, and to his unnerving ability to deliver lively and engaging speeches at a moment’s notice. Brushing aside unfounded early criticism of his appointment, Tunnicliffe has overseen a strong roster of exhibitions and the continuing success of the Contemporary Project Space, which most recently saw the unlikely return of anti-art refusnik Ian Milliss to the big house.

25. Martin Browne – LY 25 | –

You’ve got to be doing something right when you move galleries from Potts Point to bigger premises in lower Paddington, retain your best selling artists and make a strong showing at Sydney Contemporary. And with Martin Browne’s canny business sense he remains a significant player in the secondary market, making his power and influence twofold.

24. Hetti Perkins – LY 20 | – 2

After her resignation from the Art Gallery of NSW it was uncertain what was in store for Hetti Perkins, but in December 2012 it was announced that she had joined the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art where she would bring her knowledge and expertise to the Quayside gallery. Along with her seats on the board of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the chairmanship of the Charlie Perkins Trust, Perkins somehow also finds the time to act as producer on Richard Bell’s Colour Theory on NITV, making her one of the most influential arts professionals in the country.

23. John McDonald – LY 18 | – 5

What a difference a year makes. While John McDonald continues his seemingly never-ending tenure as the Sydney Morning Herald’s art critic, times have changed with the further collapse of the paper’s circulation and the arrival of new online players into Australia’s news sector. McDonald made a move a year or two ago into blogging with a website that presents two week old SMH art reviews and his unique take on movies with reprints of his otherwise-firewalled Australian Financial Review column. While McDonald’s art reviews in the SMH are still contentious and cranky – and he stills loves his Chinese art – this once supremely powerful critic is surely becoming just another online chump.

22. Max Delany – LY 42 | + 22

Making the biggest jump in the snakes and ladders of this year’s Power Trip, Max Delaney had arrived at the National Gallery of Victoria carrying high expectations for his tenure. Those expectations were paid in full with the success of Melbourne Now, a sprawling, and much loved survey of the arts in the southern capital. Not only has Delaney curated a brilliant exhibition he’s also thrown down the gauntlet to Sydney.

21. Tony Stephens – LY 23 | + 2

In a contracted art market, Tony Stephens oversees an organisation with money to spend and influence to wield, and with Artbank’s recent acquisition of works by both emerging and established artists, the organisation is almost the only game in town. With the establishment of Sturgeon, the organisation’s in-house magazine edited by Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Artbank extends its influence even further.

20. Richard Bell – LY 24 | +2

Richard Bell, who just celebrated his 60th birthday, is the charismatic front man for a generation of Indigenous artists and a member of Brisbane art collective ProppaNOW. While an oversubscribed personal Facebook page provides thousands of Bell’s social media friends access to his pronouncements on a diverse range of topics, 2013 has been a massive year for the artist-activist. Currently exhibiting his work at the Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan, he’s also shown at the Monash University Museum of Art (Melbourne), The Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, The First Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art (Canada), at Sydney’s Artspace and in two important exhibitions at the Queensland Art Gallery (Brisbane). Somehow among all of this Bell found time to appear as host on the NITV network’s eight part series Colour Theory, with a second run of episodes, focusing on Indigenous art and written and produced by Hetti Perkins, scheduled for early 2014.

19. Marcus Westbury – LY 15 | – 4

Marcus Westbury recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of his famous child, the original ‘Renew Newcastle’ campaign. Currently in demand both in Australia and o.s., Westbury has spent a lot of last year on the road spreading the word on the benefits of creativity and there’s no doubt about his pulling power. An absurdly successful Pozible campaign – four times oversubscribed on the popular crowdsourcing site – helped Westbury write Creating Cities, “a small book of big ideas” on places and creativity but also kept him away from many of his usual activities, and his notable non-involvement in the ugly anti-art stoush around the defunding of the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery was puzzling.

18. The Balnaves Family – LY 19 | +1

The Balnaves Family Foundation continues to dip a hand in its pocket to assist with funds for just about every large event on the Australian art scene. Meanwhile Neil Balnaves AO, the Adelaide-born founder of the Southern Star production group of companies, was recently appointed to the Board of the Art Gallery of South Australia. With the next Biennale of Sydney fast approaching, the Balnaves family will once again be instrumental in helping to keep the wheels – or the ferries – turning.

17. Michael Brand – LY 11 | – 6

It takes a good 18 months to two years for a new director’s vision to take shape and there’s plenty on Michael Brand’s horizon as the director of the Art Gallery of NSW but for the moment his tenure is in a holding pattern with the only exhibition to bear his [partial] imprint – America: Painting A Nation – was a lack lustre filler exhibition in place of a proper blockbuster for the 2013-14 summer. Here’s to a much improved New Year.

16. Anna Schwartz – LY 16 | –

As the commercial gallery scene contracts thanks to the triple whammy of the changes to self managed super funds, secondary market sell offs and all round downsizing, Anna Schwartz remains the most significant gallerist with galleries in both Sydney and Melbourne. With strong exhibitions in both cities, and a canny showing of Candice Breitz during Sydney Contemporary, Schwartz is here to stay as one of the most influential and powerful gallerists in Australia.

15. Julie Lomax – LY 17 | +2

Julie Lomax’s star is on the rise as another twelve months in the job has seen her more familiarised with matters Australian. Lomax is Director of Visual Arts at the Australia Council for the Arts – a position arguably more influential after the recent reorganisation. Aside from this powerful post, you only need check Lomax’s fascinating Twitter feed to realise how well connected she is on the international art scene. Having spent the last year crisscrossing numerous time zones in pursuit of the hottest exhibitions, what we really want to know is – does this woman ever sleep?

14. Ben Quilty – NEW

Winning the Archibald Prize is a notable career achievement in itself but with young Ben Quilty’s appointment to the board of the Art Gallery of NSW he’s achieved a remarkable degree of influence for an artist barely into mid-career. Quilty announced that his time on the board would be proactive and he has set out to make some changes to the work selected for venerable Archibald, as well as using his better judgment to give Nigel Milsom the 2013 Moran Prize. We expect to hear a lot more from Quilty – and we don’t mean a post card.

13. Barry Keldoulis – NEW

When Barry Kelodoulis’s gallery closed it seemed that the Australian art world had lost another significant gallerist to the post-GFC gloom. But ever the magician who can reinvent himself, Keldoulis returned in 2013 as CEO and Group Fairs Director of Art Fairs Australia, Tim Etchells’ multinational art fairs company. While Etchells might be the man with the money, it’s Keldoulis who’ll be making the creative decisions for both the Sydney Contemporary and Melbourne Art Fair events.

12. Roslyn Oxley – LY 13 | +1

Not only has Roslyn Oxley’s gallery put in another big year she and husband Tony remain influential players in the wider art scene, not least their involvement with the Art Gallery of NSW’s Contemporary Benefactors. Celebrating 30 years in the contemporary art scene is a major achievement and we can only hope that persistent rumours that the gallery will close in 2014 for a well-earned retirement is just that – a rumour.

11. Andrew Cameron – LY 12 | + 1

As deputy chair of the Biennale of Sydney Andrew Cameron wields a lot of power and influence, but as a canny collector, a philanthropist and donor of major works to Sydney’s museums and galleries, he’s part of a generation who proactively get involved in the art scene for the better.

10. Juliana Engberg – LY 14 | + 4

Taking temporary leave from her directorship of Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art – Australia’s own art Death Star – Juliana Engberg is the artistic director of the forthcoming 19th Biennale of Sydney, You Imagine What You Desire. Under Engberg’s direction the Biennale does away with a single theme to survey art that imagines alternative futures, and moves from its mid year future to open in European tourist-friendly March.

9. Elizabeth Ann Macgregor – LY 9 | –

With the opening of the Mordant Wing and the launch of Volume One, an exhibition of the museum’s under-seen collection, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor took a well-earned three-month holiday. While that may have moved other art world power trippers down our list, Macgregor’s ongoing involvement with international art, artists and curators keeps her in a uniquely influential position.

8. Tony Ellwood – LY 10 | + 1

Bringing the moxie he had as director of QAGGOMA in Brisbane, Tony Ellwood’s tenure as director of the National Gallery of Victoria has started to pay off. Not only has the gallery undertaken the acquisition program he flagged in 2012, the kind of large scale, feel good shows he oversaw in Brisbane are now gracing the darkened spaces of the NGV, namely, the hugely successful Melbourne Now.

7. Peter Fay – LY 7 | –

If Nietzsche is correct and the highest form of power is the capacity to enhance another’s power then Peter Fay is the most powerful man in the Australian art world. Although he likes to stay on the DL, he’s probably one of the best known and best loved collectors of Oz art. But he doesn’t just collect art, he collects artists. Known for his passionate support for ‘outsider art’, Fay fosters long-term relationships where he acts more as generous mentor than patron. He is an uncorrupted soul in a money-grabbing world. He’s someone who would never post a selfie on Facebook.

6. Allan Myers – LY 6 | –

Of the rare breed of Australian super philanthropists Allan Myers remains is among the most respected, not just for his continuing involvement in the arts – he’s president of the National Gallery of Victoria’s council of trustees, and board member of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust and the Ian Potter Foundation – but as a committed activist in education and the law. He is one of a number of arts patrons who has recently become more public about their donations in order to encourage other wealthy individuals to open their wallets. The QC is not only President of the NGV Council, he also signed over a $10 million cheque to the museum.

5. John Kaldor – LY 3 | – 2

Once you’ve gifted your $35 million art collection to AGNSW what do you do for an encore? For John Kaldor – collector, philanthropist and astute businessman – your carry on. In 2013 Kaldor Projects staged 13 Rooms, a massive 13 artist/100 performer event group exhibition promoted as “living sculpture” curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Bisenbach. In 2014, Kaldor Projects have two projects for your consideration – Roman Ondak’s participatory works at Parramatta Town Hall, and Tino Sehgal’s This Is So Contemporary at the Art Gallery of NSW. And so it is.

4. Luca Belgiorno-Nettis – LY 4 | –

Don’t let his privileged background or his urbane façade fool you, just like his father before him, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis puts his money where his mouth is: not only is he the Chairman of the Biennale of Sydney and a member of the Australian International Cultural Committee, he is also the founder of The New Democracy Foundation – an independent research organisation that aims to identify improvements to the democratic process. With the BOS19 about to launch in March 2014, Belgiorno-Nettis presides over the single most important international art event in the country.

3. David Walsh – LY 5 | +2

At least we’re not the only ones who find it hard to know what to say about the eccentric owner of Hobart’s [now] world-infamous Museum of Old and New Art. In February’s edition of The Monthly, author Richard Flanagan wrote an incisive Walsh bio where he described the task of profiling the mega-rich personality as “like trying to pick up mercury with a pair of pliers”. Totally dedicated to art that concerns sex and death, MONA’s popularity has seen Tassie tourism and public curiosity in its idiosyncratic owner soar. Challenging the national and state collections with a privately funded institution hasn’t been done before in Australia – but MONA is now Tasmania’s top tourist draw. If this means one man has pretty much pulled an entire State out of the doldrums, then that’s power. As for the art, there’s been good and bad but what’re a few mixed reviews when MONA’s brilliant PR team can turn almost anything into a positive?

2. George Brandis – NEW

Perhaps it was the inevitability of the Coalition victory or maybe people just didn’t care, but despite many promises that arts policies would be released in “good time” the election came and went without anything resembling a policy statement released or spending commitment made. Now in power and Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis is arguably one of the most powerful people in Australian art: will he revive attempts to give his office the power to veto Australia Council funding decisions and to reorganize its board? Will the Federal Government follow the example of their cousins in Queensland and cut a swathe through arts funding? Or will Brandis follow in the illustrious footsteps of his Liberal party predecessors and preside over a do-nothing portfolio? Only time will tell.

1. Simon Mordant – LY 1 | –

If it’s better to give than to receive then Simon Mordant is the best. His generosity has netted some big rewards for the Oz art scene, reflected in a CV that reads like a list of things every multi-millionaire wants to be when they grow up: Mordant is Chairman of the Board of the MCA, the Venice Commissioner, is on the boards of the ABC, the Sydney Theatre Company, the Leadership Council for the New Museum in New York, is a member of the Executive Committee of the Tate International Council and the International Council of MOMA in New York. Next year sees him as head honcho at the Venice Biennale in the newly made over Australian Pavilion. And he’s one of the few people who don’t just support the contemporary art scene, he transforms it.

Andrew Frost


  1. Scott Redford

    Thing is its still the same boring list! God the Margaret Olley Museum…Contemporary Art is Dead! and that NGA is fake, just because Josh Milani and Peter Bellas have their arses protected by Aunty Ron (what smuggled Shiva!) Radford doesn’t make it real. And everyone should remember Milani seems a lot of art to the NGA!

    I stand by my claim. Australian art is Govt Art and this list proves it! I am just saying what I think. If only more of you lot Would show some balls we’d be in a better place!

  2. Eric Bridgeman

    Oh scott you got here first.
    Its not as bad as the hottest couple list they do.

  3. 815k1

    Old and ageing list and as for the young re: Ben Quilty who judged Moran prize, just shows art portrait prizes in Australia are dumb, backwards, provincial and absolutely hideous.

  4. Joshua Henderson

    What a filthy piece of shit.

  5. Art Rant

    What a lot of old socks – so boring – where are the experimental artists, the digital innovators, the remote creatives? The world of commercial galleries, wanky big noters and boring establisment art – doesn’t hold any power with me!

    Busted. Your IP address reveals all. – Art Life Management

  6. I was certain The Skywhale was going to top the list this year.

  7. Tom Mercure

    Vasili WHO?

  8. I have read all the response to the list. I feel that there is a lack of critical debateDo you think this matter should be addressed in Vault New Art & Culture Magazine?
    If so, please contact me

  9. Andrew Cold

    This list is great. List haters need to get over themselves. This list isn’t boring. Maybe it does reveal a sad state of affairs across Australian art… but the list was never: The 50 Most Progressive and Reactionary People in Australian Art. Power is sadly conservative.

  10. Jasmine

    I’m surprised that the makers of this list didn’t include themselves in the top 50’s they so seem to know what they’re talking about…NOT

  11. Darren Wardle

    Not many artists in your list. Where’s the power in this country I wonder?

  12. Juno Gemes

    This is my first viewing of this list. I’m pretty upset to see that Eleonora Triburof has renamed Art & Australia. Actually because of PBP’s partnership with Craftman’s House I had the task of finding a new owner for Art & Australia when Martin Gordon sold it around 2000. One of the conditions of the sale was that she honour the magazines history. I knew I should have been given a seat on that advisory board.
    This is really bad news. Let’s see what can be done!

  13. Johnnie

    Great delivery. Outstanding reasons. Maintain the good effort.

  14. Arch context

    Brandis? ‘Thought this list was mildly interesting- then got to the bottom- in both senses.
    Meaningless twaddle.

    Phil, let’s just see what Brandis does in the next year or two before writing him off, eh? – Art Life Management

  15. Great read, well done guys!

  16. In relation to scott redfords views expressed on ‘the daily review’ about boycotting the melbourne art festival over its main patron transfield’s association with manus island detention centre, for what its worth I have tried to express my support for scott’s views but alas my post’s havent been allowed.
    So although it looks as though he has no support it is not true. Visual artists should in fact boycott such an event. -greg hoey.

  17. greg hoey

    Actually don’t worry about posting my coment [even though you won’t]- Ive obtained scott’s email and will let him know personally, since my comments just get censored by all the art fascists that run australian art. thanx for nothing artholes!

    You’re welcome, Greg – Art Life Management


  19. Emily O'Neill

    Looks like a dancing shiva bewitched a quorum of our finest art experts who forgot to check her provenance, turning a blind eye to the art market rumours surrounding Mr Magoo’s looting and smuggling activities…with at least one of your illustrious listees severely embarrassed (Alan Myers) and ole Ron having to fall on his sword.

    Purchase price of 5 mil+ was stumped up by taxpayers with not a philanthropy dollar to be seen! Seems private money got wind of Mr Magoo before Mr Radford and Ms Jackson…

    I mean really, who can you trust these days?

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