The Power Trip 2017: The Most Powerful People in the Australian Art World

Art Life , Stuff Dec 12, 2016 5 Comments

Welcome to the fifth outing of Australia’s most beloved power list – the good, the bad and the fugly of the Australian art world.

There are four kinds of power: 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. And let’s not forget the artists, whose magical combination of talent, visibility and opportunity push them up above the fray…

For this year’s Power Trip we’ve busted out the old 50 up to 100. To get there we followed our tried and tested process of keeping records, comparing notes, making long lists, short lists, then throwing those lists away, going out for coffee, then finally consulting Facebook. People often tell us that our process is flawed, that it’s unrepresentative, and that there aren’t enough artists etc. In short, this list does not represent the way people want the art world to be. That may well be the case, but just remember this: Last year we predicted that Donald Trump would be US President. So who is laughing now?

For those who enjoy lists, you should note that now we have 100 names, the list is a lot more elastic and so while your favourite curator, gallery director, artist or art critic may have moved down, the positions are worked out relative to their categories of power rather than by strict numerical position. So if you moved down, it might just be an optical illusion.

As always, we welcome your comments.

Please enjoy.



100. Scott Redford

Full-time Internet pest, part-time artist.

99. Tracey Clement

One of the hardest working arts journos in the biz, and a dab hand curator

98. Bree Pickering

Has big shoes to fill at Murray Art Museum Australia – so watch this space.

97. Sian McIntyre

Young and determined artist/curator.

96. Brett Adlington

He’s finally building the new gallery Lismore has been waiting on for decades.

95. Nicholas Forrest

Instagramming watches and cars while writing art pieces for Blouin Art Info.

94.  Louise Zhang

Who? You’ll see.

93. Nicole Durling

The brains at MONA.

92. Natalia Bradshaw

Curator taking Australian art to exotic locations.

91. Simon Wright

The power-behind-the-throne at GOMA.

90. Mikala Dwyer

Ultra-respected artist, teacher, mentor.

89. Michael Lynch

Doing his best to save the National Art School.

88. Del Kathryn Barton

Archibald prizes + films.

87. Amanda Love

Super-connected art dealer.

86. Natty Solo

Not the blogger the art world wants, the blogger the art world needs…


David Capra, Abdul Abdullah and Nat Randall are FBI’s breakfast art crew.

84. Anna Pappas

Is there such as thing as the Melbourne Art Fair?

83. James Valentine

Every arts story on The Mix can livened up with some of Mr. Valentine’s patented humour!

82. Sam Leach

Many try to paint like Leach, few succeed. Or write as well

81. Daniel Boyd

Artist, Artspace board member

80. Isobel Parker Philip

One of the best young curators in the country.

79. Tamara Dean


78. Sasha Grishin

He’s got a great story about researching his last book on the web!

77. Peter Daverington

Ex-pat, ex-street art, painter showing the kids how it’s done.

76. Ted Snell

Perth’s never-say-die art critic, director of a “cultural precinct”.

75. Barbara Flynn

Curator, writer and public arts curator for Sydney City with public money to spend.

74. Paul Becker

Launched in Sydney, Art money has now successfully crossed the Atlantic

73. Eleonora Triguboff

There are some fancy art books to publish…

72. Nell

One name, much love.

71. Ashley Crawford

Rebooting web publishing with the launch of

70. Deborah Kelly

Dealing in beauty to keep the bastards honest.

69. Soda_Jerk

Video piracy is a major problem in Australia – and worth a $100,000 Ian Potter Moving Image Commission!

68. Robert Cook

AGWAs always-inventive curator/writer

67. Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran

Australia’s hottest young artist right now™!

66. Marcus Westbury

Turning dead ends into cultural precincts.

65. Sebastian Goldspink

Flying the flag for emerging artists everywhere.

64. The CoUNTess

Counting the numbers and finding they don’t add up, dammit!

63. Wendy Whiteley

Only Wendy gets to decide who sits next to Wendy at dinner parties.

62. Sen. Mitch Fifield

Put Barney Rubble in charge of the federal arts ministry and watch a farrago turn into a shit show.

61. Tamara Winikoff

Fighting the good fight.

60. Natalie King

Curating history.

59.  Nina Miall

Joint-curator of The National.

58. Susi Muddiman

Those tour buses don’t just drive themselves to Tweed Regional Gallery, there has to be art there first…

57. Tracey Cooper Lavery

Five minutes back on the Goldie and she’s snagged millions for the new gallery due in 2020.

56. Kirsty Grant

Everyone loves to go Heide.

55. Michael Rolfe

The head of Museums and Galleries NSW stacking up the air miles…

54. Erica Green

Curator of the Adelaide Biennial 2018 & SAMSTAG director

53. Tony Albert

Sell-out shows, TV shows and all round nice guy.

52. Tracey Moffatt

Exciting emerging artist representing Australia in the big leagues.

51. Art & Australia Editorial Board

Rebirthing Australia’s art world journal of record, cheekily renumbered at ‘0’.

50. Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Artbank’s top curator, journal editor, artist and part-time plushie.

49. Robert Nelson

An art critic doesn’t need to feel that they’re obliged to like things.

48. Michael Reid

Multi-national private art enterprises run with panache and a smart selection of jackets.

47.Tony Grybowski

Australia Council CEO, much like a polar bear on a shrinking ‘berg…

46. Tim Fairfax

Enjoys giving his money to QAGOMA.

45Alison Kubler & Michael Zavros

She, GOMAs en-sashed goodwill ambassadress, he, portrait painter to near-royalty.

44. Philip Bacon

Gallerist, philanthropist, gent.

43. Wayne Tunnicliffe

Curator at AGNSW and joint curator of The National.

42. Susan Borham

No one admits to buying Art Collector, but everybody reads it…

41. Victoria Lynn

Art and wine do mix.

40. Martin Browne

Owner of the most beautiful gallery in Sydney, now with added legroom.

39. Dick Quan

Sydney’s force-of-nature über-collector.

38. Djon Mundine

Ubiquity can be a good thing.

37.Tony Stephens

Not only does Stephens run Artbank, he takes a good photo.

36. Gina Fairley

If Artshub’s Gina Fairly didn’t report it, it didn’t happen

35. Ursula Sullivan & Joanna Strumpf

A stellar year of new recruits, major exhibitions and one of the hottest young artists of the year™!

34. Dr. Gene Sherman

She’ll send you a love letter straight from her heart.

33. Glenn Barkley

The everywhere man of art, artist and curator, now with his very own backlash.

32. Pat Corrigan

One of the most generous art collectors and philanthropists in the country.

31. Karen Quinlan

Bendigo in full effect.

30. Alexi Glass-Kantor

Diminutive in scale but hugely influential. We’re talking about Artspace itself, obvs.

29. Roslyn Oxley

Still going strong, kinda.

28. John McDonald

“A common or garden variety art critic” McDonald  doubles as film critic for the AFR, doing both jobs equally well.

27. Mandy Chang

ABC arts head, deciding who sees what.

26. Max Delany

No one really liked the Painting More Painting shows but everyone went to see them. Sweet.

25Kelly Gellatly

The Potter storms home in 2016 with a show by one of Australia’s hottest young artists right now™!

24. Sarah Cottier

Quietly one of the most influential gallerists in the country.

23. Michael Brand

In the end perception equals reality. Things can only get better.

22. Jan Minchin

Tolarno Galleries director stalwart.

21. Anna Schwartz

Stylish art establishment.

20. Nick Mitzevich

Moved, conquered and now has his sights set on even bigger things for Adelaide.

19. Chris Saines

Still dressing for the tropics and producing great, well-timed speeches.

18. John Olsen


17. Naomi Milgrom

M Pavilion, Venice.

16. The Balnaves Family

Tick off their philanthropic grants – AGNSW, AGSA, MCA, McClelland, Mosman, Kaldor – and that’s just in the visual arts.

15. Gerard Vaughan

Dickie-bow wearing director of the NGA.

14. Richard Bell

The ratbag moral conscience of the Australian art world.

13. John Kaldor

True or false: just tell your barber, “give me the Kaldor” [True].

12. David Gonski

Give a Gonski.

11. Tony Ellwood

Australian art, touring behemoths, national treasures – and Ellwood makes it look easy… and fun.

10. Lisa Havilah

Schwartz bequest [$500k], + Biennale venue, + The National 2017 = Havilah, queen of all she surveys…

9. Rupert Myer

Chairman of Ozco and the Myer Foundation who is backing a ‘new approach to arts advocacy’. Watch this space.

8. Simon Mordant

The thin man of Australian art with a big fat wallet.

7. Besen Family

Still giving.

6. Barry Keldoulis

The man with all the top jobs, director of Sydney Contemporary and now Art Month. Next year, he’s doing Christmas.

5. Elizabeth Ann Macgregor


4. David Walsh

Bread and circuses.

3. Ben Quilty

If profile equals power, no other Australian artist is more powerful than BBQ.

2. Tim Etchells

Not in it for the money.

1. Judith Neilson

White Rabbit, Indigo Slam and definitely no curtains or “fancy electronics”.

The Art Life


  1. Scott Redford

    Ha, I am at 100 because I called Andrew Frost out for non disclosure that his reviews for The Guardian are partly sponsored by GOMA. Cash for comment…but they will censor this post anyway. It feels great NOT to be involved in Australian Govt Art so much, here in Berlin it feels even better. All the false LOVE in this list is sickening…really do you mean that or is it irony. I do hope its irony. Really you should just write Power + Money = More Power…and More Money especially if its Government Money!!

    But really Internet Artist is the new thing, ask Jerry Saltz of Instagram fame…also he’s one of the BEST critics in the world. Australia is so insular and incestous it won’t have heard of him. The new artist is the internet citizen, consumer turned producer. Mark my words, as Art Collector offers half price double spreads soon ALL Australian Art will be is Government Art…and that is as bad as Trump.

  2. CM


    Banana Shire Council are seeking a Queensland based emerging photographer to take portraits of 10 local Modern Pioneers in-situ at their place of work, property, home or an important place linked to their story. The portraits will be developed into a local touring exhibition and publication. Submissions due 13 January.

  3. CM

    Of interest:

    Good Afternoon all,

    Please see the below opportunity for public artists and circulate to your network. Apologies for cross postings.

    The City of Tea Tree Gully is seeking Expressions of Interest (EOI) from established South Australian public artists AND outstanding early and mid-career artists to help redefine the public face of Modbury.

    IGNITE public art incubator is a two week program of ideas, mentoring and concept development scheduled for April 2017.

    The selected project(s) will be funded in the current financial year from a commissioning budget of $30,000

    Project Fee
    Principal artists – $5000
    Participants- $1500 honorarium

    Expressions of Interest for established (principal) artists open 23 January and close 5pm Friday 17 February 2017
    Expressions of Interest for early and mid-career artists (participants) open 25 February and close Friday 17 March 2017.

    We are currently seeking 3 highly experienced public artists to act as principal artists and guide IGNITE participants through the process and pitfalls of designing for the public realm

    Kind Regards,

    Tegan Hale I Arts and Library Projects Officer
    City of Tea Tree Gully

    D 08 8397 7294 I M 0417 871 986 I T 08 8397 7444

    PO Box 571, Modbury, SA 5092

  4. Scott Redford agreed. This list made me laugh and laugh and laugh! Soon ACF and their mates will realise. Ignorance doesn’t make your esoteric list acceptable, but thanks for confirming you have lost your way.

  5. CM

    Whats the Australian Cat Federation got to do with the list!

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