The Power Trip 2018: The Australian Art World’s Most Influential People

Art Life , Stuff Dec 15, 2017 8 Comments

The Power Trip is Australia’s most trusted list of the Australian art world’s powerful and influential people. Now in its sixth year, the list began back when there was a Federal Labor government, Barack Obama was US President and there was general sense of calm in the world. Now we’re living in an age that we predicted with eerie accuracy.

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…

Which brings us to our annual caveat – as much as we’d like to fill our list with sunshine, puppies and flowers, this isn’t the list we want, it’s the list we deserve. And with awesome power comes awesome responsibility. How do we draw up the list? It’s simple really. We begin by writing a long list of names on a piece of paper. We then roll up the paper, light it, and smoke it. After a short while, names become visible in the air, from which some names rise, and others fall. After we have selected 100 candidates, we have our final elephant. Sorry, we have our final list.

Undoubtedly, you’ll look down the list and wonder, for example, how can artist, a curator, a philanthropist and a blogger end up adjacent to each other: surely a millionaire with a huge media profile has way more power than an artist with a successful show? True. The way to read this list is by comparing the relative positions of people with similar roles – artists with artists, curators with curators etc. Except when we climb high into the top 25 and then it’s game on elephants.

As someone once said, “one day you’re in, the next day you’re out!” With 100 names there’s a lot of volatility on the list since 2016 so we say a sad farewell to Gerard Vaughn, Tamara Winikoff, Eleonora Triguboff, Sasha Griffin, James Valentine, Mandy Chang and Nicholas Forrest, among a many others. We say farewell, but hope you’ll all be back soon.

One last thing: we always love to get reader feedback so please leave comments below in the space provided. Tell us what you think!

100. John Kelly

John Kelly is on a one-man mission to make sure artists like John Kelly get to represent Australia at Venice…

99. The MEMO Review Team

Pumping out weekly Melbourne reviews.

98. Sian McIntyre

Under McIntyre’s direction, artists who exhibit at Verge Gallery get paid. Yeah.

97. McLean Edwards

The kid’s on a tear – new gallery, sell out New York show, brand new work back home, ever-growing Instagram stardom.

96. The Cementa Team

Cementa friendship! If you haven’t been to Kandos yet, block the Cementa19 dates now.

95. Bec Dean

One woman dynamo on a half a dozen boards, dab hand curator, and a raucous media pundit.

94. Brett Adlington

Not even the second-worst flood on record could prevent the opening of the new Lismore Regional Gallery.

93. Bree Pickering

If you want to get anywhere, you have to drive through Albury…

92. Nat Randall

Although she and Abdul Abdullah have waved goodbye to FBI’s Radio’s top rated art show CANVAS, Randall’s The Second Woman was the 5 star show-stopping performance of 2017.

91. Nicole Durling

Curating at Tassie’s ‘Museum of Everything’ is not a job for the faint hearted.

90. Teresa and Andrew Biet

Incubating emerging artists.

89. Roslyn Helper

Everyone’s still talking about Underbelly’s 2017 rendition.

88. Mikala Dwyer

Maker of one the AGNSW’s most warmly reviewed exhibitions.

87. Daniel Mudie Cunningham

Cunningham ankles Artbank shock! He’s moved on a firetruck to a bright new future at Carriageworks, with rumours of big things nationally…

86. Chris Fox

Fox’s Interloop sculptural installation at Sydney’s Wynyard Station hit the sweet spot of conceptual rigour and made-for-social-media click bait.

85. Susi Muddiman

Not many artists can resist the hospitality or the to-die-for view at Tweed Regional Gallery residence.

84. Amanda Love

Uber-connected art dealer.

83. Natty Solo

Still dancing at the edge of the art world, and one day she’ll master hyperlinks…

82. Reuben Keehan

QAGOMA’s curator of Contemporary Asian Art has just produced a winning Yayoi Kusama exhibition and will tackle the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial later in 2018.

81. Sen. Mitch Fifield

Mitch grew a beard this year.

80. Maree Di Pasquale

We’re all waiting to see whether the new Director and CEO of the 2018 Melbourne Art Fair can perform miracles.

79. Emily Cormack

Has progressed from curator of Primavera to the 2018 TarraWarra Biennial.

78. Not Fair

Sam Leach, Tony Lloyd and Ashley Crawford’s baby got bigger and better this year

77. Karla Dickens

Artist on the rise.

76. Isobel Parker Philip

The photography curator smashing it at the AGNSW with this year’s masterful Mapplethorpe show.

75. Sebastian Smee

Everyone’s favourite nice guy is currently also the everywhere art critic.

74. Esther Anatolitis

The new boss at NAVA

73. Glenn Barkley

If you thought his power was on the wane, he’s now joined Sullivan and Strumpf. Say no more.

72. Barbara Flynn

Finding homes for largely unloved corporate-style sculptures. It’s a living.

71. Paul Becker

Originally launched in Sydney, Becker’s Art Money now partners with galleries worldwide from Barcelona to Brasilia.

70. Rosemary Hawker & Geraldine Barlow

Years of hard work and these two pulled off “unmissable” Gerhard Richter’s, The Life of Images at QAGOMA.

69. Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran

So much for the afterglow, last year’s hot new thing is already washed up. PSYCHE!

68. Nell

Rock on.

67. Callum Morton

The guy chosen to chair the new selection board for Venice. Good luck with that.

66. Art & Australia Editorial Board

Putting out the future one issue at a time.

65. Soda_Jerk

About to debut major new work at ACMI.

64. Robert Cook

AGWAs always-inventive curator/writer.

63. Abdul Abdullah

The art world’s favourite slashie: artist/TV host/radio guy/doco subject/social media avenger.

62. Richard Perram

Bathurst Regional Gallery Director is going out with a bang and a lot of naked men.

61. Sebastian Goldspink

You can only be a creative producer if you have the hair to go with it.

60. Wendy Whiteley

Someone seriously suggested that Wendy is now more of an artist that Brett, what with her garden and all… and why not?

59. Gina Fairley

Probably the hardest working arts journalist in the country, excellent shoes.

58. Terry Wu

Board member extraordinaire [ACMI, Heide, NAVA], Terry has put his philanthropy to something more than collecting art – paying studio rent.

57. Natalie King

Venice is lovely at this time of year. It’s artichoke season.

56. John Olsen

How to be an art legend and piss people off in one easy step.

55. Alexi Glass-Kantor

Two hour speaking and walking tours? No problemo.

54. Tracy Cooper-Lavery

Guiding the $60m spend on the new Gold Coast Cultural Precinct.

53. The Curators Department

From Tamworth to New York, Glenn Barkley, Holly Williams and Ivan Muñiz Reed are the organisers behind the shows.

52. Michael Rolfe

“Out your left window you can now see… [insert name of regional Australian airport]”.

51. Erica Green

SAMSTAG and the 2018 Adelaide Biennial are still keeping her busy.

50. Tony Albert

Artist/TV host/fundraiser extraordinaire.

49. Tracey Moffatt

Reports of 6,000 visitors a day at Venice to see TM’s pics.

48. Ted Gott

NGV co-curator of the “the most successful ticketed exhibition in the NGV’s 156-year history” [Van Gogh and The Seasons].

47. Michael Reid

New gallery space, new artists, touring show of Australian photography in Europe: all is ja gut.

46. Robert Nelson

This year Bob says female painters are subtler.

45. Susan Borham

No one puts [her] baby in the corner.

44.Tony Grybowski

More powerful than ever, kind of like The Hulk.

43. Tim Fairfax

Establishing a “new approach” to Australian art and culture and putting his money behind it.

42. Alison Kubler & Michael Zavros

Classy, sexy, stylish – just imagine it turned out they are vampires.

41. Philip Bacon

Still the Grand Master of BNE art – and a philanthropist to boot.

40. Dr. Gene Sherman

One day soon, fashion and architecture will be taken seriously.

39. Martin Browne

Still one of the smoothest salesmen in the business.

38. Victoria Lynn

Making the most of one of the best jobs in the country.

37. Judith White

This axe is very large and needs constant grinding.

36. Dick Quan

Still travelling around with Yayoi and spending up big on art world support.

35. Djon Mundine

Does Mundine ever sleep?

34.Tony Stephens

Smooth sailing at Artbank, one of Australia’s leading lending collections.

33. Karen Quinlan

Movie stars and undies of the rich and famous make for a winning combo.

32. Max Delany

Delany has unfinished business at ACCA.

31. Ursula Sullivan & Joanna Strumpf

The Wonder Women of Zetland.

30. Stephen Alderton

The National Art School’s ultra-connected new director who’ll Make NAS Great Again.

29. Isaac and Susan Wakil

Major supporters of Michael Brand’s Sydney Modern project.

28. Gareth Sansom

His NGV career survey was so strong it drew rave reviews around Australia, and as far away as Ireland…

27. Patricia Piccinini

The largest ever survey of Piccinini’s work opens in March at QAGOMA – meanwhile her show in Brasilia was the “most viewed contemporary exhibition of the year”.

26. Roslyn Oxley

And they sailed on into the night, laughing.

25. Sarah Cottier

One of Sydney Contemporary’s success stories.

24. The Balnaves Family

Following Mordant’s lead, Balnaves exited the Biennale, leaving only family support for the AGNSW, AGSA, MCA, McClelland, Mosman, Kaldor, etc, etc.

23. Naomi Milgrom

Now the Biennale job is over, she’s back at the helm of her Foundation.

22. Jan Minchin

Tolarno Galleries Director stalwart.

21. Nick Mitzevich

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

20. John McDonald

You’re only getting half the story if you don’t sign up for the esteemed critic’s weekly newsletter.

19. Chris Saines

QAGOMA’s Director oversaw a major revivification of the permanent Australian collection, while the new place still looks spiffy a decade on.

18. Anna Schwartz

Making talent look easy.

17. Simon Mordant

The victim of poor stakeholder management, Mordant took his ball and went home, yet still manages impressive generosity. Go figure.

16. Michael Brand

Suddenly the clouds parted and there was glorious sunlight – and a few hundred million dollars…

15. David Gonski

Gonski is bacski says the Sydney Morning Herald.

14. Richard Bell

The ratbag moral conscience of the Australian art world.

13. John Kaldor

The King is still doing his thing with Kaldor Projects – and doing it well.

12. Paul Keating

Sometimes covert power prevails.

11. Elizabeth Ann Macgregor

The MCA continues to pump out some great stuff – most notably Pipilotti Rist’s Sip My Ocean.

10. Ben Quilty

Fighting the good fight for real art and natural justice

9. Rupert Myer

OzCo chair overseeing the move to a new selection regime for the Venice Biennale

8. Tony Ellwood

Australia’s most popular, the NGV, finally cracked the list of the 20 “top museums on earth”.

7. Marc and Eva Besen

The owners of Tarrawarra are still giving back.

6. Barry Keldoulis

“Spends a lot of time going all over the world to different art fairs …and having holidays” – according to his boss.

5. Andrew Cameron

He and wife Cathy won the 2017 Philanthropy Leadership Award – Cameron also holds numerous Board spots from Belvoir and Sherman to Artspace and the AGNSW Foundation.

4. David Walsh

Going HOMO with a brand-new edifice – and giving chocolates to the poor.

3. Lisa Havilah

Just like her ship, Carriageworks Havilah steams steadily up the list.

2. Judith Neilson

Super patron and White Rabbit owner is now building another gallery.

1. Tim Etchells

Likes art that makes him smile.


Picture credit: Balthasar van der Ast, Basket of Fruitsc. 1625. Oil on wood, 14 x 20 cm. Staatliche Museen, Berlin

The Art Life


  1. You Suck

    No Scotty Redford? For shame.

  2. Simon

    John Kelly stole his spot.

  3. Ian Milliss

    My condolences to Alex Wisser. I’m sure a large cash donation to Andrew Frost will get cementa taken off this list of shame.

    Ah, just like the bad old days – welcome back Ian – Art Life Management

  4. 00s + Avos

    Hooraye! Scott Redford is finally dusted. Thank you!
    Sincerely, Australian millennials.

  5. Ian Milliss

    LOL Andrew that would be “the bad old days” when The Art Life actually had readers?

  6. Fuck! I missed that closed membership S&M party… (AGAIN)

  7. Dr Fredrich Metzengerstein

    It’s quite beyond me that Michael Reid is only at 47.. Really? an absolute farce.

  8. Tom Loveday

    Thankfully, the art world has little to do with actual art

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