The Power Trip 2019

Art Life , Stuff Dec 17, 2018 8 Comments

Welcome to The Power Trip 2019, our sixth annual list of the most powerful and influential people in the Australian art world. Over the past half decade and a bit we’ve charted a shift in power, from the old money influence of philanthropists, museum board members and trustees and government bureaucrats, to a younger generation of artists, curators and gallerists. Maybe it’s something in the air, or water, but looking over this year’s list, you’ll see a lot of new additions… While it’d be crazy to say the old money influence is on the wane, it’s slowly being eroded by a generational change…

So what do we mean by power? We look at four kinds; the influence that money can buy; the administrative power of government departments and private organisations; the influence of influencers [imaginary power]; and the power of artists. It’s not a perfect world, and it’s not always fair, but as we’ve said in past years: this isn’t the art world we want, it’s the art world we deserve. 

And how do we make our selection for the list? It involves putting together two standard packs of playing cards, where each suit represents one of the four kinds of power. After randomly removing four cards, the dealer fans out 25 cards, each of the other players holding the remaining cards. As each player in turn uncovers a card, other players either say SNAP or OUT depending on whether they hold the same card – the outs represent the ins, the ins represent the outs. The next step is complicated and involves using randomly drawn pairs of tiles from a bag containing Scrabble letters, which are then matched up as closely as possible to the names of TPT candidates. Once those names have been confirmed, there are then five rounds of preferential voting and… Look, you get the idea, When the drinks run out and the music stops, we have our list.

With so many new names, there have a been a few who dropped down the list… or even off it! While we say farewell to everyone from The Curators Department, Gareth Samson, and McLean Edwards, to Sian McIntyre, Nicole Durling and Glenn Barkley, we’re sure we’ll be welcoming them back soon. One of the most regretful goodbyes is to former Carriageworks director Lisa Havilah, who not only exits the list, but also the art world as she heads off to become CEO of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, to oversee its move from Ultimo to the old David Jones carpark in Parramatta. Depending on how that goes, we hope she’ll be back soon! Some other departures are more mysterious: Sebastian Smee, who was such a big noise last year, has either gone back to Boston, or been lost at sea, while Paul Keating, who staked much of his reputation on opposing the Art Gallery of NSW’s Sydney Modern extension, has faded from view. Others have made a huge jump up the list: our congratulations to Daniel Mudie Cunningham, who not only has the biggest climb, he’s now more powerful than Tracey Moffatt. Other big winners include Michael BrandEsther Anatolitis and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.

As ever, we enjoy reading your responses, so please leave your comments below.

Please enjoy…



100. Christopher Allen – NEW
Every week, month after month, year upon year, Snr. Master Allen pumps out 5k words for The Australian, 4.75k words a learned historical disquisition, 250 words on some art he doesn’t like.

99. TEAM PomPom – NEW
Dedicated to artists – and not just those who show there – a philosophy of engagement and experimentation.

98. Karen Quinlan – Last Year 33 | – 65
From Bendigo to the National Portrait Gallery might be a step down, but we’re hoping the effect is transferable…

97. Michael Rolfe – LY 52 | – 45
See that aircraft high above? Chances are Rolfe is in his customary seat 2A heading… somewhere!

96The Cementa Team – LY 96
With plans of world conquest – or perhaps just the NSW Mid-West – Cementa 19 is on the horizon.

95. Amanda Rowell – NEW
With new large-scale premises in Marrickville, nothing can stop her now.

94. Judith White – LY 37 | – 57
The Art Gallery of NSW may be a lost cause, but White keeps up the good fight against the insanity of the Powerhouse move to Parramatta…

93. Anthony Bautovich & Madeleine Preston – NEW
Commitment, quality shows and hard work have paid off in their unique Redfern space, Home Gallery.

92. Don Harwin – NEW
We’ve heard the NSW Arts Minister visits art galleries on weekends – even by himself!

91. John Mawurndjul – NEW
Guardian of old and new.

90. John Olsen and Tim Olsen – [JO – LY 56 | – 34 – TO – NEW ]
The gentlemen of the Australian art world.

89. Bec Dean – LY 95 | + 6
She’s behind most things in Sydney, and DLux Dean also produced John A. Douglas’s superlative performance event.

88. The MEMO Review Team – LY 99 | + 11
Pumping out considered reviews every weekend without fail.

87. Corbett and Yueji Lyon – NEW
Get excited – Melbourne’s Lyonhouse Museum opens March 2019.

86. Tony Albert – LY 50 | – 36
Maybe the country’s busiest artist, and a massive survey show at GOMA.

85. Byron School of Art team – NEW
Breathing new art life into Mullumbimby and the Northern Rivers region.

84. Rhana Davenport – NEW
After moving across the ditch, Davenport seems the perfect successor to Nick Mitzevich’s stewardship at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

83. Running Dog (Naomi Riddle) – NEW
Running reviews and in 2019 a collaboration with Verge Gallery.

82. Amanda Love – LY 84 | + 2
Buying power.

81. Adrian Collette – NEW
Taking up the mantle as new CEO at OzCo, Collette has the job of rebuilding the organisation after the Brandis raid…

80. Sen. Mitch Fifield – LY 81 | + 1
Barney Rubble’s big year included bringing down a prime minister, messing around with the ABC and doing fuck all for the arts. Phew!

79. Maree Di Pasquale – LY 80 | + 1
The rebirth of Melbourne Art Fair was well received but there’s more work to do.

78. CJ Hendry – RETURN
She didn’t want to be on the list – and told us so – but she’s back after US sell-out shows and getting up the Warhol estate’s nose.

77. Fiona Lowry NEW
Massive work acquired by the NGA, touring and regional shows.

76. Brook Andrew – NEW
Artist and surprise choice for Artistic Director of the Sydney Biennale 2020.

75. Karla Dickens – LY 77 | + 2
A big presence at the Melbourne Art Fair consolidates her position.

74. The National: New Australian Art 2019 curatorial team – NEW
We’re counting on greatness with the upcoming Part 2 of this exhibition from Isobel Parker Philip (AGNSW), Daniel Mudie Cunningham (Carriageworks) and Clothilde Bullen and Anna Davis (MCA).

73. Natalie King – LY 57 | – 16
We’re still not sure what an ‘Enterprise Professor’ does but it sounds good.

72. Sebastian Goldspink – LY 61 | – 9
Between farewelling ALASKA Projects’ carpark, an acting gig in The Beehive and his work at the National Art School, Seb’s always a busy man.

71. Angelica Mesiti – NEW
Australia’s next artist at the Venice Biennale.

70. Barbara Flynn – LT 72 | + 2
Let’s hope Sydney’s Cloud Arch hasn’t vanished for good, we were looking forward to a $22 million public sculpture.

69. Nici Cumpston – NEW
Artistic director of Tarnanthi, artist and co-curator of John Mawurndjul career survey

68. Paul Becker – LY 71 | + 3
Art market guru going global with Art Money.

67. Nell – LY 68 | + 1
A huge commission for Carriageworks and the nicest person in the art world.

66. Oliver Watts – NEW
Beard? Check. Snappy suits? Double check. Artbank’s new curator is bringing his trained eye to expanding the lending institution’s collection.

65. Callum Morton – LY 67 | + 2
Selecting for Venice while affording access inside the head of Donald Trump.

64. This Is No Fantasy – NEW
Perhaps it’s in the name but this Melbourne gallery’s art fair presence has quietly gone global.

63. Wendy Whiteley – LY 60 | – 3
‘Celebrated artist’s muse’ [actual quote] and noted Jack Sparrow impersonator, WW says where things go, and why.

62. Laith McGregor – NEW
While proving that even building studios is Pozible, he’s exhibiting around the world.

61. Robert Cook – LY 64 | + 3
The Art Gallery of Western Australia’s star curator.

60. The Lockup Curators – NEW
Super energetic curators of Newcastle’s leading artist run initiative.

59. Kerry Gardner AM – NEW
Treading untested waters – Gardner is Chair of the 2019 Venice Biennale’s new fundraising arm that had no hand in choosing the artist.

58. Channon Goodwin – NEW
BUS Projects, man on the scene.

57. Michael and Janet Buxton NEW
Donors of Melbourne’s newest art museum and owner of the Collection that bears the Buxton name.

56. Gina Fairley – LY 59 | + 3
ArtHub’s tireless reporter and promoter of contemporary art.

55. Danny Goldberg – NEW
The only Australian collector named in the 2018 Artnews Top 200.

54. Del Kathryn Barton – NEW
One of Australia’s most successful contemporary artists, primary and secondary market leader, collector of dots.

53. Esther Anatolitis – LY 74 | + 21
Australia’s queen of arts advocacy is tweeting and gramming her way up the list.

52. Alexi Glass-Kantor – LY 55 | + 3
Artspace’s director has taken the venerable gallery international, online and seemingly everywhere.

51. Tracy Cooper-Lavery – LY 54 | + 3
The Gold Coast’s is getting HOTA.

50. Robert Nelson – LY 46 | – 4
In the waning days of the newspaper art critic, Nelson keeps it classy, thoughtful, funny…

49. Dr. Gene Sherman – LY 40 | – 9
We said that one-day architecture and fashion would be taken seriously, and they have!

48. Alison Kubler & Michael Zavros – LY 42 | – 6
An ever-expanding sphere of influence, now in print!

47. Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran – LY 69 | + 22
A seemingly effortless rise, with local and international shows, and a sense of Zen-like calm.

46. Tracey Moffatt – LY 49 | + 3
Tracey’s brand recognition remains high.

45. Daniel Mudie Cunningham – LY 87 | + 42
Along with DMC’s seemingly tireless curatorial adventures, and a new public art project, there’s his stewardship of Katthy Cavaliere’s legacy, now a fellowship for female artists

44. Miranda Wallace – NEW
The lead Australian curator on MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art.

43. Philip Bacon – LY 41 | – 2
Fred Williams still reigns in the market.

42. Michael Reid – LY 47 | + 5
Choosing to open a gallery in Berlin over London has proven a wise move

41. Susan Borham – LY 45 | + 4
Wait… is Art Collector now the oldest Australian commercial art magazine still in print??

40. Christian Thompson AO – NEW
This year the artist added an Order of Australia to his growing list of achievements

39. Soda_Jerk – LY 65 | + 26
Their world-conquering tour of Terror Nullius has been literally everywhere with a screen and an audience

38. Tony Stephens – LY 34 | – 4
Has expanded Artbank’s Melbourne presence and moved it to new digs in Collingwood

37. Tim Fairfax – LY 43 | + 6 
Philanthropist ne plus ultra of the Sunshine State

36. Martin Browne – LY 39 | + 3
Is he ever in town these days?

35. Victoria Lynn – LY 38 | + 3
TarraWarra’s star curator has the best job in the industry

34. Lindy Lee – NEW
Perhaps the biggest hit at the Adelaide Biennial.

33. Dick Quan – LY 36 | + 3
Arts patron, collector and owner of a much-travelled Yayoi Kusama bag, Dr. Quan is contemporary art’s goodwill ambassador

32. Djon Mundine – LY 35 | + 3
Curator, write and owner of the world’s longest dreadlocks

31. John McDonald – LY 20 | – 11
You’d think with so many movies to review for the AFR Johnny McD. wouldn’t have any time left for art, yet he does

30. Bill Henson and Louise Hearman – NEW
Understated power couple with runs on the board.

29. Max Delany – LY 32 | + 3
ACCA is now zombie-proofed.

28. Richard Bell – LY 14 | – 14
Bell’s Embassy has taken him to places far and wide.

27. Janet Holmes a Court – NEW
Western Australian art world royalty, and now the chair of the AGWA board.

26. Patricia Piccinini – LY 27 | + 1
Following a career survey at GOMA, Piccinini is one of Australia’s most recognised – and popular – contemporary artists.

25. Sarah Cottier – LY 25
Making it look incredibly easy, it’s actually a lot of hard work.

24. Stephen Alderton – LY 30 | + 6
Cranking up the National Art School with new hair and snazzy jackets.

23. Ursula Sullivan & Joanna Strumpf – LY 31 | + 8
Leaders of the younger generation of Australian gallerists.

22. Roslyn Oxley – LY 26 | + 4
Art world royalty.

21. The Balnaves Family – LY 24 | + 3
Showing new money how to support the arts.

20. Naomi Milgrom – LY 23 | + 3
Proving that fashion and art do mix.

19. Jan Minchin – LY 22 | + 3
It’s all about the artists.

18. Max Germanos – NEW
All art, all the time – über-collector and Art Month bigwig.

17. Chris Saines – LY 19 | + 2 
QAGOMA’s director keeps the dual gallery institution relevant – and popular.

16. Anna Schwartz – LY 18 | + 2
Never takes no for an answer.

15. Ben Quilty – LY 10 | – 5
Helped get the money for the gallery, now fighting a coal mine with Barnesy – and loved by (almost) everyone.

14. Andrew Cameron – LY 5 | – 9
Philanthropist and collector.

13. Marc and Eva Besen – LY 7 | – 6
Victoria’s retail royalty and the owners of Tarrawarra continued their philanthropic endeavours.

12. Simon Mordant – LY 17 | + 5
Leading philanthropist, collector and power behind the scenes.

11. Nick Mitzevich – LY 21 | + 10
The NGA’s new Director already started buying – we’re taking bets on your predictions.

10. John Kaldor – LY 13 | + 3
One can only wonder what the art world would look like without him.

9. Elizabeth Ann Macgregor – LY 11 | + 2
Pulled off a few crackers at the MCA this year.

8. Sam Walsh – NEW
Lucky number 13th chair of OzCo, fresh from Rio Tinto.

7. David Walsh – LY 4 | – 3
One third of Tasmania’s tourism cash is generated by MONA. And Motown? – no one bets against Walshy.

6. Barry Keldoulis – LY 6 | – 
He’s pretty much in charge of everything – and he does it with a smile.

5. David Gonski – LY 15 | + 10
Sits in the Chair behind the Director.

4. Michael Brand – LY 16 | + 12
Brando is celebrating beating all the odds this year.

3. Tim Etchells – LY 1 | – 2 
He’s the guy who runs everything that isn’t a commercial gallery, museum or MAF. But give him time.

2. Judith Neilson – LY 2 | –
With a lazy $1 billion or so to spend, Nielson puts her money into art, her gallery – and $100 million for journalism.

1. Tony Ellwood – LY 8 | + 6
Under Ellwood’s direction, the NGV has become the country’s leading public art museum, featuring a canny and hugely successful combination of populist touring shows and deep historical survey exhibitions – where else would you find shows of the caliber of Opie, The Field Revisited and Colony in one year?

The Art Life


  1. Jack Sparrow

    I resemble that remark

  2. Factchecker

    I’ll think you’ll find Art Monthly and Artlink are older than Art Collector.

  3. I suspect Lisa Havilah and Glenn Barkley will prove you wrong in 2019 without even raising a sweat. Excluding a curator/director from the category of artworld because they now work in a museum misses one of the most interesting sites where artists are at work. It’s like insisting on film being the category when there’s a revolution in video streaming. Lisa Havilah will no doubt show us exactly how it’s done. And anyone who saw Glenn Barkley’s show at The Commerial this year will know he’s not done yet.

    For consideration next time:
    LIz Nowell, CEO, ACE Open, Adelaide, bringing the spirit of the Experimental Art Foundation back from the brink

    Katrina Sedgwick, Director & CEO, ACMI who fought for Soda Jerk’s Terror Nullius
    And even Prince Harry and Megan know who Abdul Abdullah and Amrita Hepi are

    All good points Susan, but the measure for admission to the list, and to stay on it, is when there are a number of factors at play. When someone leaves an institution, they drop down, or off, the list. If their new appointment proves noteworthy, then they’ll likely come back. In the case of Lisa H., we’ll wait and see how her tenure with MAAS goes. Mr. Barkley’s show was notable, but the Curators Dept. had a quiet year after 2017. But he too may be back. As we say, we’re sure we’ll hear from all the people who dropped off this year – and we don’t mean a postcard – Art Life Management

  4. PS: Thanks for doing this each year! Season’s Greetings

  5. Ivor

    Do a ranking of Russian surfing greats next

  6. Not Simon Lee

    David Noonan, Simon Lee, Rocky Swallow, Vasili Kaliman, Ron Mueck?

  7. Firepeak

    With one hundred places to choose from, surely any list would have to find room for Vanessa Stockard as an emerging/emerged talent? Absolute knockout shows in 2018: both here and in the US

  8. Suzanne Donisthorpe

    No mention of Julie Collins and Derek Johns monumental BOAA in Ballarat? 150 contemporary artists – 5 or more venues – 6 week run – $800 thousand paid out in artist fees. Geez it’s tough if you’re not in Sydney or Melb to get credit.

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