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France's Pinault tops art world power list

It is the first time anyone outside the United States and Britain has topped the list, now in its fifth year.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2006 21:40 IST

Francois Pinault, French owner of Christie's auctioneers and a leading collector, has been named the most powerful figure in the contemporary art world in 2006, toppling last year's winner, British artist Damien Hirst.

Pinault's triumph was matched by the failure of his rival in art and business, Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury goods group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, who failed to make it into ArtReview magazine's top 100 annual ranking having reached number 21 in 2005.

It is also the first time anyone outside the United States and Britain has topped the list, now in its fifth year.

Previous winners were Hirst, U.S. collectors Larry Gagosian and Ronald S. Lauder in 2004 and 2003 respectively, and British collector Charles Saatchi in 2002.

"It helps that Christie's has had an amazing year, but the tipping point this year was Palazzo Grassi in Venice," said ArtReview editor John Weich.

"Grassi had political repercussions as well, being the latest blow to a French state that couldn't keep one of the most profound contemporary art collections in France."

Pinault, also owner of the Gucci fashion group, moved his collection to Venice after attempts to build a museum on an island in the river Seine in Paris were thwarted by bureaucracy.

But earlier this month, Arnault announced plans for a 100 million euro ($127 million) art museum in Paris designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Weich said ArtReview was going to print when Arnault unveiled his project, which may well have kept him in the list.

In second place this year was Gagosian, followed by Nicholas Serota, head of London's Tate museums, and Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

ART FAIRS

The growing importance of art fairs was underlined by the presence of Sam Keller, who runs the Art Basel event, at number five in the list and Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, directors of London's popular Frieze Art Fair, at number eight.

Los Angeles-based Eli Broad is ranked sixth, followed by Saatchi, who leapt to seventh from 19th in 2005.

Rounding off the top 10 are US artists Bruce Nauman, unchanged at number nine, and Jeff Koons, who jumped from 62nd position in 2005 to 10th.

Hirst, last year's winner, slipped to number 11.

"With artists, we often find ourselves weighing selling success against intellectual pull," said Weich.

"Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are enormously successful artists, but time and again we came back to Nauman, the most influential artist alive."

Weich said he based the ranking on commercial clout, intellectual influence and popularity.

He added that the 2006 ranking was more strict about differentiating between contemporary and modern art.

And so Ronald S Lauder, the cosmetics magnate who bought a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt this year for a record-breaking $135 million, drops off the list entirely.

China's emerging status is reflected by having three people on this year's list, while the United States features 40 times and Britain 25 times.