For their December Issue, Vanity Fair asked "100 art-world worthies"—defined as artists, art professors, and curators—who they think were the six greatest living artists right now. The poll was intended to measure today's trends, not capture who will endure as the most important artists overtime—"More Van Dyck, in short, than Rembrandt," writes the author of the piece Mark Stevens.
The top artists were the following:
Gerhard Richter: 24 votes
Jasper Johns: 20 votes
Richard Serra: 19 votes
Bruce Nauman: 17 votes
Cindy Sherman: 12 votes
Ellsworth Kelly: 10 votes
Stevens points out the holes in this survey—Why are there so few women? Where are the photographers? The performing artists? What he doesn't point out, is that the list is dominated by white people. While the next tier of artists, those who received five votes, includes David Hammons and Kara Walker, the top six was highly lacking in diversity. The Huffington Post, who created their own version of Vanity Fair's poll, writes, "A very talented, very white, selection, if we may say so ourselves..."
Defining the greatest living artists of all time is, to be fair, a nebulous and almost impossible task, but it does bring up questions about how you try and define a period while living in it. And here, it looks like it was defined by money.
Steven writes, "Last spring, the Robert Miller Gallery staged an old-fashioned panel called 'Gender Politics in the Arts,' during which Laurie Simmons, a panelist and a veteran of the New York art world, suddenly veered off topic. Gender? Today, she said, artists talk about nothing but money." With Gerhard Richter, who is the highest selling living artist, and Cindy Sherman, who has sold the second most expensive photograph ever, on this list, it's hard not to align popularity with market success. And maybe there's some validity to that conflation. Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose paintings are skyrocketing at auction, would probably have made the cutoff if he were alive (even if he isn't white). At the same time, we would hope that the art market doesn't have too much of a stronghold on an artist's importance today.
Check out the full list of participants and nominees here.
[via Vanity Fair]