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The Art Review Power 100 List: Meet the 9 Africans on the List

Each year, the ArtReview Power 100 list unveils the individuals who wield the most influence in contemporary art. Ranking 100 living individuals who are shaping art now, the list includes not only artists, but also curators, collectors, and thinkers who have a significant impact on the international contemporary art scene. More than just a ranking, it offers a glimpse into the intricate workings of the global art ecosystem.

The Power List aims to illuminate some of the professionalised art world’s obscured corners and track its shifts and changes over the past 12 months. It also attempts to chart the reality of an ‘industry’ that can be seen at times to preach one thing and practise another, often making it feel like a world of confusion. This year, among the artists, curators, collectors, and thinkers who make the cut, ten individuals have a strong connection to Africa - either by birth, heritage or the focus of their practice. There are:


1.Sammy Baloji | Artist

Sammy Baloji is a Congolese artist who lives and works between Lubumbashi and Brussels. He works with photography, video, collage, and installation to create works that explore the colonial and post-colonial history, memory, and identity of Lubumbashi and the African continent at large. By contrasting the images of buildings, decayed structures, and enormous piles of waste with the portraits of people—such as labourers, villagers, and city dwellers—Bolaji’s work examines how identity, social history, and memory are shaped.

Chris Soap, The branch wants to keep on branding

Baloji is a co-founder of Picha, a platform for contemporary art in Lubumbashi, and a co-curator of the Lubumbashi Biennale. He has exhibited in numerous infamous venues and events around the world including the Tate Modern, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Venice Biennale, Biennale de Lyon, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Museum for African Art, and the Dakar Biennale.

Baloji has twice been awarded at the African Photography Encounters in Bamako, Mali, with the Prize Africa in Creation (Prix Afrique en Creation) and the Prize for the Image (Prix pour l’image). He is also the recipient of several other awards and grants, such as the Prince Claus Award, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, and the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. Baloji is featured in Documenta 14, Kassel, Germany, and Athens, Greece, directed by Adam Szymczyk, and curated by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung.


2. Zanele Muholi | Artist

Zanele Muholi is a South African artist and activist who identifies as a visual activist. Muholi uses photography, video, and installation to create powerful and intimate portraits of their subjects, who are often their friends, lovers, or collaborators. With a body of work that dates back to the early 2000s, Muholi's work explores race, gender, and sexuality. It focuses on documenting and celebrating the lives and experiences of Black LGBTQIA+ communities in South Africa and beyond.

Alex Burke Library 2008 Library with 144 dolls and a bigger dolls on a basis

As non-binary, Muholi uses they/them pronouns, explaining that "I'm just human". They also use their own body and persona as a medium of expression and resistance, challenging the norms and expectations of gender, sexuality, and beauty. Some of their acclaimed series include Faces and Phases (2006-ongoing), Somnyama Ngonyama ("Hail the Dark Lioness") (2012-ongoing), and Brave Beauties (2014).

Muholi has exhibited internationally in venues such as the Tate Modern, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Venice Biennale. They have received numerous awards and recognitions, such as the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Infinity Award, an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society, and the Mbokodo Award.


3. Ibrahim Mahama | Artist

Ibrahim Mahama is a Ghanaian author and artist who works with large-scale installations and public interventions. He also doubles as a painter and sculptor who explores the social, economic, and political histories and realities of his country and the continent, and how they are connected to the global context.

Khadija Jayi, The relics of the earth 043, 2023, B ... ed paper, plastic and acrylic, 106x86,5x10 cm

Mahama is renowned for his use of found materials such as jute sacks, which he collects, transforms, and repurposes to create monumental and immersive environments that reflect on the issues of labour, migration, trade, and waste. He is also the founder of the Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art, Nkrumah Volini, and the Red Clay Studios in Tamale, Ghana, where he supports and mentors young and emerging artists.

Mahama has participated in major exhibitions and events, such as the 2019 Venice Biennale, where he was the youngest artist featured in the Ghana Pavilion. His work was also shown during the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in Italy in 2015. In 2019, Mahama was named the 73rd most influential African by The Africa Report in the list of 100 most influential Africans 2019/2020, for his contribution to the development of Africa through art. In 2021, he was one of six artists shortlisted for the Fourth Plinth commissions in Trafalgar Square.


4.Koyo Kouoh | Museum Director

Koyo Kouoh is a Cameroonian curator and cultural producer who is currently the Executive Director of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town, South Africa. She is responsible for the artistic vision and strategic development of the museum, which is the largest institution dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. She is also the founder and artistic director of RAW Material Company, a centre for art, knowledge, and society in Dakar, Senegal, where she organizes exhibitions, residencies, publications, and educational programs.

Hazel Mphande A fatalistic warning, 2021 Archival pigment on Felix Schoeller True Fibre 59 x 39.3cm Framed Size: 60 x 40 x 5cm

Kouoh has curated and co-curated several exhibitions and projects, such as Still (the) Barbarians (2016), the 37th EVA International in Ireland, Condition Report (2012-2014), a series of symposia and exhibitions on building art institutions in Africa, and Precarious Imaging (2014), a show on visibility and nudity in African photography. She has also served as a jury member, advisor, and guest lecturer for various institutions and initiatives, such as the Turner Prize, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and the African Arts Trust.

In 2020, Kouoh received The Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim. From 2014 to 2023, Kouoh has annually been named one of the 100 most influential people in the contemporary art world by ArtReview.


5. John Akomfrah | Artist

John Akomfrah is a British artist, writer, theorist, and filmmaker who was born in Accra, Ghana to anti-colonial activist parents. He is a co-founder of Smoking Dogs Films and the Black Audio Film Collective, a group of artists and filmmakers who emerged in the 1980s to address the issues of Black British identity, culture, and history. Akomfrah is well known for his multi-screen installations and documentaries that combine archival footage, original interviews, and fictional scenes to create complex and poetic narratives that explore themes such as memory, migration, diaspora, and ecology.

Akomfrah has lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Westminster University, Brown University, and New York University. He has served as a Governor of the British Film Institute. In 2017, he won the UK's biggest award for international art - the biennial Artes Mundi Prize, and was named Artist of the Year in the 2018 Apollo Magazine Awards. He has received several other honours, including the European Cultural Foundation's Princess Margaret Award and the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours for services to the film industry.

Jill Berelowitz, Gaia Maquette, Bronze, 2022, Edition of 9, 71 x 20 cm.
Tasanee Durrett | S.I.S. | Acrylic on Canvas | 36” x 48” x 2” | Courtesy of AfriKin Fair


6. Yinka Shonibare | Artist

Yinka Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist who lives and works in London. He is famous for his sculptures, installations, paintings, and photographs that use the iconic material of the Dutch wax fabric, a textile that originated in Indonesia, was mass-produced in Europe, and became popular in Africa. He uses this fabric to create works that question and subvert the notions of identity, culture, colonialism, and post-colonialism, often by reimagining historical figures and events playfully and provocatively. He is the founder of Guest Projects, a space in London that offers opportunities and support to emerging artists and curators.

Shonibare has exhibited extensively in museums and biennials across the globe, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Venice Biennale. He has received many honours and awards, such as the Turner Prize nomination, the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon Award, and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He is an Honorary Fellow of Goldsmiths' College, as well as an Honorary Doctorate (Fine Artist) of the Royal College of Art. He was appointed the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019.


7. Otobong Nkanga | Artist

Otobong Nkanga is a Nigerian visual and performance artist who lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium. She works with various media, such as drawing, photography, sculpture, painting, performance, textile, and installation, to create works that explore questions of home, place, and displacement, as well as the relationships between humans and nature, especially in the context of neocolonialism, ecological violence, and environmental protection.

She has exhibited in many venues and events, such as the Tate Modern, the Sharjah Biennial, the Berlin Biennale, and the Venice Biennale. Her works have been acquired by notable institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York; Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Paris; Fondation Beyeler, Riehen; Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim; Museum Brugge, Bruges; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterloo; TextielMuseum, Tilburg; Art Gallery of Ontario, and Swiss Institute / Contemporary Art, New York; just to name a few.

Nkanga is the first recipient of the Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award and was awarded the Peter Weiss Award (2019), the Special Mention Award of the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (2019), the 2019 Sharjah Biennial Award (2019), the Flemish Cultural Award for Visual Arts - Ultima (2018), the Belgian Art Prize (2017), and the 8th Yanghyun Art Prize (2015).