Life can’t be boiled down to a listicle. Neither can art or money. Yet all three have become so intimately intertwined that they could seriously stand the kind of rearranging that only an alternative inventory can provide. Some readers will invariably quote The Guardian’s snarky 5 Ways the Listicle Is Changing Journalism to complain about the lite-beer nature of the form. But I ask you: Didn’t Wallace Steven’s use a list to structure his poem “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”? And didn’t Moses himself bring down the mother of all listicles from Mount Sinai etched into stone tablets? Per Buzzfeed’s own accounting, the Internet is obviously several thousand years behind an Old Testament trend.
Put in new media lingo, the following are three good reasons to generate a list featuring 50 of the most important artists of 2014 who are also likely to be historically well remembered. Firstly, lists like these can help soothe the sense of helplessness many folks feel about visual art’s current transformation into a plaything for the megarich. Secondly, similar lineups organize ideas about the role critically minded art can play in a rapidly changing art ecology. And thirdly, the exercise—together with other end of the year wrap-ups—helps reestablish a sturdy counter-agenda to those put forward by auction houses, art fairs, and art market shills.
As Ben Genocchio put it recently in a piece for artnet News, “short-term market values actually have little bearing on long-term value.” This is mainly because art ultimately answers to historical evaluations far bigger than today’s Fortune 500 list. So screw the style section snapshot of the art market and its myopic listicle fodder. Let’s take the long view. Here goes, then: This is this my first (very) contrary list of the top 50 most exciting, important (and enduring) artists who were active in 2014, with no apologies and in no particular order.
17) Glenn Kaino: The LA-based artist took on two public commissions this year (one in Washington D.C., and the other at Prospect.3) and put together Leviathan, a sprawling protest-minded installation at the warehouse space of Chicago dealer Kavi Gupta.