THE LATEST POWER ISSUE published by New York features “The Most Powerful New Yorkers You’ve Never Heard Of. 49 people who are actually running the city.” The list includes iconic collector and longstanding Museum of Modern Art board member AC Hudgins and Rujeko Hockley, an assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
For decades, the magazine has been assessing who wields power in the city and post-pandemic decided to approach the project from a different perspective.
Introducing the Power List, the editors wrote: “Earlier this year, when we set out to chronicle power post-COVID, we came to an unexpected conclusion. New York’s major power brokers—the moguls and the billionaires, the sort of people who bend the city to their will—are, as a group, remarkably staid and listless. Across government and media, Wall Street and the arts, the big machers are more likely than ever to shirk the spotlight, enjoy just minding the shop, or, in a lot of cases, simply be absent. Power vacuums abound.”
City politics, business, and special interests dominate the list, which is not ranked or presented in any particular order. Among the most prominent who made the cut is Ingrid Lewis-Martin, chief adviser to Mayor Eric Adams. The magazine described her as the “so-called Lioness of City Hall” and reports that a rival political operative said, “I don’t think you can say she has her fingerprints all over the Adams administration…She is the Adams administration.” Keith Wright, chairman of the New York County Democratic Party, convinced Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Exonerated Five, to leave Georgia and move back to New York and run for a city council seat earlier this year, which he won, besting three Harlem incumbents.
Under the headline “Fix the Kidney List,” the magazine shares the powerful results of the work of Dr. Michelle Morse, the city’s first chief medical officer. She has made headway in New York on a universal problem. The medical industry uses racist formulas to determine kidney function, resulting in poor treatment for Black patients and longer wait times for transplants. Under Morse’s leadership, New York’s largest hospital systems stopped using the faulty algorithms. Hired in 2021 by the de Blasio administration, Morse is making good on her mandate to “operationalize health equity.”
Collector AC Hudgins. | Photo by Stefanie Keenan, Getty Images
IN THE ART WORLD, Hudgins is an icon and an expert when it comes to African American artists. Hudgins has been collecting art for half a century, forms relationships with artists early in their careers, and doesn’t sell. He’s also a founding member of the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums and since 2012, has been a member of the board of trustees at the Museum of Modern Art, where he encourages board diversity and more acquisitions by Black artists. Angelina Chapin, who profiled Hudgins for the list, wrote:
A.C. Hudgins, who made his fortune in finance, has been collecting art since the 1970s, championing Black artists like Henry Taylor and Senga Nengudi when they were still being ignored by most white gallerists. Take, for example, his early interest in the artist David Hammons, whose work shocked viewers by using materials like gnawed ribs, barbershop hair clippings, and grease-stained paper bags. Now a piece by Hammons goes for millions. As a result of these bets, Hudgins “has one of the most formidable collections of Black art of any American collector,” one gallerist told me, and his predilections continue to carry a strong signal for the rest of the art world.
“Henry Taylor: B Side,” the artist’s retrospective currently on view at the Whitney Museum features three paintings from the Hudgins Family Collection, including “Portrait of Steve Cannon” (2013). The work depicts Steve Cannon, the legendary New York writer and founder of A Gathering of the Tribes, who died in 2019.
“[Hudgins’s] firmly held opinions and eccentric sense of humor—’I’m Negro rich, not MoMA rich,’ he told the New York Times in 2016—allow him to move between highbrow and grassroots artistic spaces.”
Speaking of the Whitney, Hockley co-curated the 2019 Whitney Biennial, where more than half the artists were people of color, and organized Toyin Ojih Odutola’s first solo museum exhibition in New York. Hockley also co-curated a traveling exhibition of Julie Mehretu, the most expansive survey of her career to date. Mehretu is one of the most highly regarded contemporary artists working today and her work is the most expensive at auction of any Black female artist living or dead.
According to the magazine, Hockley was hired by the Whitney in 2017 to drive change, focusing in part on making the museum’s collections “less white” by expanding representation of artists of color in terms of acquisitions and also when it comes to programming. About Hockley, Chapin wrote:
Since Hockley was hired, the Whitney has promoted more non-white staffers and now has four curators of color. But it has also been the subject of controversies around racially charged art, such as the inclusion of Dana Schutz’s Open Casket in the 2017 biennial. Throughout heated staff conversations, Hockley displayed a knack for “meeting people where they are without making them feel stupid,” Rothkopf says. Instead of arguing that museums need to include X number of Black artists in their collections to meet a quota, the artist Linda Goode Bryant says, Hockley encourages her colleagues “to be curious, and to explore things that may be overlooked and ignored.”
Simone Leigh on Rujeko Hockley: “She’s part of a group of Black woman curators who have laid the groundwork, quietly and without fanfare, that a lot of artists are standing on now.”
The Power Issue also mentions, Ellie Rines, founder of a tiny gallery called 56 Henry, where she shows fresh new talent, including Nikita Gale and Anna Weyant, before they leap to more prominent spaces, and attracts the likes of Venus Williams to her shows. Meanwhile, Marlene Zwirner, daughter of mega gallery owner David Zwirner, “does the behind-the-scenes labor that allows the gallery to function,” according to the magazine. The gallery has an international footprint with eight locations in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Zwirner is a sales director, who manages several artists, including the estates of Roy DeCarava and Noah Davis. Rines of 56 Henry said, “She’s like an artist whisperer.”
Mara Gay, the youngest member of the New York Times editorial board, and Margaret Anadu, who heads the real-estate division at Vistria Group, a $10 billion private-equity firm, where she focuses on investments in affordable housing, are featured, too.
Nelly Moudime is also among the powerful 49. A former model from Cameroon, she determines who makes it into Ralph Lauren’s exclusive Polo Bar, curating a mix of VIPs. About Moudine, Ben Ryder Howe wrote: “Kehinde Wiley has painted multiple portraits of Moudime, and it’s said she’s constantly fending off poaching attempts, but for now, whenever, say, Steve Tisch, Marjorie Gubelmann, or Tommy Hilfiger wants a table, it’s Moudime who decides where that will be—and whether any hoi polloi should be granted entry at all.” CT
READ THE FULL LIST of Most Powerful New Yorkers
Curator Rujeko Hockley’s publications include “Whitney Biennial 2019,” “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85: New Perspectives,” and “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85: A Sourcebook.” Hockley also co-edited “Julie Mehretu,” which was published to accompany the artist’s traveling survey co-organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Henry Taylor: B Side” documents the artist’s current museum retrospective. Also consider, “Noah Davis” and “Noah Davis: In Detail,” which is forthcoming in November.
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