Power 100

Most influential people in 2023 in the contemporary artworld


Isaac Julien

Artist - Artist whose ambitious film-installations offer constellationlike portraits of historic Black figures

5 in 2023

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  • 2021
  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
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  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006
Photo: Thierry Bal

It’s an anomaly that the British government recognised Julien’s contribution to art before the country’s museums did. After receiving a knighthood last year, the filmmaker, with his elegiac meditations on race, sexuality and history, is only this year getting his first institutional retrospective. What Freedom Is to Me, at London’s Tate Britain, also featured the European debut of Once Again… (Statues Never Die), his 2022 film that returned to the subject of the Harlem Renaissance, a work which featured in the Sharjah Biennial too this year. The glamour and radicalism of 1920s African-American culture is an enduring interest for Julien, whose film Looking for Langston (1989) made his name – a work now presented in its own permanent pavilion at Brazil’s Inhotim sculpture park. Other solo ventures include his homage to Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement (2019), at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Playtime (2013), installed at Palais Populaire, Berlin. Lessons of the Hour (2019), which recounts the legacy of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, was acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum.

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