International curator and artistic director of the MAXXI, Rome (85 in 2006)
Yes, he’s a Chinese guy running one of Italy’s most prestigious museums. But breaking down boundaries has always been part of this independent curator/critic’s MO. The Guangzhou-born Hou has spent most of his life outside China, working as a curator and writer in Paris in the 1990s and then moving to San Francisco in 2006. In 2013 he scored his biggest gig yet: running the Zaha Hadid-designed MAXXI, National Museum of 21st Century Arts. While he no doubt has a stake in Chinese contemporary art, his major international shows also showcase his beliefs in cultural hybridity and the ways art is connected to wider society. This year, MAXXI’s eclectic programme ran the gamut from a survey of Turkish art and design to a solo of Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander. Hou’s extracurricular activities are manifold too, including a solo for Chinese artist Chen Shaoxiang for the Shanghai Power Station of Art and a major show of Chinese contemporary art for the Guggenheim next year.