Queer photographer Nan Goldin named art world's most influential figure

ArtReview magazine named Nan Goldin, who documented LGBTQ+ subcultures during the AIDS crisis, the most influential art figure of 2023.

Photo of Nan Goldin who was named the most influential artist for her 2023 art
Image: Instagram @nangoldinstudio

Queer photographer and campaigner Nan Goldin has been named the contemporary art world’s most influential figure for 2023 by ArtReview magazine.

Nan Goldin, 70, is an artist who candidly portrays her own experiences with sex work, domestic violence, mental health and addiction.

She is perhaps best known for documenting LGBTQ+ subcultures during the AIDS crisis. Her past work includes the 1980’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency photo collection which depicts strangers meeting, partying and fighting on the beaches and bars of the US, Berlin and Mexico through a series of photos depicted in a visual diary slideshow format.

The photographer is more recently known for the stance she took against the billionaires who fuelled the US opioid epidemic. After becoming sober in 2017, Goldin published a photo essay in Artforum Magazine that documents her own addiction experience with the prescription drug OxyContin – a highly addictive opioid produced by Perdue Pharma, formerly owned by the Sackler family.

After that work was published, she founded P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), an advocacy group inspired by the AIDS coalition ACT UP. Through the P.A.I.N. organisation, Goldin demands that museums end their collaborations with the Sackler family who fuelled the opioid epidemic through their Purdue Pharma company.



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Thanks to her efforts, many museums have held the Sackler family accountable by refusing their donations over the past few years, and the Sackler name has largely been removed from the walls of galleries across the world. Goldin is now using her platform to work with overdose prevention centres and advocate for better addiction care and harm reduction.

ArtReview magazine’s editor-in-chief, Mark Rappolt, said Goldin was selected because her work, “anticipated many of the themes that are current in today’s culture: raw, confessional autobiography, queer identity, intersectional feminism, body autonomy and, of course, corporate ethics”.

Nan Goldin is not the only activist who made the art magazine’s Power100 list this year. The list identifies 100 of the most influential figures and organisations in the art world, and in 2023, for the first time, the top 10 artists all use their platforms to advocate for social change and political movements.

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