Seven Days in the Art World

Seven Days in the Art World

4.1 26
by Sarah Thornton
     
 

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Named one of the best art books of 2008 by The New York Times and The Sunday Times [London]: “An indelible portrait of a peculiar society.”—VogueSee more details below

Overview

Named one of the best art books of 2008 by The New York Times and The Sunday Times [London]: “An indelible portrait of a peculiar society.”—Vogue

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
“A field guide to the nomadic tribes of the contemporary art world. The book was reported and written in a heated market, but it is poised to endure as a work of sociology.”
Financial Times
“Entertaining and lucid...rigorous, precise reportage.”
Washington Post
“[An] intelligently written . . . refreshingly open-minded exploration.”
Sunday Times [London]
“The best book yet written about the modern-art boom . . . a Robert Altmanesque panorama of the most important cultural phenomenon of the last ten years.”
BusinessWeek
“A terrific book—detailed, gossipy, and insightful. . . . By the end of the book, you almost understand how [Steve] Cohen could shell out $8 million for a rotting 14-foot shark pickled in formaldehyde.”
Time
“A one-stop tutorial on an often insular subculture . . . light-hearted but sociologically acute.”
Annie Buckley - Artweek
“Finely wrought and thoroughly researched…[with] an ingenious structure… and spot-on characterizations…the author draws readers into the experience… [with her] infectious curiosity and meticulous reporting.”
Barbara Fisher - Boston Globe
“'The contemporary art world is a loose network of overlapping subcultures held together by a belief in art,’ writes Thornton, and we are fortunate that she was able to penetrate all of these opaque, protected, and often secretive groups.”
Artweek
Finely wrought and thoroughly researched…[with] an ingenious structure… and spot-on characterizations…the author draws readers into the experience… [with her] infectious curiosity and meticulous reporting.— Annie Buckley
Boston Globe
The contemporary art world is a loose network of overlapping subcultures held together by a belief in art,’ writes Thornton, and we are fortunate that she was able to penetrate all of these opaque, protected, and often secretive groups.— Barbara Fisher
New York Times Book Review
“A field guide to the nomadic tribes of the contemporary art world. The book was reported and written in a heated art market, but it is poised to endure as a work of sociology.”
Leslie Camhi - Vogue
“Seven Days in the Art World... seems destined to outlive its moment.... Thornton offers an indelible portrait of a peculiar society, simultaneously cutthroat and curious... glamorous yet filled with people who would have been unpopular in high school.”
Peter Aspden - Financial Times
“An entertaining and lucid account of the mysterious ways of contemporary art.... [Thornton] does well to resist the temptation to draw any glib, overarching conclusions. There is more than enough in her rigorous, precise reportage... for the reader to make his or her own connections.”
Mia Fineman
The book is cleverly divided into seven day-in-the-life chapters, each focusing on a different facet of the contemporary art world: an auction (at Christie's New York), an art school "crit" (at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia), an art fair (Art Basel), an artist's studio (that of the Japanese star Takashi Murakami), a prize (Britain's prestigious Turner Prize), a magazine (Artforum) and a biennale (Venice). Thornton is a smart and savvy guide with a keen understanding of the subtle power dynamics that animate each of these interconnected milieus.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The hot, hip contemporary art world, argues sociologist Thornton, is a cluster of intermingling subcultures unified by the belief, whether genuine or feigned, that "nothing is more important than the art itself." It is a conviction, she asserts, that has transformed contemporary art into "a kind of alternative religion for atheists." Thornton, a contributor to Artforum.com and the New Yorker, presents an astute and often entertaining ethnography of this status-driven world. Each of the seven chapters is a keenly observed profile of that world's highest echelons: a Christie's auction, a "crit" session at the California Institute of the Arts and the Art Basel art fair. The chapter on auctions (where one auction-goer explains, "[I]t's dangerous to wear Prada.... You might get caught in the same outfit as three members of Christie's staff") is one of the book's strongest; the author's conversations about the role of the art critic with Artforum editor-in-chief Tim Griffin and the New Yorker's Peter Schjeldahl are edifying. Thornton offers an elegant, evocative, sardonic view into some of the art world's most prestigious institutions. 8 illus. (Nov.)

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Kirkus Reviews
New Yorker and Artforum.com contributor Thornton (Club Cultures, 1996) takes a wide-angle view of art as creation-but also as production, marketing, personality and mega-profit. Her narrative moves gracefully across international boundaries, cultures, languages and genres. After a few generic remarks about today's art world, which she deems "polycentric" (less anchored in Paris and New York), the author considers why art has become so popular. We are more educated, she avers, more global and more affluent. High prices generate media attention; media attention generates more of everything. Thornton then takes us behind the scenes at a Christie's auction where bidding for a 1963 Warhol began at $8 million dollars. She interviews an assortment of people, including artist Keith Tyson, who declares auctions to be "vulgar, in the same way that pornography is vulgar." Next, she whisks us to California for an all-day session with artist/teacher Michael Asher. He's conducting a "crit": a collective critique of students' proposals and projects. Then to Switzerland for a massive contemporary art fair, where VIPs line up outside before the opening like nervous daddies hoping to nab his kid the newest PlayStation. The author takes us into the jury room for the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery and inside the editorial offices at Artforum. Of that venerable publication, circulation about 60,000, Thornton extracts from some readers the confession that they simply look at the picture. "The Studio Visit" follows prolific Japanese artist Takashi Murakami through his three studios. The Venice Biennale gives the author a chance to catch up on her lap swimming in the Hotel Cipriani's 100-foot saltwater pool.Thornton conducted many interviews in preparation for her "days" and later admits that she sometimes employed a technique she calls "displaced nonfiction," quoting, for example, as a comment from an exhibition crowd something she actually noted in a prior (or later) phone conversation. An exhilarating guided tour of some very exclusive circles. Agent: David Kuhn/Kuhn Projects
From the Publisher
"Thornton offers an elegant, evocative, sardonic view into some of the art world's most prestigious institutions." —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393337129
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
11/02/2009
Pages:
287
Sales rank:
146,660
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World was named one of the best art books of the year by the New York Times and is available in sixteen languages. Shewas the chief writer on contemporary art forthe Economist. She holds a BA in art history and a PhD in sociology.

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