Seven Days in the Art World

( 24 )

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
Sarah Thornton's vivid ethnography—an international hit, now available in fifteen translations—reveals the inner workings of the sophisticated subcultures that make up the contemporary art world. In a series of day-in-the-life narratives set in New York, Los Angeles, London, Basel, Venice, and Tokyo, 'Seven Days in the Art World' ...

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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
Sarah Thornton's vivid ethnography—an international hit, now available in fifteen translations—reveals the inner workings of the sophisticated subcultures that make up the contemporary art world. In a series of day-in-the-life narratives set in New York, Los Angeles, London, Basel, Venice, and Tokyo, 'Seven Days in the Art World' explores the dynamics of creativity, taste, status, money, and the search for meaning in life.

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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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
The Barnes & Noble Review
Sarah Thornton is the type of adventurous, earnestly inquisitive British pop sociologist that Monty Python were given to dropping down manholes. Canadian by birth, Thornton has written on art for The Guardian and The Telegraph; having lived in London for some years, she trained her keen eye on that city's underground music scene in her first sally, 2003's Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital. Now, in Seven Days in the Art World, she gives us an unvarnished account of the burgeoning international art scene, red in tooth and claw, as only she can give it -- in the first person. Each of the book's seven chapters follows the author over a single day spent in one of the art world's constituent provinces: a Christie's auction; a CalArts group crit; Art Basel; the Tate Museum's presentation of the Turner Prize; the offices of ArtForum; a studio visit with artist rex Takashi Murakami; and the Venice Biennale. In each, we are introduced to the principal players, regaled with anecdotes, offered canapés, and treated the while to what Thornton plainly regards as intriguing details (a gallery director is "comfortably gay"; magazine page proofs are called "galleys"). Thornton's self-conscious objectivity can get very wearing, but it is the price that must be paid for what turns out to be a commendably thorough retrospective of the now-defunct big-money art market. For better and for worse, Seven Days in the Art World is a book that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the '00s art boom but were afraid to ask Sarah Thornton. --Ian Volner
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337129
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/2/2009
  • Pages: 287
  • Sales rank: 177,692
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Thornton was the chief writer on contemporary art for The Economist. She holds a BA in art history and a PhD in sociology.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

1 The Auction 1

2 The Crit 41

3 The Fair 75

4 The Prize 107

5 The Magazine 143

6 The Studio Visit 181

7 The Biennale 219

Author's Note 255

Afterword 261

Acknowledgments 267

Selected Bibliography 273

Illustration Credits 277

Index 281

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    7 Days in the Art World gives an inside look on the life of the

    7 Days in the Art World gives an inside look on the life of the artist. It goes through the main 7 things most gallery artists go through in their career. The part I enjoyed most was learning the rule of the artists’ reputation. The artists’ reputation is held in the buyers of the artists’ work. A major message that was apparent was how much effort and patience it takes to become a great and popular artist. I also liked how the author did lots of studying of this topic she went to the Venice Biennale, spends time interviewing different types of artists and also watches the most incredible artists at work. The only thing I really disliked was the length of the book; I would have loved to continue reading on the topic because I too am an inspiring artist who would love to go into this field. I would definitely recommend this book to future artists; it’s a great eye opener on what the art world looks like. People should read this book in order to get a sneak peak at what it takes to become a gallery artist. It gives great information on what each realm of the life is like. It will inspire even more success.


    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Good Look At What the Art World is Like

    Seven Days in the Art World is an eye-opening book. It shows the reader the inside of a world and lifestyle that many of us know little about. We get to see the workings of auctions, biennales, art houses, art dealers, art collectors, and artists themselves. This world is very different than one would imagine. For instance, dealers are very picky about who they sell their art to. The collector has to be as 'in' as the artist. In some ways, as much as I loved the book, the information in it made me sick. The art world is a lot of hype and the people who inhabit it are not to my liking. However, this is reality and the author does a great job of doing an ethnographic portrait of this world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2010

    Fantastic!!!

    I absolutely loved this book! It really provides an inside look into the art world that not many have the privilege of experiencing. I wish I could have read this in undergrad!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Every Art enthusiasts guide

    This book is priceless. From the first page to the last, you are on this eye opening journey into the world of Art. Every art history and potential or seasoned artist should own a copy. For me, I have no knowledge of the art world save Art History 101 and this book puts everything I learned into greater perspective. Its very entertaining too and has great insider gossip into the underbelly of the art scene - without appearing to be gossipy. Very well researched. I feel like I lived in the art world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2009

    An Outsider's Ticket

    Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World is a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone who is interested in getting an insider's view in the art world. She takes a lot of information and presents it in such a way that it seems that you are reading a soft-core suspense novel instead of a sociological research project. For those of us who love art and do not have the good fortune to attend many of these events because of location, money, etc. this books is a ticket in.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    Offers some insight.

    I read this book just as the financial crisis came upon us and, in that respect, it serves as an historical account of the contemporary art market for the late nineties and early oughts.<BR/>It does give an accurate account of the way the art world works, in terms of the exchange of works and the relatively small community involved in the scene. I have had limited exposure to all of the milleus listed and find that this book does convey what it is like to actually be involved.<BR/>My only caveat is that I wish the it read less like a collection of short stories and more like a group of scenes that came together in a more unified snapshot of the art world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 25, 2012

    Lovely look into the art world

    I remember picking this book up in the library. I read it in 2 hours: it was that good.

    Whats great about the book is the humor. You really feel like you are there with Sarah as she takes you to Progue, all the way to New York. My favorite chapter was when she went to NY to speak with the editors of a famous art magazine (won't ruin it for you. Just read!). That was a great chapter.

    The book is a wonderful look into a world that is hidden from the average person. If you appreciate or enjoy art check this book out. You will be very happy... hopefully for more than 2 hours.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Interesting

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