Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton

Seven Days in the Art World

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 The art market has been booming. Museum attendance is surging. More people than ever call themselves artists. Contemporary art has become a mass entertainment, a luxury good, a job description, and, for some, a kind of alternativ...

Title:Seven Days in the Art World
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:039333712X
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:320 pages

Seven Days in the Art World Reviews

  • Carol

    Overview - It's a book about 7 different environments of the art world:

    * an auction (at Christie's in NYC) - below

    * a MFA crit session (at CalArt) -below

    * a visit to the Basel art fair (Switzerland)

    * the Turner prize in London

    * a visit to Artforum (magazine)

    * a visit to the studio of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami

    * a trip to the Venice Biennale

    Overall it was an easy read, but as an artist it bothered me.

    I have been to an art auction at Sothebys and have personally, gone through many criti

    Overview - It's a book about 7 different environments of the art world:

    * an auction (at Christie's in NYC) - below

    * a MFA crit session (at CalArt) -below

    * a visit to the Basel art fair (Switzerland)

    * the Turner prize in London

    * a visit to Artforum (magazine)

    * a visit to the studio of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami

    * a trip to the Venice Biennale

    Overall it was an easy read, but as an artist it bothered me.

    I have been to an art auction at Sothebys and have personally, gone through many critiques, so I could relate. What bothered me was that after an artist creates their "work of art", it becomes a "commodity" for the self-centered, big money "collectors". It's not really about the art but about money and being in the elitist clique.

    Initially I was reviewing each chapter until I got on the plane for a very long flight.

    Chapter 1 is what is happening in auction world -- the supply and demand of art, the different types of collectors and what "3 D" reasons (death, debt & divorce) would make a collector sell his art, why some things sells and others do not and the buzz and excitement of the auction floor of her experience at Christies in NYC. I have experienced an art auction at Sothebys in NYC. It is fast, shocking at times, always surprising and addicting! It was interesting to see a list of 9 living female artists who are now getting over a million dollars for their work. Paintings are still #1 medium especially with a "buxom female" being more popular than a male nude.

    Chapter 2 is all about "the Crit" (a seminar where MFA students present their work for critique from peers as well as the teacher). Thorton went to CalArts to observe Michael Asher who has been doing this with art students since 1974. It is an informal group with deep discussions. A crit can be painful when artists try to rational and defend their work. CalArts education is more focused on cerebral than talent of the hand. Interesting to me was Mary Kelly (a feminist conceptualist, who taught at many large institutions like CalArt, UCLA) who thought that it is fine for artists to have crits where they give an account of their intentions, but it shouldn't be the only way. Kelly says to her students "Never go to the wall text. Never ask the artist. Learn to read the work." I think everyone should "read the work" because we are all different and no two people will process the artwork the same.

  • Mary

    For someone who "writes about the art world and art market for many publications," Thornton asks some pretty lame questions. She seems, overall, clueless about art. Her deep, probing interview questions are "What do artists learn at art school? What is an artist? How do you become one? What makes a good one?"

    Seriously.

    Granted, the less the reader knows about art, I imagine, the more interesting the book would be.

    She loves describing what people are wearing, as in, "Gladstone is dressed entirely

    For someone who "writes about the art world and art market for many publications," Thornton asks some pretty lame questions. She seems, overall, clueless about art. Her deep, probing interview questions are "What do artists learn at art school? What is an artist? How do you become one? What makes a good one?"

    Seriously.

    Granted, the less the reader knows about art, I imagine, the more interesting the book would be.

    She loves describing what people are wearing, as in, "Gladstone is dressed entirely in black Prada." Everything is written in a forced present-tense, as if that would make it visceral and exciting instead of pretentious and dull. She writes choppy paragraphs quoting her interview subjects. Either quote them, or give us your interpretation of what they said, but please do not do both at the same time.

    Even if Thornton is showing us the truth, that a lot of the "art world" is pretentious, she misses deeper truths. At no time does she convey the depth of conviction that many artists have about their work, or how that depth of conviction might be shared by a viewer.

  • Troy

    I hate this book. Or more accurately, I hate what this book focuses on.

    Now I need to state that my hatred is pretty moronic. The book is titled

    , which very clearly labels it as a tourist's guidebook, so it might as well be labelled

    , or

    , or

    . It's

    , which is the length of time most tourists give to some "foreign locale." In seven days, you won'

    I hate this book. Or more accurately, I hate what this book focuses on.

    Now I need to state that my hatred is pretty moronic. The book is titled

    , which very clearly labels it as a tourist's guidebook, so it might as well be labelled

    , or

    , or

    . It's

    , which is the length of time most tourists give to some "foreign locale." In seven days, you won't really experience the destination, but you will see the same ridiculous highlights fellow tourists from the U.S., Germany, Australia, and the UK have seen.

    What I hate is the tourist highlights she focuses on. It's similar to a guidebook to NYC that focuses on the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, etc. All interesting, I suppose, but really boring and obvious tourist attractions that capture nothing of the workaday quotidian NYC; the NYC that NYers experience. The world of tourists and the world of NYers rarely interacts, unless a fat-ass tourist is in a NYers way while they're walking to work. "Hey, I'm

    heah!"

    The art world is a

    . It's a group of people in constant communication, talking and sharing and part of a community. There are several worlds within the art world, and Thornton focuses only on Power Institutions. When she does focus on individuals, she focuses on the "Big Names" and "Art Stars," which I know makes sense for a guide book, but really paints a false picture about the world the book is supposed to guide us through. As a tourist guide, it's hard to focus on the cool shit that is happening in some hidden neighborhood, where artists or musicians or dancers or whatever are making something interesting, but if you're guidebook is anything more than a schlocky checklist, then that is where the action is.

    She focuses on The Biggest Prize. The Most Influential Art Magazine. The Vastly Important Art Fair. And it's all bullshit. The value of art isn't created in The Auction, The Crit, The Fair, The Prize, The Magazine, The Studio Visit, or The Biennale. It happens in the day to day. It happens in the neighborhoods that those artists live in; in the worlds they inhabit. Institutions, blue chip galleries, the Biennials, etc., all come after the fact. And

    they come before the fact, then the art world is fucked and dysfunctional (e.g. the long, sad, and boring time periods when Academic Art reigned).

    Basically, this book implies that value filters down from the top, which isn't true. The author tries to temper that implication by stating, several times, that it is a very complicated dialog with many voices in the mix, but she leaves out the quotidian in favor of the sexy Big Events, which have everything to do with Money and Power, and very little to do with art.

    A personal note: I have a few friends who are now successful artists, gallerists, critics, and curators. And I know a bunch of people who dropped out of the art world altogether (me included). And a few people who putter on with the occasional show or as an art professor at some university. But I watched the successful ascend, and it did NOT happen in The Auction, The Crit, The Fair, The Prize, The Magazine, The Studio Visit, or The Biennale. It happened in two places: in the studio and in "the social scenes that artists live in." Most of the time, art is lonely. Until you're successful, you will work alone, or, at best, in a studio near a friend, who is also working alone. The time in a studio is insanely private, until you need assistants (which is another fucked-up topic entirely). But tons of time is spent with peers at each other's studios, getting high or drinking and looking at each other's work. Or more often, at a cafe or a bar, talking about process and gossiping and, "Have you seen Person X's new work?" The value of art accrues in the interstices, hidden away from the "sexy" power machines that Thorton covers in her book. The value of art happens as gossip between artists. And that talk flows to peers who are roughly the same age who have galleries or write for obscure web art publications. And that talk about who is good coalesces and congeals. And only after that gossipy talk has formed into blocks does it filter up to

    or a mid-list gallery, and only after years does that flow up to a spot at the Venice Biennale, or a prominent spot in a money gallery that can afford to go to Basel.

    This book is a snap shot of an art world that forgot (and continues to forget) that those massive Money and Cultural Institutions are barnacles on the vibrant ass of the art world. They, like the parasitical rich whose genitals are constantly slurped at, are after thoughts that claim glory, when the glory was already established. Yes, Art That Is Remembered will be remembered in part because of those boring Money and Cultural Institutions, but art that is good continues for centuries, long past the death of those institutions and rich people. More importantly, art is not accrued value through the barnacled institutions, but through the peer groups that the artists gestate in. And although that's a much harder world to guide someone through, that's the real world of the everyday, not the ridiculous world of the tourist looking at irrelevant relics to Power and Money.


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