Book Review: Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton
For those interested in learning about the world of contemporary art, in its diverse markets which can be considered different art “worlds”, Sarah Thornton delves deep to offer readers an inside look. Rather than creating a guide for those already knowledgeable about the world of art and the markets where it can be found, Thornton offers readers a glimpse into what a day could appear in each art-focused culture. From a live auction at Christie’s to THE Art Basel fair in Switzerland, and various creative locations in between, art and the art civilization are at the heart of Thornton’s book.
About Sarah Thornton:
Balancing her love for art and investigate style, Thornton has traveled the world both studying and observing pop culture and art, both the artists and the resulting social and professional circles created. Her first book, Club Cultures, focused on music, fashion, and the media surrounding the club culture. This, her second book, is based on perceptions of a faction of society often misunderstood and somewhat isolated from most outsiders.
A Sociologist’s Look at the Art World
Combining an academic look at art along with a modern cultural slant, she uses strong observational and interview skills to delve into the world of a variety of art players. Interviewing hundreds of artists and art professionals, she obtained input in a world where individuals are traditionally tight-lipped and not always open to newcomers. She balanced the awe which can come from newcomers to the art world in response to meeting leaders and long-time players with a more stark and realistic view of what happens in a volatile industry like art (which later crashed).
More than just a bird’s eye view of the “elite” which make up the art world, Thornton shows detail of why the art world is a stage all its own, where members are constantly in the public eye and open to scrutiny from all sides. Reaching to connect with different art personalities, Thornton provides readers with awareness of the individuality found with artists, promoters, teachers, curators, collectors, and other professionals at varying stages of the industry, providing a window to their lifestyles and points of view.
The Value for Art Collectors
Instead of a “who’s who” in the art world, Thornton’s book offers some insight for those who want to understand the nuances of the industry, perhaps determining what makes it “tick.” Readers learn how a group of “experts” can make or break an artist, and why the art world is truly not for the weak of heart. Does the market and demand shape what artists create or vice versa? One is left to come to their own conclusions, in appropriate investigational style. However, before one falls asleep at the wheel, Thornton offers some human emotions, times when things didn’t go as expected, providing readers proof that artist are, after all, people too.
Reviewers are at odds as to their feelings about the book; some feel it is just the right amount of detail to provide a broad overview of the various markets and segments of the art industry, while others accuse Thornton of overvaluing her coverage of complicated and experienced art professionals like Charles Saatchi and the experience of earning the Turner Prize, a coveted British visual art award. Whether you read the book expecting the walk away an expert in the world of contemporary art or simply want to learn a few juicy details of how creativity shapes the lives and experiences of those embroiled in the art world, you won’t regret reading this book.