Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NEXT UP: Read "Seven Days in the Art World"

My last post about London art museums reminded me that I have yet to review a recent read. In Seven Days in the Art World, author Sarah Thornton dives into the sophistication and enigmatic fog that often shroud the contemporary art world to reveal the inner-workings of this fascinating culture.

The book is divided into seven narratives about different aspects of the international art market. Thornton details the furious bidding over a Cattelan at the Christie's Auction, the strategies of a seasoned collector perusing Art Basel, the dizzying editorial offices of Artform magazine, and more. She speaks with knowledgeable art world inhabitants like designer Takashi Murakami, CalArts professor Michael Asher, and art consultant Sandy Heller. Ultimately, the book serves as an ethnographic exploration of how taste, money, trends, fame, and innovation affect what truly drives the art world: a love for the creative.

What I Liked: As an art-loving individual, I was ecstatic to receive what felt like a private backstage pass to exclusive facets of the art world. Sarah Thornton vividly describes works, places, and artists in carefully selected subject areas. I learned not only about artists, but also about the buyers, managers, and agents who help run the show. It is a refreshing read if you've only read about art in museum brochures, newspaper reviews, or history text books.

What I Didn't Like: There was one point in particular that I was sad to see the author did not fully address. I (somewhat foolishly) went into this book thinking it would provide some clarity on why certain types of art or artists can sell for such high numbers. To me, this is one of the biggest mysteries of the art world. Although Thornton provides some insight into this curiosity, she does not give a concrete answer...perhaps because there really is none. Otherwise, I highly enjoyed this piece.

Should you read it? If you truly have zero interest in the art world, you are not likely to enjoy this book. Its language is comprehensible to those with no background in the subject, but I think it would mainly appeal to those who have some curiosity about how this part of our culture functions. Having said that--I personally would be happy to read it again!
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