A fly-on-the-wall account of the smart and strange subcultures that make, trade, curate, collect, and hype contemporary art.
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