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Seven Days in the Art World

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  39,014 Ratings  ·  567 Reviews
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 alternative religion.In a series of beautifully paced narratives, Sarah Thornton investigates the drama of a Christie's auction, the workings in Takashi Mur ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, read-in-2013
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 Seven Days in the Art World, which very clearly labels it as a tourist's guidebook, so it might as well be labelled Lonely Planet: Art World, or Let's Go! Art World, or How to Travel the Art World with No Money and Without Leaving Your Couch. It's Seven Days, which is the length of time most tourists give to some "foreign locale." In seven days, you won'
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
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?"


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
Dec 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary-art
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
Lance Charnes
Jun 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who still miss Robin Leach
This is an anthropological study of a murky subculture given to bizarre rituals, riven by tribal conflict and prone to madness...the world of contemporary art. Sarah Thornton, our intrepid guide, comes at this woolly subject from different angles -- seven of them, to be precise, each set in a different city -- shining a light on the major clans and customs. The result is a surprisingly engaging account of how the frothiest end of the art market works (or doesn't), written in a way that a non-ins ...more
Aug 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
I got to read an advanced copy of this book and write a blurb about it for the magazine. Sooo, not only did reading this book make me feel extremely cool, it was also a really enjoyable read. Thornton is a "cat on the prowl" in the most important (and impenetrable) centers of the contemporary art world. Her account is gossipy and educational. What could be more fun?
Jan 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Börte Üjin
Shelves: art
Thornton's narrative seemed to lose a little of its zest as it wended to a close. Early chapters on a Christie's auction of contemporary art, and a visit to the Art Basel fair were most interesting. It was instructive to learn how buying from a gallery is different from buying at auction, for example. But chapters on Takashi Murakami, the magazine Artforum, and the Venice Biennale were relatively lustreless, and Thornton felt too much in the narrative; she spoke a lot in the first person, it was ...more
Arwen Downs
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am sure that most readers of this book also chose it because we will never be able to attend a Christie's Post-war art auction, the Venice Bienniale, or the Basel Art Fair except vicariously through Sarah Thornton. Lucky for us, she does so with grace and wit and every other attribute I would wish to exhibit when in attendance at one of these prestigious events. Not to mention her uncanny knack for never forgetting an important face or name, which would certainly be my first failing point.

Justin Evans
A fun, deceptively sophisticated jog through one very small aspect of "the art world." And that aspect is, overwhelmingly, the economic. This is a book about how rich people have nothing to do with their enormous amounts of money, so they spend it on objects that may or may not be of any aesthetic value. But they are great status markers. I mean, would you even go to someone's party if they didn't have a Jeff Koons? No way, right?

The first few chapters--one at a contemporary art auction, when a
Sergio Badian
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand the art world and how money commands it, that's a good start!
Oct 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
In spite of her apparent hopes that this book might be a ethnology of the art world, it comes across a group of magazine articles that describe seven events -- an auction, an art fair, a biennial, etc. -- and how they contribute to the economics of the art world, how things are sold, and how reputations are established.

Being relatively ignorant about any of this, I was surprised to discover that galleries at the upper echelons don't just sell to the first person willing to write a check, but loo
mai ahmd
Dec 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: دراسات
لا تقرأ هذا الكتاب مالم يكن لديك إهتمام حقيقي بالفن التشكيلي
مالم يكن لديك إهتمام بماذا يحدث في كواليس المعارض الفنية
الصراعات بين الفنانين وبين تجار المزادات الفنية ومحرري المجلات
الكاتبة كتبت هذا الكتاب خلال ثلاث سنوات قامت فيه بتجربة باحث حقيقي حيث حضرت صفوف فنية وشاركت أحاسيس الطلاب ومشاعرهم حين يتعرضوا للنقد من قبل زملائهم كما إلتقت بالعديد من الفنانين والمحررين وأصحاب المزدادات الفنية ومحبي التحف وشهدت الكثير من الصراعات كما أجرت العديد من اللقاءات أبرزها كان اللقاء مع الفنان موروكامي صاحب
Quân Khuê
Mua vui cũng được một vài trống canh
Lydia Presley
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
This book almost went in my unable to finish shelf. First, a bit of history about this book.

The book club I attended chose this book for July's read. It was a complete accident that this book got chosen as we are, technically, a Fiction Book Club. But the cover looked interesting and it was out of most of our normal "comfort" zone, so chosen it was.

I think my perspective on this book was changed from what it might have been due to the book I had read just before it. Since I had just finished a b
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not necessarily for everyone, but if you are interested in art and how money moves and hype works in the art world it is a delicious and well researched close-up look into all aspects of the art market.

Thornton's book takes a look at the art college, the gallery, the auctioneer, the art show and of course the modern artist's studio to look at the modern art game from many angles.

What impresses is the great level of the interviews with genuine and weighty insiders. The author must be well connec
Sep 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book comes across as a mix of reportage and ethnography, with a feel of being a related series of magazine articles rather than a normally structured non-fiction book. I like that, since most introductions can be skipped if you plan on reading the whole book, and most conclusions are somewhat half-baked.

There were two things that I really liked about the book. The first was her non-judgmental reporting. So many viewpoints were held by so many of the "art world people" that she couldn't pos
Dec 03, 2008 rated it liked it
An entertaining tour of the contemporary art world: from auction to artist to museum to art magazine to art fair. Occasionally lapses into a bit of anthropological analysis, but stays mostly in a strong, detailed, and enjoyable descriptions of the funny animals in the art zoo. Strong reportage.
Jun 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in the art world mechanics
Shelves: art
Posted on my book blog.

In the world that surrounds us, there are many smaller "worlds" that regular people don't usually have access to. Some, like the medical or forensic experts world, are explored through popular TV shows and mass media culture, so that the general population, not exactly being a part of it, still feels like they have some access and knowledge of it (even if it is of a highly romanticized, flawed and fictionalized account). Such a thing doesn't happen with the art world, the
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Thornton plunges into a full-immersion study of seven radically different environments of the art world, from a Christie's auction to an open crit session at CalArt, from the Japanese studios of Takashi Murakami to the Venice Biennale, and records what she sees and hears. Several sets of wonderful stories emerge, with occasional overlap as a few figures move from one scene to another, but for the most part these are highly disparate snapshots which demonstrate that there is no one "art world," b ...more
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you are confused by the contemporary art scene, this book is a great introduction. It does not explain the art itself, just the art WORLD. Each chapter represents a "day" (or several) at a different art-related location: an art auction at Christie's in New York, a criticism session in an art class at California Institute of the Arts, the Art Basel Fair in Switzerland, the awarding of the Turner Prize in London, a day at ArtForum (the most respected art magazine in the US), a visit to the stud ...more
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
a cursory glimpse into the different facets of the art world today. it was cool to recognize many of the names and i found the chapter on artforum to be the most interesting. the subject of my master's thesis got the last word which was cool however, the author seemed more interested in showing off her connections than making thoughtful observations that could have shed some light on the field. she merely affirmed stereotypes of prototypical "art people" and most of the time it seemed like she j ...more
Christina Furtado
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Not the easiest read but definitely enjoyable. Though author Sarah Thornton tends to get caught up in the pretentiousness of the art world, the people she interviewed lend some really great insight into the different facets of a world very few of us know. I can't help but wonder about the many exhibits I've seen over the past few years and be amazed by how little I knew about all the work and politics that went into them... definitely eye opening.
Austin Kleon
Jan 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
My wife got me this after reading one of Thornton’s articles. After reading it, I understood the art world better, and wanted less to do with it than before.
Olivia McHugh
Jun 28, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i haven't technically finished reading this book, but i have FINISHED READING THIS BOOK oh my god
Olga Zbranek Biernátová
„Byl nejvyšší čas, aby Turnerovu cenu dostal hrnčíř transvestita!“ Čtěte celou recenzi:
Nhung Pham
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
Đây hẳn là cuốn sách giới thiệu về nghệ thuật đầu tiên và lôi cuốn nhất tôi từng đọc. Lối hành văn thông minh, khéo léo nhưng không bóng bẩy cộng với chất lượng bản dịch sát nghĩa và tương xứng là điểm cộng lớn cho cuốn sách. Một điểm khác được đánh giá cao chính là vị trí quan sát và nằm vùng trung lập mà Sarah tự tạo cho bà khi thăm dò các đối tượng của thế giới nghệ thuật, người đọc được tự do chiêm ngẫm và đánh giá các tư tưởng tiếp cận nghệ thuật.

Cuốn sách được cấu trúc theo 7 định chế tro
Abbi Dion
A terrific read. Some of Thornton's interviews contain breathtaking definitions and questions of art and/or the artist.

"A protest against forgetting" - Eric Hobsbawn, quoted by Hans Ulrich Obrist
"[...] do you choose somebody to make history or do you confirm history?" Andrea Rose
"I was taught that one of the defining premises of modern art was its antagonism to mass culture [...] I could argue that Takashi is working within the system only to subvert it. But this idea of subversive complicity is
Trang Minh Hoang
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book may not be preferred by artists in general but a good choice for people who do not work in the art field like me but still want to discover this diverse world. Not until had I read this book did I realize that the art world is a really complicated one. It does not only involve the artists themselves and their works but also lots of people and activities around. I got a wide knowledge after reading this book. However, this book is not for those who want to understand about the art itsel ...more
Rachel Aloise
*** 3.5 stars ***

For art enthusiasts the premise of this book is very enticing: seven days behind the scenes in different, exclusive, art world environments. I most enjoyed the chapters about an art auction at Christie’s, the Turner prize as well as a visit of the studios of Takashi Murakami.

The chapter on Artforum made me run out and get the latest copy of the magazine. (I admit, for the ads only and yes, they are terrific)

The vapid posing occasionally had me cringing, especially in the in the
Aug 25, 2011 rated it liked it
A survey of the contemporary art world through an enthnographic study of various art scenes such as the auction, the student crit session, the art fair (Turner prize), the journal (Artforum), the artist's studio and the Biennale, this book is more entertaining than analytically critical due to its journalistic descriptions and the interview soundbites from prominent figures. Thornton's slightly dry, mostly impassive tone, serves to highlight the various (sometimes incongruous) perspectives the d ...more
Pegasaurus Horsfield
This is a wonderful book about the current art scene. She gives a detailed picture of seven aspects of the art world starting with an auction at Sotheby's. Next is the Crit CalArts run by Michael Asher an artist without a dealer. Artists who have attended memorable & formidable experiences of their lives. Then there's the fair, Art Basel. Blum and Poe partners known for discovering and launching careers of new people.
727-727 by Takashi Murakami, "who worked so hard on this project that sever
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Sarah Thornton was the chief writer on contemporary art for The Economist. She holds a BA in art history and a PhD in sociology.
More about Sarah Thornton...

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“The term bohemian has a bad reputation because it's allied to myriad clichés, but Parisians originally adopted the term, associated with nomadic Gypsies, to describe artists and writers who stayed up all night and ignored the pressures of the industrial world.” 23 likes
“Although the art world reveres the unconventional, it is rife with conformity. Artists make work that "looks like art" and behave in ways that enhance stereotypes. Curators pander to the expectations of their peers and their museum boards. Collectors run in herds to buy work by a handful of fashionable painters. Critics stick their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing so as to "get it right". Originality is not always rewarded, but some people take real risks and innovate, which gives a raison d'être to the rest.” 8 likes
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