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Seven Days in the Art World [Paperback]

Sarah Thornton
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Sep 2009
Contemporary art has become a mass entertainment, a luxury good, a job description and, for some, a kind of alternative religion. Sarah Thornton's shrewd and entertaining fly-on-the-wall narrative takes us behind the scenes of the art world, from art school to auction house, showing us how it works, and giving us a vivid sense of being there.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (7 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847080847
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847080844
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Parachutes the reader into the real nitty-gritty of how it all works - openings, dealers, artists, prizes, auctions et al. Reading this book is like having your own spy in the art world' Alan Yentob 'A thorough insight into the contemporary art world through seven fascinating stories ... a must-have for all art buffs' Tatler 'Curators and dealers provide the insider info and often the laughs, as the closed world of art is systematically demystified' Dazed and Confused 'An excellent, vivid, wittily written book - the characters are tightly drawn, the events covered are important, and the aphorisms come thick and fast - I'm hoping for a second volume' Sunday Times 'A lively, compulsive and splendidly gossipy manual' The Times 'Fascinating, not least because while she was researching and writing, it must have seemed like an insider's view of a world that would last forever. The book may now stand as its memorial' Art Quarterly 'A coherent account that's informative and entertaining - for a casual overview of how the international art scene operate, in all its ruthless eccentric, spectacular glory, Seven Days in the Art World is hard to beat' Jewish Quarterly


'Excellent' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful stuff and a great read too 10 Aug 2010
This is a terrific book and I'm not sure the other reviews really highlight just how distinctive it is. It's real fly-on-the-wall stuff, based on dozens of interviews with the movers and shakers of the contemporary art world and constructed as seven individual days spent in the key venues of that world: an auction house, an art school, an art magazine, an artfair and so on. You have to admire the author for the access she's gained to important people and her ability to get them to talk frankly.

As an anthropologist by training, she's also adept at analysing the structures of societies and so the structure of the art world. This is what lifts the book from being an interesting collection of raw material into a clear explanation of how the contemporary art world works and how all its component parts fit together. At root it's all about money - vast sums of money - and you come away with a really vivid picture of where the money comes from, how it gets channeled round the art world to everyone's benefit, and how these vast sums affect the behaviour and decisions of the various characters in the drama. Highly recommended.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Thoroughly readable and entertaining. Without overtly editorialising, the author provides a fascinating insight into different relationships at work in the art world. The shifts in power between artists, dealers, collectors and auction houses are fascinating to unravel as we are guided through the maze of events with clarity and a great sense of humour. I would recommend this as a must read for students of art - of any age.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The internal workings of the art world 13 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Unlike the medical or forensic experts world, which are explored through popular TV shows and mass media culture, the art world remains mostly shut off from outsiders, at least concerning it's internal workings. Being technically a part of the art world the author describes (I'm taking a Master's degree in Museum and Curatorial studies), there are still a few parts of it that are a mystery to me, which is why I bought this book.

The art world is rather schizophrenic, with intense contrasts and polarized beliefs and actions, and the book does a great job presenting this: for example, we have the very rich people who believe art is a commodity versus very poor art students who abhor words like creativity and never speak about money. There's a delicate balancing of these conflicting beliefs, and it's fascinating to see the mechanics behind that balancing.

However, I have to say that the tone of this book was one of exaggeration. In all these stories, the volume is turned up high, and the people described and their actions seem at times so extreme that I started to wonder if they were not caricatures of themselves. It makes it seem like there is no place in the art world for balanced human beings or actions. This is far from the truth (again, I speak from my own personal experience); this probably happens because it's much more interesting to show the extremes than to make space in the book for less sensational situations.

All in all, this is a fascinating book if you're interested in the mechanics of the art world, with an easy to read (but still interesting) language, based on a remarkable research work. Definitely worth it.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ethnographic success 27 Jun 2009
I've just finished reading 'Seven Days in the Art World' and I recommend it highly. Sarah Thornton's ethnographic approach combines a strong narrative drive with lots of great insights. The best thing on art I've read since 'Secret Knowledge' by David Hockney.
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4.0 out of 5 stars enlightening and entertaining 25 Aug 2009
By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Contemporary Art World 101 with commentary by a stellar cast of players in the field! What a treat to have somebody with such brilliant observation and writing skills provide an intelligent and highly entertaining account of the different - yet inter-related - actors in the contemporary art market. ENJOY!
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A work of art in itself. 19 Oct 2008
This book is brilliantly written and full of insights into the many cogs of the art world machine and who lubricates them. Judging by her qualifications, Sarah Tornton was designed to write this book. I look forward to looking at her next project. My only minor criticism of this book is that the pace of the writing slows a bit towards the very end.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a week well spent 20 Feb 2010
I had been looking for a book on contemporary art that helped me pass the "Can an urinal really be art?" level of argumentation. This book provides the frame to do it. Although it's not a book about art - the author restrains herself from presenting her views on any given piece or artist - but about the "art world", the questions pop up in your mind as the pages turn: concept vs craftmanship, exclusivity vs mass production, zeitgeist relevance vs market validation.
If you look the artists up as they are referred to in the book, you'll be on for a great ride.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars moderately interesting in parts 23 Nov 2011
By oto_jo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We did this book for our bookclub. I think without exception, the group skim read the last few chapters. They seemed to repeat much of what had gone before and offered little in terms of real insight. The modern art world seemed to be full of depressing people with too much money, too many pretensions, an image to project, and very little love of art - whatever that means.

The first few chapters did have a sense of ooh aah, mainly because of the sums of money involved, which were silly. By the end though, the story of the Emperor's new clothes was writ large in my mind. I did not feel I had acquired any greater insight into this world through reading this book. In part this reflects the author's chosen structure, 'seven days'. It was a clever concept for about two chapters but by day three I was starting to look for something more interesting than an outsider's view of a day in the life of .....
I guess if you are into art it might be interesting to get a fairly uncritical outsider's perspective on this world. For my money I would rather spend my time reading something a bit more inspiring or intellectually stimulating.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun
A random individual using random contacts as vehicles for random facts about the art world & slinging them into 7 chapters arranged in random order = fun
Published 9 months ago by Prospecta
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, intelligent and luminating
This is an excellent investigative look at the contemporary art market in the boom years (2005/6) before the crash. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Tobsha Learner (author)
5.0 out of 5 stars Straight to the heart of the matter.
Loved it ......simple as that..........................what more can I say then that...brilliant book very interesting. Five stars...if you are artist and ambitious read this.. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ison
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant
Lets keep it simple: it's brilliant, toplist for everyone relevant. For the laymen, get acknowledged; for the insiders, have fun!
Published 15 months ago by Pen Name
3.0 out of 5 stars For contemporary enthusiasts only
The longest CV I've every read. I hope she got the job.
It started with promise but by the end I had highlighted so many name-drops it just seemed an uncritical documentary... Read more
Published on 7 Aug 2011 by Pete H
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable page-turner, which is also a highly informative...
The distinction between sociology, ethnography and anthropology is becoming so blurred that a book would be needed to begin to map out the issues. Read more
Published on 6 Jun 2011 by Dr Lex
5.0 out of 5 stars From a Painter Not living in the HeartLand
Best *Inside Art World* book EVER.
If one you are interested at all in this world, every
page is filled with sharp insight. Read more
Published on 18 May 2011 by Joe M. Jahn
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary Art World - a day in the life approach.
Very entertaining and personal look at aspects of the contemporary art world. An easy to read and informal style which also offers many insightful details and creates a kind of... Read more
Published on 6 Jan 2011 by Art21
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good intro to what people "do" in the art world
If you've wondered what the relationships between dealers, critics, auction houses, collectors, art journalists, award judges and curators are all about then this book will give... Read more
Published on 26 July 2010 by MaxKolbe
1.0 out of 5 stars the pages fell out!
Probably a great book, but as soon as I opened it the pages all started falling out. I'll be returning it.
Published on 6 Jun 2010 by Georgie
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