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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 10 August 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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on 11 October 2008
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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on 13 December 2010
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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on 23 November 2011
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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on 7 August 2011
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 of the contemporary modern art circus and its players. Some comment on the morality and effects of this money-go-round would have been useful, but it's not here. Three stars for those readers into modern art (including all those mentioned in it!)but it's not really for we plebs.
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on 27 June 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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on 19 October 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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on 28 April 2016
An in-depth and often humorous insight into the inner workings of the insulated and exclusive "Art World". An important read for artists, gallerists, art-lovers or anyone involved or interested in this cultural mystery. Loved it.
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on 20 February 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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on 4 November 2013
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.. no fluff and no farty art just bricks and mortar and the money men of the art world and auction houses.
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