Sarah Thornton guides us through seven different scenarios in the contemporary art world: an auction, an art school, an art fair, an art prize, an art magazine, an artist's studio and an art biennale. We learn what's in everyone's offices and studios and what they eat for lunch (salad in the Turner prize inner sanctum where the jury meet to decide the winner). The nosiness is compelling. Thornton is a camera.
1. Seven Days in the Art World
2. by Sarah Thornton
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Unfortunately, she's not a seer, she's without a vision of how things could be different. Like the art world itself, she assumes only a loser would challenge the system. I'm not saying it isn't a fun read. The reporting is amazingly thorough. But where's the attitude?
In New York the publishers of Artforum chat up a storm without revealing anything important about the business they're in. Sometimes this seems to be because they're a bit snaky and sometimes because they really do have the innocence of Winnie the Pooh. When Tony Korner tells Thornton the last thing Artforum would ever do is follow the market, he's being a bear with little brain. He believes what he says. But you'd expect Thornton to tell us where logic falls down in this account of an art magazine that's sometimes two inches thick with expensive ads paid for by the same galleries whose shows are reviewed in its pages. She doesn't do it because she's in the business of taking art world people very, very seriously.
Back in London an installation by a Turner prize artist that deconstructs reality TV, and mixes obscurity with mawkish sentimentalism, as much current conceptual art tends to do, is described as "moving" and "subversive". At least we rarely fail to hear what people are wearing and what their hair is like. "Buddy Holly glasses" on curator Matthew Higgs, "only light mascara" on Turner prize-winner Tomma Abst, a "no-nonsense white shirt...