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Publisher's Summary

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 Murakami's studios, the elite at the Basel Art Fair, the eccentricities of Artforum magazine, the competition behind an important art prize, life in a notorious art-school seminar, and the wonderland of the Venice Biennale. She reveals the new dynamics of creativity, taste, status, money, and the search for meaning in life. A judicious and juicy account of the institutions that have the power to shape art history, based on hundreds of interviews with high-profile players, Thornton's entertaining ethnography will change the way you look at contemporary culture.

©2008 Sarah Thornton (P)2014 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Thornton offers an elegant, evocative, sardonic view into some of the art world's most prestigious institutions." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

An artist who loved the book

Very revealing relating to the realities of the art world. I have found that many good artist are naive about how work is sold and moves through the commercial chain. This book should be required reading for students in art school and of interest to collectors and anyone interested in how contemporary art is promoted, valued and sold. As a craftsman and artist I found the book inspiring.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good insight

The book provides great insight, but I personally lost interest in the subject about half way in.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 01-20-15

informative, from several perspectives

Sarah Thornton did a good job here of teaching us about the art world. With her "close up" accounts of real life events, she helped me better understand the goals and motivations of the myriad players in the value chain.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

interesting book could use different narrator

I've met the author and had trouble with this narrator because her voice did not match that of the author: the voice of the narrator was too saccharine for this book

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

must listen for all artists and art collectors

Great listen. Easy to follow, content is well organized. Gives great insight on the fine art world works. My favorite chapter was on the auction scene.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great ethnography of the Contemporary Art World

Funny, well written. .A smidge difficult to follow if unfamiliar with artist's names, a list of the names spelled out would be a useful PDF enhancement.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bo
  • Aspen, Colorado United States
  • 02-18-17

Great book destroyed by horrible soap opera -ish reading!!!

Great book destroyed by horrible soap opera -ish reading!!!
Please re do with a normal reader.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Wanted to like but too snarky and reductionist

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone who doesn't like art and thinks art is silly

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Disliked the actor-y quality of the narrator's voice. She wasn't sophisticated.

Any additional comments?

Ultimately disappointing.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Insightful but florid

As a working artist, I found this book offered valuable insights into various aspects of the art world. It is evident that Thornton is well-connected and experienced. The only criticism I have of the book is that her descriptions of some of the more nuanced dynamics in the art world at times felt verbose, even to the point of becoming a distraction. That aside, I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about the inner workings of the art world.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful