It's a common feeling well known by us that the art world is overwhelmingly large, full of art auctions, critics, studio visits, and always filled with the question: what does it mean to be an artist?
We recently read two books by Sarah Thornton, 33 Artists in Three Acts and Seven Days in the Art World that tackle these topics head on. These books offer an in depth and up close look at the studio practices of countless artists, how art moves through the market, how tightly knit the art world really is, and the incredible amount of work it takes to achieve success in the art world. Thornton's thoughtful interaction with each person allows captivating and revealing insights into the minds of art world celebrities such as John Baldassari, Jeff Koons, and Cindy Sherman, to name a few.
Seven Days in the Art World is a well considered overview of the art world from a non-artist perspective, and 33 Artists in 3 Acts dives deeper into the roles and characteristics of artists themselves. When combined, they offer an impressively cohesive and illuminating look at the mechanics of art in today's society.
SEVEN DAYS IN THE ART WORLD
Sections we loved:
The Prize - Turner Prize
Presents a behind the scenes look at the prize at various stages, through the nomination of artists, the exhibition of their work and the final ceremony
Explains just how much the prize can push an artists career to new heights once being nominated and winning the Turner Prize
Exposes the difficult jurying process
The Auction - Christies
Demonstrates how Christopher Burge who is considered to be the best auctioneer in the business, prepares for and executes a major auction
Shows just how quickly each piece of artwork moves at auction
Offers insight on how work being sold from a collection to a new owner can be a complicated and emotional experience
Our favourite quotes:
Page 173, spoken by Roberta Smith
"Art accumulates meaning through an extended collaborative act," she said. "You put into words something that everyone has seen, that click from language back into the memory bank of experience is so exquisite. Its like having your vision sparked."
Page 52, spoken by John Baldessari
One of his mottos is "Art comes out of failure," and he tells his students, "You have to try things out. You cant sit around, terrified of being incorrect, saying "I won't do anything until I do a masterpiece."
33 ARTISTS IN 3 ACTS
Sections we loved:
Act II, Scene 8: Cindy Sherman
Offers a sneak peek nside of her studio where so many iconic photographs have been taken
Explains how they are not self portraits, and the way context is added to a work by the viewer, not the artist
Reveals her controlled process of creating her own make up and lighting for each shoot
Act I, Scene 12: Jeff Koons
Reveal's Koons' and Gagosian's their realtionship dynamic as artist and dealer
Gives insights to being both a collector and an artist
Explores the idea of an artist as the creator even with a team of assistants heavily involved
Our favourite quote:
Page 253, spoken by Carroll Dunham
"You have to make art to bean artist, but you have to be an artist to make art. It's about getting your self-representation and your actual activities into alignment. I've gone through moments where I thought 'I hate this, I don't want to do it anymore,' but I always come back to the fact there isn't anything else that would better suit my sense of who I am"
A success of Thornton's books is the committed timeframe she is able achieve through interviewing artists multiple times at different points in their careers, creating a wide reaching and bird's eye perspective. These books are about a complex and often competitive profession, but Thompson approaches it in a personal way. When asked about the art world, John Baldessari states, "Students need to see that art is made by human beings just like them." We think this also applies to the art world as a whole, and through these novels Thornton is able to achieve just that.