Seven Days in the Art World, By Sarah Thornton

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The Independent Culture

The contemporary-art world is what Thomas Wolfe would call a "statusphere" – teeming with the "status anxieties" of all the players, writes the sociologist Sarah Thornton, who sets herself the task of venturing into this statusphere armed with "ethnographic tools" and applying "participant observation". She chooses to focus on seven days spread over three years and five countries, each providing a day-in-the-life account. Against this backdrop of the art market, the author also considers why art has become so popular at all.

Day one in the art world: an art auction in New York. This is followed by a student seminar in California; an art fair in Basel; Turner Prize judging at the Tate; an art magazine in Manhattan; a studio visit in Toyama; and the seventh day is the launch of the Venice Biennale.

Thornton is aware of her own limitations and falls into their trap. Access is rarely easy. It is also impossible, she concedes, to be truly comprehensive, so, while she colourfully refracts the art world through a prism of perspectives, there is a sense of more worlds that have yet to be put into words.

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