For the fall reading list

Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton. Norton, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-06722-4. November release.
According to Publishers Weekly, Sarah Thornton offers an elegant, evocative, sardonic view into some of the art world’s most prestigious institutions. “The hot, hip contemporary art world, argues sociologist Thornton, is a cluster of intermingling subcultures unified by the belief, whether genuine or feigned, that ‘nothing is more important than the art itself.’ It is a conviction, she asserts, that has transformed contemporary art into ‘a kind of alternative religion for atheists.’ Thornton, a contributor to Artforum.com and the New Yorker, presents an astute and often entertaining ethnography of this status-driven world. Each of the seven chapters is a keenly observed profile of that world’s highest echelons: a Christie’s auction, a ‘crit’ session at the California Institute of the Arts and the Art Basel art fair. The chapter on auctions (where one auction-goer explains, ‘[I]t’s dangerous to wear Prada…. You might get caught in the same outfit as three members of Christie’s staff’) is one of the book’s strongest; the author’s conversations about the role of the art critic with Artforum editor-in-chief Tim Griffin and the New Yorker‘s Peter Schjeldahl are edifying. 8 illus.”

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