7 Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton | Review by Eliot Markell

by Eliot Markell

Hi Joel,

Thanks again for sending me the hardcover edition of Seven Days in the Art World, I think. Truly the most irritating piece of narcissistic, non-fiction I couldn't put down. Well I shouldn't say I won't put it down, just that I read it without chewing more than I had to. Starting with the "how-attractive-am-I-come-hither-you-influential-art-stud" jacket photo of Ms Thorton, with continued liberal doses of female pheromonal innuendo continuing throughout. Ah yes, it helps to be a sex siren to get ahead in an art market populated with dirty old white men.

I must admit that she can shows flashes of knowledgeable commentary, and clearly knows her way around the hierarchy of cynically corrupt art world masters of the universe. I suppose knowing that the owner of Christie's auction house controls how dealers market artists work in his collection should be of some significant consequence to the laymen, but the whole thing comes as no surprise to me. She does occasionally manage to show a modicum of restraint when it comes to praising Cesar, but goes on to dote on the glories of the pinnacles of art star power without burying anyone. It's this kind of infatuation with the moguls of Chelsea and London (before their recent downfall) that aggrandizes the idea that art only exists if someone is willing to pay for it.Guys like [Takashi] Murakami will succeed in a conspiracy to put in a retail counter to sell womens' accessories in a museum retrospective only if its profitable. Murakami may even have some ability as an artist but, that's not what really interests him,. He'd just as soon sell commodities like oil or gold if it could get him to the top of some heap. It's all about ambition and winning.

By far the most dreary chapter details the day into evening long "crit" at CalArts. A more fundamentally bullshit excuse for tenure you couldn't make up. The so-called "art teacher" [Michael] Asher, who conducts these interminably long, insufferably boring, sessions of delusional post grad mental masturbation, interrupted only by pizza breaks and loudly snoring "students" has really gotten away with one. And like all the rest of the charlatans he actually gets paid. Good work if you can get it.

The chapter on the Turner Prize is also rather depressing. That the nominated artists are so blinded by careerism that they permit themselves to be lined up for a beauty contest must really be humiliating to them in retrospect. Just the fact that they are even in the final four means they already have achieved enough of the goodies to establish themselves for life. For these artists to proceed anyway is a sad statement about how vanity has obscured, and even replaced the real value of making art because you love doing it.

Despite the best efforts by the fashionistas at the helm of the art market to convince everyone otherwise, creating art objects that contain a lasting relevance requires a dedication that transcends financial reward. This is not to say that artists shouldn't get what they deserve, but that they should establish their creative priorities as a way of life and have enough courage, resolve, and ingenuity to stick with it despite temptation.