New Yorker and Artforum.com contributor Thornton (Club Cultures, 1996) takes a wide-angle view of art as creation—but also as production, marketing, personality and mega-profit.
Her narrative moves gracefully across international boundaries, cultures, languages and genres. After a few generic remarks about today’s art world, which she deems “polycentric” (less anchored in Paris and New York), the author considers why art has become so popular. We are more educated, she avers, more global and more affluent. High prices generate media attention; media attention generates more of everything. Thornton then takes us behind the scenes at a Christie’s auction where bidding for a 1963 Warhol began at $8 million dollars. She interviews an assortment of people, including artist Keith Tyson, who declares auctions to be “vulgar, in the same way that pornography is vulgar.” Next, she whisks us to California for an all-day session with artist/teacher Michael Asher. He’s conducting a “crit”: a collective critique of students’ proposals and projects. Then to Switzerland for a massive contemporary art fair, where VIPs line up outside before the opening like nervous daddies hoping to nab his kid the newest PlayStation. The author takes us into the jury room for the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery and inside the editorial offices at Artforum. Of that venerable publication, circulation about 60,000, Thornton extracts from some readers the confession that they simply look at the picture. “The Studio Visit” follows prolific Japanese artist Takashi Murakami through his three studios. The Venice Biennale gives the author a chance to catch up on her lap swimming in the Hotel Cipriani’s 100-foot saltwater pool. Thornton conducted many interviews in preparation for her “days” and later admits that she sometimes employed a technique she calls “displaced nonfiction,” quoting, for example, as a comment from an exhibition crowd something she actually noted in a prior (or later) phone conversation.
An exhilarating guided tour of some very exclusive circles.