Seven Days in the Art World
By Sarah Thornton
Thornton is a sociologic writer and uses terms in the beginning of the Introduction that has social terms.
Page xi Seven Days in the Art World is a time capsule of a remarkable period in the history or art during
which the art market boomed, museum attendance surged and more people than ever were able to
abandon their day jobs and call themselves artists
- Thornton was able to finish writing this book before the 2008 economic crash
- Part of the logos
Page xi The contemporary art world is a loose network of overlapping subcultures held together by a
belief in art.
- Subculture: small group of people within a larger group with their own way of being, their own
traditions and distinguishes itself apart
- Subculture is a term in sociology; Thornton is a big subcultures people (an expert)
Resistance to rituals. Going against something via their clothing/appearance. Zoot suits. Fighting
authority through the zoot suit. Hippies fighting the man with their long hair. Sociologist studying
subcultures. By dressing a certain way, youre doing something radical through their perspective.
If youre an academic in Canada, youre not rich nor poor but you come up with other ways to feel
special to compensate for the fact that you cant own a sailboat or a Mercedes. So you want to have
cultural capital. You impress people with your cultural capital and now you have distinction from other
mere people. Although academics dont have a lot of money, what they have is cultural capital. Here is
what Thornton does: she comes up with subcultural capital. You know its cool to listen to stuff on vinyl
rather than a CD. Or if you were listening to a band before it was cool, to a hipster, thats subcultural
capital. Thornton is 8 years ahead of subcultural capital. Thornton is very skeptical of subcultures. She
quits and transforms herself into a journalist. The skills that she has obtained from observing people
very closely (ethnography) are extremely useful for being a journalist. She has a very good eye for detail.
Page xii As Jeff Poe, a dealer who appears in several chapters of this book, sees it, The art world isnt
about power but control. Power can be vulgar. Control is smarter, more pinpointed. It starts with the
artists, because their work determines how things get played out, but they need an honest dialogue
with a conspirator. Quiet control mediated by trustis what the art world is really about.
- A world where everyone is trying to control everyone else
- Its not a really nice world Page xii Art is about experimenting and ideas, but it is also about excellence and exclusion. In a society
where everyone is looking for a little distinction, its an intoxicating combination.
- Because you know some background information about Thornton, you understand what she
means by a little distinction
Page xii The contemporary art world is what Tom Wolfe would call a statusphere. Its structured
around nebulous and often contradictory hierarchies of fame, credibility, imagined historical
importance, institutional affiliation, education, perceived intelligence, wealth and attributes such as the
size of ones collection. As Ive roamed the art world, Ive been habitually amused by the status anxieties
of all the players.
- Heres these really rich powerful people acting like they are in high school; whos cool, whos on
top, etc. There comes a question of value.
- Cash value vs. Artistic value and how hard it is to match these two together
- Status anxiety in this subculture; hipsters always wanting to be the first to know but always
worried someone else would have listened to the band before them
Page xiii When I studied art history, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a lot of recently made work,
but I never had a clear sense of how it circulated, how it came to be considered worthy of critical
attention or gained exposure, how it was marketed, sold or collected.
- How the art world works and circulates
Page xiv For many art world insiders and art aficionados of other kinds, concept-driven art is a kind of
existential channel through which they bring meaning to their lives. so art events generate a sense of
community around share interests.
- Contemporary art is a sort of religion for atheists
- Relating back to Wallace talking about religious experience and beauty and here we are about
Thornton and how many people involved in the art world perceive art as an alternative to
Page xv The art market boom is a backdrop to this book. In asking why the market soared in the past
decade, we might start with the different but related question: Why has art become so popular? The
narratives in this book repeatedly allude to answers but here are some bald, interrelated hypotheses.
First we are more educated than ever before, and weve developed appetites for more culturally
complex goods. Ideally, art is thought-provoking in a way that requires an active, enjoyable effort.
Second, although we are better educated, we read less. Our culture is thoroughly televisualized, or
YouTubed. Third, in an increasingly global world, art crosses borders. It can be a lingua franca and a
shared interest in a way that cultural forms anchored to words cannot.
Page xvi Art needs motives that are more profound than profit if it is to maintain its difference from
and position aboveother cultural forms.- Again, about subcultures
Page xvii Each chapter is a day-in-the-life account, which I hope will give the reader a sense of being
inside the distinct institutions integral to the art world. Each story is based on an average of thirty to
forty in-depth interviews and many hours of behind-the-scenes participant observation. Although
usually described as fly on the wall, a more accurate metaphor for this kind of research is cat on the
prowl, for a good participant observer is more like a stray cat. She is curious and interactive but not
threatening. Occasionally intrusive, but easily ignored.
- Participant observation - Thats an ethnographic term
- A fly on the wall doesnt get much information but being a cat allows you to gather more
Page xix The seven-day structure of the book reflects my view that the art world is not a system or
smooth-functioning machine but rather a conflicted cluster of subcultureseach of which embraces
different definitions of art.
- That seems like an obvious observation but a lesser scholar would probably talk about the art
world as one big thing. Thornton is smart enough to realize that more than one thing is going
Page xix Last paragraph As such, I suspect it indicates the shape of social worlds to come
- Ends on a generally happ