33 Artists in 3 Acts (Hardcover)
This compelling narrative goes behind the scenes with the world’s most important living artists to humanize and demystify contemporary art.
The best-selling author of Seven Days in the Art World now tells the story of the artists themselves—how they move through the world, command credibility, and create iconic works.
33 Artists in 3 Acts offers unprecedented access to a dazzling range of artists, from international superstars to unheralded art teachers. Sarah Thornton's beautifully paced, fly-on-the-wall narratives include visits with Ai Weiwei before and after his imprisonment and Jeff Koons as he woos new customers in London, Frankfurt, and Abu Dhabi. Thornton meets Yayoi Kusama in her studio around the corner from the Tokyo asylum that she calls home. She snoops in Cindy Sherman’s closet, hears about Andrea Fraser’s psychotherapist, and spends quality time with Laurie Simmons, Carroll Dunham, and their daughters Lena and Grace.
Through these intimate scenes, 33 Artists in 3 Acts explores what it means to be a real artist in the real world. Divided into three cinematic "acts"—politics, kinship, and craft—it investigates artists' psyches, personas, politics, and social networks. Witnessing their crises and triumphs, Thornton turns a wry, analytical eye on their different answers to the question "What is an artist?"
33 Artists in 3 Acts reveals the habits and attributes of successful artists, offering insight into the way these driven and inventive people play their game. In a time when more and more artists oversee the production of their work, rather than make it themselves, Thornton shows how an artist’s radical vision and personal confidence can create audiences for their work, and examines the elevated role that artists occupy as essential figures in our culture.
About the Author
Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World was named one of the best art books of the year by the New York Times and is available in sixteen languages. She was the chief writer on contemporary art for the Economist. She holds a BA in art history and a PhD in sociology.
A masterful picture of 33 artists, keenly bringing details of their lives to the surface with a skilled hand…With effortless sophistication, Thornton takes readers on a journey across the globe and into the homes and minds of contemporary artists. In the process, she banishes cynicism about modern art, revealing it to be a volatile, healthy enterprise still deeply engaged with the world.
[A]n invaluable, incisive, and exciting guide to today's deliriously diverse, sophisticated, scandalous, and profound art world.
— Donna Seaman
How can one be a real artist in the real world? Thornton sets off to find out, meeting and debating with many of the most important artists around the globe. Credibility, integrity, legitimacy, recognition and truth in art are all tackled here. While the basis of the book is contemporary art, the themes are of universal interest.
Writing with verve, insight and authenticity…Thornton's method is to let her hubristic subjects hang themselves by their own nooses. She is skillfully nuanced on the artist Christian Marclay.
Engaging and ingenious.
A vivid and entertaining read…Thornton meets some interesting artists and her direction can be playful. Her interviews with Andrea Fraser stand out, as do all her meetings with Ai Weiwei.
Thornton nails some wonderful portraits of the people that, well, do wonderful portraits. These characters are no longer creators of icons but icons themselves and Thornton is in the front pew—but taking notes, not praying at all.
[Thornton's] interviews, interwoven to show conjunctions and contrasts, cohere into a strong three-part whole—first politics, then kinship, and finally, a readable interrogation of what's so often overlooked: craft.
— Boris Kachka
Inspiring—as unique as each of the artists featured.
— Carolina A. Miranda
A readable, approachable introduction to the rock stars of [contemporary art] and their work.
— Kevin O’Kelly