So the first book on my "I just graduated so I have no book obligations for school" list is Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. Thornton divides the book into seven sections based on days spent in seven different arenas of the art world: the auction, the crit, the fair, the prize, the magazine (*the chapter I'm most excited for), the studio visit and the biennale.
I just finished reading about the auction, and I'm already so absorbed in this book. It's so interesting to read Thornton's observations about the way people bid on art, why they do it and what it means. Throughout the chapter there's a constant tension between thinking about what art is worth and critiquing the way money affects art. Who decides how much art is worth? Isn't worth in the eye of the beholder? All these questions are things you can't ignore when you think about the art market, but they're also questions you'd kind of like to ignore (at least I would).
There's a quote in the chapter that I liked and laughed at. Thornton asks one of the Christie's agents what the relationship is between aesthetic value of art and its economic value, and she explains it as the same relationship between good looks and good fortune: "It's moot. It's nihilistic." ... "She doesn't apologize for the market. It is what it is. 'I used to be a curator,' she says. 'When I run into academics that I knew back then who ask what I'm doing now, I say, "I do the Lord's work in the marketplace at Christie's." It's one of my personal jokes.'"
As confusing as the auction world might be, and as much as it makes art seemingly less pure, it's also fascinating. What does it feel like to be someone that can raise his or her paddle and, just like that, bid $13.5 million on Andy Warhol's Mustard Race Riot? I can only imagine.