I've just finished reading Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World and immediately upon closing that book I picked up David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames.
I'm not sure what was up with Thornton's book but it left me feeling strangely unfulfilled. I think her writing style is quite approachable and no doubt the scope of the book must have been daunting for someone not previously experienced in the world of art. I hoped that her fresh eyes would have uncovered some interesting insights. Some of the chapters such as "The Auction" and "The Studio Visit" (which focuses on visiting Takashi Murakami studios) are fairly engaging. However, the book is so chuck filled with air-kissing blow-hards that I stopped reading before completing its pages. It seemed that Thornton was intent upon reporting on personalities rather than the art world and how certain aspects of it work.
I suppose that Seven Days might make interesting reading for some insiders (maybe some outsiders as well) but for me I wanted more meat. I wanted to know more about how things happen behind the scenes of a world class art fair and not just read through quotes such as "He's C list. She's B list. Nick Serota is A list." Honest to god, who cares? Well, I suppose those at the Venice Biennale care, but it all just seems so friggin serious as to who's an A, who's a B and who stays at which hotel. Absolutely the art world can be an incredibly stuck-up environment but the character portrayals here so completely turned me off it made me want to rethink what I do for a living. The art world is a pretty amazing and dynamic place and for me Thornton's book missed the mark.
On the other hand, I began David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames and while I'm only on page 30, I've chuckled aloud at least 8 times. Well written, insightful and what fun! Just goes to show that humor is life's shock absorber.