33 Artists in 3 Acts | Granta

33 Artists in 3 Acts

Sarah Thornton

Is being an artist a radical form of entrepreneurship or a vocational calling like the priesthood? Is it an extension of philosophy or an offshoot of entertainment?

In three richly interlinked but distinct ‘acts’ – Politics, Kinship and Craft – Sarah Thornton compares and contrasts answers to the simple but profound question: what is an artist?

33 Artists in 3 Acts
draws on hundreds of personal encounters with the world’s most important artists, to ask what it means to be making artworks in different parts of the world today. With Thornton as expert guide and trusted insider, we have unprecedented access to the lives of the artists, from late-night Skype chats with Ai Weiwei to taxi rides with Maurizio Cattelan on the way to and from the show that announces his death. We join Thornton as she rummages through artists’ studios, homes and solo shows, inquiring about everything from their bank accounts to their bedrooms. The result is a series of cinematic experiences, which juxtapose artists in thought-provoking ways, and build up narratives that end with epiphanies.

33 Artists in 3 Acts is a generational touchstone, a powerful triptych and gripping anti-monograph about truth, integrity, credibility and recognition. Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary art, this masterful act of storytelling will also delight any reader seeking to understand creative lives.

  • Published: 02/07/2015
  • Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781847089076
  • 129x20mm, 416 pages

[Written] with verve, insight and authenticity... Skilfully nuanced

Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times

Engaging [and] intriguing. Thornton's book is scattered with memorable and sometimes witty thoughts from Maurizio Cattelan and many more

Martin Gayford, New Statesman

Sarah Thornton constructs a compelling account of the rarefied heights of contemporary global artistic success, what its high-flyers get out of it and what it takes out of them. She skillfully joins the dots to make patterns appear, with wit and insight and even compassion for her ethnographic subjects. 33 Artists in 3 Acts is not just a highly enjoyable read but also a book of enduring value

Craig Clunas, Professor of the History of Art at Oxford

The Author

Sarah Thornton has written about the art world and art market for many publications including the Economist, Artform and the New Yorker. Seven Days in the Art World was named one of the best art books of 2008 by the Sunday Times, the Independent and the New York Times. She is also the author of Club Cultures and co-editor of the first edition of the Subcultures Reader. She has a BA in art history and a PhD in sociology and lives in London.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

Seven Days In The Art World

Contemporary art has become a mass entertainment, a luxury good, a job description and, for some, a kind of alternative religion. Sarah Thornton’s shrewd and entertaining fly-on-the-wall narrative takes us behind the scenes of the art world, from art school to auction house, showing us how it works, and giving us a vivid sense of being there.

Sarah Thornton on Granta.com

Five Things Right Now | The Online Edition

Five Things Right Now: Sarah Thornton

Sarah Thornton

Sarah Thornton, author of 33 Artists, 3 Acts, shares five links of what she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.