A great commercial conspiracy August 24, 2010 Dear Rodney,"Seven Days in the Art World," by Sarah Thornton, gives a chapter each to seven venues: "The Auction" takes us to Christie's in London--an inside look at who bids and who gets what, and why, and how prices are cleverly pushed. "The Crit" finds us at the "artstarmaker" CalArts school in Los Angeles for a laid-back marathon crit where the instructor has little to say and the students make small sense of their efforts. "The Fair" takes us to Basel and the world's most influential art fair where all the right stuff is hastily discussed and inhaled by the right collectors. "The Prize" takes us to the arm-twisting boardroom and knighted hierarchy of the annual Turner Prize--twenty-five thousand quid for the "Best Artist in Britain." "The Magazine" introduces us to the management, staff, contributors and advertisers of Artforum, the NY-based influential art journal that not many people seem to be able to read. "The Studio Visit" hops over to the Tokyo factories of international fashionista artist Takashi Murakami where hundreds of talented workers carry out his ideas and seed their own careers. "The Biennale" spirits us up the Lido Canal to Venice, where participating nations parade their hottest and youngest. Everyone dines, drinks and speeds from show to show in "vaporettos." Sarah tiptoes through all this, taking notes, dropping names, recording and observing everything from clothes to tics, seldom making an unwelcome judgment. It's a hoot. Most of the art is of the installation variety--bound eventually for museums and public view, but there are also lots of significant paintings and sculptures. While we might, at first glance, appear to be in an age of low craftsmanship, there is a sensible interest in what may become the great and lasting art of tomorrow. Everyone is trying to spot a winner. Remarkably, the venues Sarah covers are often attended by the same curators, critics, dealers, collectors and sometimes the currently-popular artists themselves. It's a small, international microcosm of deal-making and mutual back-scratching. While there may be meanness and jealousy in the ranks, all are agreed that quality is king, passion is the emotion of choice and the great search for artistic meaning is well worth the effort of backing out your private jet. Best regards, Robert PS: "It's very possibly a great commercial conspiracy. The newness of now, which is quite obsessive, is actually a reflection of the consumerism that you see in the whole culture. It can be a lot of fun if it is to your taste." (Nicholas Logsdail, gallerist) Esoterica: In Sarah's world, the bucks are big and everyone is subject to the intransigence of personality and the fickle finger of fashion. But the same goes for any midsize village where there happens to be artists, gurus, studios, galleries, media, community fairs, picture buyers and benefactors, however modest. Injustice and joy lurk at every turn. Private choice is always to be tested against those who might wish to be in control. What a wonderful game!