Jump to content

MCA Talk: Sarah Thornton


Sarah Thornton, 33 Artists in 3 Acts, 2014

Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company, New York


Presented in partnership with the Chicago Humanities Festival and as part of their Richard Gray Visual Art Series, which recognizes a significant gift from founding CHF board member and distinguished art dealer Richard Gray.

In her bestselling book Seven Days in the Art World(2008), Sarah Thornton explored the precious ecosystem of art dealers, collectors, curators, and critics. In her new book 33 Artists in 3 Acts, Thornton turns her gaze on the art world's principal player by asking the simple but profound question: What is an artist?

Sarah Thornton

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

About the Author

Sarah Thornton is a non-fiction writer, ethnographer, and sociologist of art. She is the author of Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital(1995), Seven Days in the Art World(2008), and 33 Artists in 3 Acts(2014). She has written for The Economist, Artforum, and The Guardian and is a regular contributor to radio and TV broadcasts. She has a BA in Art History and a PhD in the Sociology of Culture. 33 Artists in 3 Acts follows Thornton as she travels the globe to interview artists hailing from 14 countries on five continents, and who range in discipline from sculpture to painting, photography to performance art. Thornton divides her book into the three richly linked "acts"—politics, kinship, and craft—in order to dig deeply into what motivates artists, how they think about their art and relate to the broader world. In the process, she banishes skepticism about modern art, revealing a fascinating narrative about of the world's most important living artists, and a demystification of what constitutes their work. As Thornton explains, "politics, kinship, and craft also happen to embrace some of the most important things in life: caring about your influence on the world, connecting meaningfully with others, and working hard to create something worthwhile."