This compelling narrative goes behind the scenes with the world’s most important living artists to humanize and demystify contemporary art.
The best-selling author of Seven Days in the Art World now tells the story of the artists themselves—how they move through the world, command credibility, and create iconic works.
33 Artists in 3 Acts offers unprecedented access to a dazzling range of artists, from international superstars to unheralded art teachers. Sarah Thornton's beautifully paced, fly-on-the-wall narratives include visits with Ai Weiwei before and after his imprisonment and Jeff Koons as he woos new customers in London, Frankfurt, and Abu Dhabi. Thornton meets Yayoi Kusama in her studio around the corner from the Tokyo asylum that she calls home. She snoops in Cindy Sherman’s closet, hears about Andrea Fraser’s psychotherapist, and spends quality time with Laurie Simmons, Carroll Dunham, and their daughters Lena and Grace.
Through these intimate scenes, 33 Artists in 3 Acts explores what it means to be a real artist in the real world. Divided into three cinematic "acts"—politics, kinship, and craft—it investigates artists' psyches, personas, politics, and social networks. Witnessing their crises and triumphs, Thornton turns a wry, analytical eye on their different answers to the question "What is an artist?"
33 Artists in 3 Acts reveals the habits and attributes of successful artists, offering insight into the way these driven and inventive people play their game. In a time when more and more artists oversee the production of their work, rather than make it themselves, Thornton shows how an artist’s radical vision and personal confidence can create audiences for their work, and examines the elevated role that artists occupy as essential figures in our culture.
Thornton (Seven Days in the Art World) paints a masterful picture of 33 artists, keenly bringing details of their lives to the surface with a skilled hand and without overwhelming the reader. The product of four years of work, the book is divided into its eponymous three acts; each chapter, or "scene," focuses on one artist, with artists sometimes appearing in multiple "scenes." The activist Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, receives much favorable attention; one notable chapter takes place in the wake of his arrest at the hands of Chinese government authorities. Married American artists Caroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons are surveyed together, then separately, in multiple chapters, with Thornton exploring their artistic relationships and the gender dynamics therein. Thornton builds on such analyses to offer astute, accessible commentary on the gendered dimensions of modern art. With effortless sophistication, Thornton takes readers on a journey across the globe and into the homes and minds of contemporary artists. In the process, she banishes cynicism about modern art, revealing it to be a volatile, healthy enterprise still deeply engaged with the world. 44 illus.