Jackie Wullschlager at The Financial Times:
There are some forms of success, Degas said, that are indistinguishable from panic. The 21st-century art market is one. Prices soar, museums bloat, buyers swarm, but still everyone involved – collector, dealer, commentator, curator and even artist – operates within a frenzy of anxiety and self-justification. Is this because contemporary art is radical and difficult to fathom, or because it is empty and cynical?
It is certainly ubiquitous. “Contemporary art is steadily becoming the lingua franca of international culture,” claims Ossian Ward. “Artists have become models of unrivalled creativity . . . In their ability to make markets for their work and ideas, they inspire entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders of all kinds,” argues Sarah Thornton. Grayson Perry counters that “art is spirituality in drag”. Each author is embedded in the art world, but all three assume the position of ethnographers dissecting the behaviour of a particularly outlandish tribe.
From biennales (“a guilt-free occasion to bitch”) in Venice, Istanbul and Shanghai to museum openings in London and Doha and studio visits in New York, Beijing, Devon, Thornton spent four years crossing five continents conducting interviews to “explore the nature of being a professional artist today”.