Sarah Thornton

  • Left: Thomas Lawson, artist and CalArts dean. Right: Art historian Linda Nochlin with Andrew Brown, commissioning editor of Thames & Hudson. (All photos: Sarah Thornton)
    diary February 20, 2007

    Panel Surfing

    New York

    Some art worlders lead sexy lives, others spend Valentine’s Day at the Hilton in midtown. Six thousand participants converged on the generic hotel with garish carpets for the academic talk-a-thon otherwise known as the annual conference of the College Art Association (CAA). With more than two hundred panels, receptions, meetings, and reunions, it is a polymorphous event kicked off by an awards ceremony, which one speaker said is “as close as art historians get to the Oscars.” Indeed, award winners were limited to a two-minute speech, and as most of the accolades honored lifetime achievement,

  • Left: Christie's chief auctioneer Christopher Burge. Right: Art consultant Philippe Ségalot with artist Takashi Murakami. (Photos: David Velasco)
    diary November 16, 2006

    Worldwide Warhol

    New York

    A few dealers were literally drunk at Christie’s evening sale on Wednesday, but most of the swanky crowd had prepared by simply knocking back the Kool-Aid. What does it mean when a single auction of contemporary art rakes in $240 million and establishes nineteen(!) record prices? Amy Cappellazzo, the outspoken international cohead of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art division, had an answer: “Belief in the contemporary art market is at an all-time high. After you have a fourth home and a G5 jet, what else is there? Art is extremely enriching. Why shouldn’t people want to be exposed to

  • Left: Collector Aby Rosen and son. Right: Sotheby's worldwide head of contemporary art Tobias Meyer (far right of picture). (Photos: David Velasco)
    diary November 15, 2006

    Cheap Feel

    New York

    The laughs about last night’s less-than-spectacular Contemporary Art Evening at Sotheby’s started a couple of weeks ago when the auction house spammed the art world with a guided video tour of the sale’s highlights, hosted by its star auctioneer and worldwide head of contemporary art, Tobias Meyer. The video started innocently enough, with Meyer offering his personal interpretation of the most expensive works. “Artists do have the cruelest eyes, so when they depict themselves you have to look very carefully,” he said about the early Andy Warhol self-portrait that graces the catalogue cover. “Is

  • Left: Gwyneth Paltrow. (Photo: David Velasco) Right: Maurizio Cattelan. (Photo: Sarah Thornton)
    diary October 13, 2006

    After the Flood


    “Art is in the wallet of the beholder,” said author Kathy Lette on Tuesday evening. “I wish that rich people had a longer attention span. It’s easier for them to look at a painting than read a book; you can’t frame The Satanic Verses.” Just then Salman Rushdie emerged from the posh crowd that had converged on the Duchess Palace to celebrate the opening of Anish Kapoor’s show at Lisson Gallery. When I asked him what he thought of the exhibition, Rushdie reflected: “Anish and I share an interest in the continuing power of myth, and I respond strongly to the sensuality of his forms, particularly

  • Left: Parkview International's Vicky Hwang, Serpentine codirector of exhibitions and programs and director of international projects Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and Red Mansion's Nicolette Kwok. Right: Artist Josephine Meckseper. (All photos: Sarah Thornton)
    diary October 08, 2006

    National Obsessions


    National identity was “the new black” in London last week, as local art-world superpowers the Serpentine Gallery and the Saatchi Gallery went head to head with their respective blockbusters, “China Power Station: Part 1” and “USA Today.” First, I set out for Battersea Power Station, a Grade II–listed ruin that sits on the south side of the Thames about a mile upriver from Bankside Power Station (better known as Tate Modern). Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones, elegantly accessorized with a flashlight and work boots, took a group of twenty patrons on a tour of the exhibition. We started in

  • Left: Artist Vanessa Beecroft. Right: Flavio Del Monte, artist Paola Pivi, and curator Massimiliano Gioni. (All photos: Sarah Thornton)
    diary September 27, 2006

    Burden of History


    “We have no museum of contemporary art!” was the refrain of my recent trip to Milan, which began with espresso at the Trussardi Alla Scala Café, a well-air-conditioned bar that acts as a second office for curator Massimiliano Gioni and artists who are working on exhibitions commissioned by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, such as Paola Pivi. When I asked them how Milan’s art world is different from other art worlds, Pivi responded laterally: “That’s like asking: How is my mother different from other
    women?” But Gioni had a theory. A complete lack of public support had resulted in fashion

  • Left: Artist Smadar Dreyfus with dealer Victoria Miro. Right: Flo, Grayson, and Philippa Perry.
    diary July 08, 2006



    I walked into Grayson Perry’s exhibition, “The Charms of Lincolnshire,” a little before six last Wednesday evening and found the artist in the midst of an interview for “PM,” the BBC Radio 4 flagship that British politicians consider platinum airtime. “We’re coming to you live from the Victoria Miro Gallery, where the private view starts in fourteen minutes,” said the broadcaster in his booming voice. “Grayson, talk us through your outfit for the opening this evening.” No longer just a transvestite potter, but an all-round multi-media sculptor, printmaker, photographer, curator, TV presenter,

  • Left: Dealer Tim Blum with artist Takashi Murakami. Right: Curator Daniel Birnbaum. (Photos: Sarah Thornton)
    diary June 16, 2006

    Taking a Stand


    In the immortal words of John Baldessari, you don’t go to an art fair, you survive one. On Tuesday, just before the VIP opening of Art Basel, I stood with collectors—some worth billions, others just millions—all anxiously clutching their gray, credit card-size passes. When the clock struck eleven and the crowd started to move, avid collector David Teiger half-joked, “Sarah, you’re not shoving enough!”

    By 11:30 AM, the upper floor was mobbed and the Rubells were already locked in a family huddle on the atrium stairs. Despite the cliché that an art fair is no place for an artist, the

  • Right: Dealer Bill Acquavella with Lucien Freud's David and Eli, 2003-04. Right: Dealer Marian Goodman and artist Thomas Struth. (Except where noted, all pictures: Sarah Thornton)
    diary June 12, 2006

    Make-Up Dealer


    It’s a joy to walk around an art fair before the feeding frenzy begins. With a day to go before the opening of Art Basel, the stands of confident Swiss dealers, like Bruno Bischofberger and Ernst Beyeler, were still stacked high with crates. Other established gallerists were fine-tuning their hang and tinkering with the lighting, while those who’d only recently gained access to this elite club were so completely prepared that they looked ready for Armageddon.

    Every year collectors attempt to sneak in before the fair opens to obtain an early grab at the art. Art Basel maintains a zero-tolerance

  • Left: Art consultant Matthew Armstrong with L&M Arts exhibitions advisor Robert Pincus-Witten. Right: Sotheby's Worldwide Head of contemporary art and auctioneer Tobias Meyer. (All photos: David Velasco)
    diary May 11, 2006

    Love and Money

    New York

    “Christ never said that money was the root of all evil. He said it was the love of money,” snorted art consultant Matthew Armstrong, as we headed into Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale on Wednesday. Sotheby’s saleroom is a vast rectangular hall with chairs positioned to either side of a processional aisle that leads to the “block” where works of art meet their taker. This central turntable—a lazy susan of art—suggests nothing more than “The Price is Right.”

    Seating at auctions is no arbitrary matter. It’s the brutal means by which the auction house tells the world exactly what it

  • Left: Christie's doorman Gil at work. Right: Chief auctioneer Christopher Burge. (All photos: David Velasco)
    diary May 10, 2006

    Big Business as Usual

    New York

    What exactly does the art market look like? From the press pen at the back of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale on Tuesday night, it was a sea of bald patches and faux blondes. The men were in grey, black, and blue, many wired up with ear pieces attached to cell phones, looking like the bodyguards and chauffeurs that they left leaning against their town cars outside, except that their suits were made-to-measure. The women were small servings of bare legs in high heels and diamonds.

    There are two ways to ready oneself for a major auction—sparkling water and aspirin or a double

  • Left: Israeli Art Prize winner Sharon Ya'ari, dealer Daniella Luxembourg, and Tel Aviv Museum of Art director Prof. Mordechai Omer. Right: Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art Director Dalia Levin.
    diary April 19, 2006

    Photo Finish

    Tel Aviv

    “Sharon Ya’ari is the poet of Israeli photography,” enthused Daniella Luxembourg after the presentation of the Israeli Art Prize at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art last Friday. The New York–based dealer and art consultant (and jury member) continued, “Photography is the most important Israeli art. Given the political conflict and the constant presence of international press, artists don’t want to simply document events. They want to document their thoughts.”

    Impassioned and politicized are the two adjectives that best describe the newly thriving Tel Aviv art scene. Israel’s answer to the Turner Prize