33 Artists in 3 Acts (a review)

I love art, and I try to read every book I can find about it. A few year’s ago, I read 7 Days in the Art World. This past weekend, I finished 33 Artists in 3 Acts. Here is a short review.

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Sarah Thornton obviously has many connections in the art world, and owing to this, her latest offering 33 Artists in 3 Acts contains a who’s who of contemporary art – this is a very good thing.

As the title suggests, the book is broken into three cinematic acts: politics, kinship and craft. Throughout these acts, Thornton spends time with some of the planet’s most important living artists, and along the way, provides an inside glimpse into the artistic mind as it grapples with, and attempts to find its way in an extremely fickle art world.

Irrespective of fame, the time the author spends with each artist is recounted in a very casual and humanistic manner. No where is this more apparent than in the kinship section where Thornton hangs out with the family of artist couple Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons. Few art books address the family dynamic.

Make no mistake, Thornton is by no means a push over. Although most of the artists come across as likable, at times they seem overly full of themselves, or even arrogant. Be that as it may, this writer doesn’t lead by the hand, and the reader is left to formulate their own opinions.

If you liked 7 Days in the Art World, you’re gonna love 33 Artists in 3 Acts. If you’ve yet to read either, I highly suggest that you do.

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An Afternoon with Duchamp

Books on art are often difficult, but they don’t have to be. Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews by Calvin Tomkins is a must read for artists.

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My e-reader recently broke, so to feed my habit, I hit the local bookstore in search of a fix.

While rummaging through the art section, I came across Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews and immediately, I was intrigued.

To me, Duchamp has always been an enigma. On the one hand, he’s a genius whose place in history is all but assured. On the other, he has inspired a lot of weak and lazy art.

I had my doubts about the book, but above all else, I worried that it would be…well…just plain weird.

After going back and forth for several minutes, I finally decided to take the plunge. I’m glad I did. This book is awesome.

The interviewer – Calvin Tomkins – does an excellent job of keeping it casual, and Duchamp comes across as a laid-back and decent dude.

Although he’s spawned a lot of difficult art, this is not a difficult book. If you’ve got an afternoon to fill, I highly recommend you spend it with Duchamp.