I don't believe in art.
I believe in the artist.

— Marcel Duchamp


Sarah Thornton is a writer and sociologist of art. Formerly the chief correspondent on contemporary art for The Economist, Thornton has written for many other publications, including Artforum, the Guardian, and The New Yorker, and has contributed to broadcasts at the BBC, NPR, and ZDF. A frequent guest speaker, she has given talks and participated in panels at museums, universities, and literary festivals around the world.

Thornton has a BA in art history and a PhD in sociology. A Canadian who went to Britain on a prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship, Thornton investigated hierarchies of “coolness” through a case study of dance clubs and raves. Published as Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital, her doctorate led the Daily Telegraph to declare her “Britain’s hippest academic.” Thornton then coedited the first edition of The Subcultures Reader and ran the MA in media studies at Sussex University.

After doing a year’s undercover “ethnographic” research as a brand planner in an international advertising agency, Thornton returned to her first love – art – and started researching the book that would eventually become Seven Days in the Art World (2008). This series of witty narratives reveals the inner workings of the institutions that contribute to an artist’s place in art history. Named one of the best art books of the year by the New York Times, the book is an international hit, currently available in seventeen languages.

In the summer of 2009, Thornton began investigating the questions: What is an artist? How do artists command belief in their work? And what artistic myths do they enliven or reject? After interviewing and observing over a hundred artists, Thornton came up with the structure and themes of 33 Artists in 3 Acts. This ambitious and entertaining book goes behind the scenes with a superb cast of living artists – from global superstars to unheralded teachers -- to humanize and demystify contemporary art. It is published on November 3rd in the USA and in many translations in 2015.


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UK Edition

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Four Years in the Art World with Sarah Thornton: 33 Artists in 3 Acts

Six years after The New York Times and London's Sunday Times named Seven Days in the Art World one of the best art books of 2008...

Art in America 10/20/14

33 Artists in 3 Acts

Thornton (Seven Days in the Art World) paints a masterful picture of 33 artists, keenly bringing details of their...

Publishers Weekly

The Meaning of Contemporary Art

In 33 Artists in 3 Acts, as in her previous book Seven Days in the Art World (2008), Thornton elevates gossip to sociology, writing with verve, insight and authenticity to build up fleeting, feather-light scenes into a panorama...

Financial Times

33 Artists in 3 Acts

The intrepid and inquisitive Thornton once again guides readers on a journey through the often confounding upper echelons of twenty-first-century art...

Booklist Online

Finding an answer to ‘what is an artist’ in Sarah Thornton’s book

With the word “beauty” boldly stitched onto her fine sweater, Sarah Thornton is talking art over peppermint tea at the Vancouver Art Gallery...

The Globe and Mail 10/29/14

Sarah Thornton: Author of 33 Artists in 3 Acts to speak at ROM

Sarah Thornton is a Canadian by birth and a Brit by academic training, where her PhD work on rave culture earned her the enduring...

The Toronto Star 10/29/14

New Sarah Thornton book asks: Is it enough simply to declare oneself an artist?

Generally, books about art tend to appeal to a fairly niche market. But one that sells more than 100,000 copies in North America alone...

Ottawa Citizen 10/24/14

Sarah Thornton’s Next Act

When I finished Seven Days in the Art World, there were two things I felt like I wanted to understand more,” the British journalist...

Art News 10/30/14

Sarah Thornton and the State of Art

Since exploding onto the scene in 2008 with her now-cult book Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton has charted...




 US  abaggetta [at] goldbergmcduffie [dot] com

UK  aoneill [at] granta [dot] com

CAN  smyers [at] penguinrandomhouse [dot] com

Thornton is represented by The Wylie Agency:
mail [at] wylieagency [dot] com

Photo credits: Top (James Merrell), Bio (Beowulf Sheehan), Above (Jacob Bricca)

This site and the materials contained herein © Sarah Thornton and W. W. Norton, Inc.