Is being an artist a radical form of entrepreneurship or a vocational calling like the priesthood? Is it an extension of philosophy or an offshoot of entertainment? In three richly interlinked but distinct 'acts' - Politics, Kinship and Craft - Sarah Thornton compares and contrasts answers to the simple but profound question: what is an artist? 33 Artists in 3 Acts draws on hundreds of personal encounters with the world's most important artists, to ask what it means to be making artworks in different parts of the world today. With Thornton as expert guide and trusted insider, we have unprecedented access to the lives of the artists, from late-night Skype chats with Ai Weiwei to taxi rides with Maurizio Cattelan on the way to and from the show that announces his death. We join Thornton as she rummages through artists' studios, homes and solo shows, inquiring about everything from their bank accounts to their bedrooms. The result is a series of cinematic experiences, which juxtapose artists in thought-provoking ways, and build up narratives that end with epiphanies.
33 Artists in 3 Acts is a generational touchstone, a powerful triptych and gripping anti-monograph about truth, integrity, credibility and recognition. Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary art, this masterful act of storytelling will also delight any reader seeking to understand creative lives.
SARAH THORNTON is the author of the international hit Seven Days in the Art World (Granta, 2008). She has been the chief writer on contemporary art for the Economist and a contributor to publications such as the Guardian, The Art Newspaper and the New Yorker. She has a BA in Art History and a PhD in Sociology. She lives in London.