An international perspective on culture and cultural production has underpinned much of the work of Dr Sarah Thornton (1988 Commonwealth Scholar from Canada, PhD in music and sociology, University of Strathclyde) She is a cultural critic and writer, an art columnist for The Economist and author of critically-acclaimed books.
Sarah has combined a love of art with her interest in sociology, after a BA in Art History; she worked in a gallery before undertaking her PhD. She believes that her Commonwealth Scholarship for her PhD provided a life-changing opportunity, academically, and in terms of her personal development. ‘A Commonwealth Scholarship is a great intellectual endorsement. Receiving it gave me a boost in confidence that I enjoy to this day. it also broadened my horizons and made me a committed internationalist.’ Her PhD thesis was later published as Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital (Polity Press). Sarah then worked as an academic at the University of Sussex, running the MA in Media Studies. Since 2002, she ‘has been investigating the social, cultural and economic dynamics of contemporary art’.
This interest in different cultures and cultural locations is evident in Sarah’s recent book, Seven Days in the Art World (VW Norton 2008), which was hailed as a critical success for its investigation into the contemporary art world by The New York Times and The Sunday Times whilst The Independent listed it as one of the top 20 books of 2008. The book has been translated into many languages, including French, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese – and an imminent Arabic launch. A social history set in the world of contemporary art, the book examines different and sometimes conflicting definitions of art. Various ‘day-in-the-life’ narratives, set in diverse locations including London, New York, Venice and Tokyo, provide different perspectives, from an auction at Christie’s to studios to the Venice Biennale.
As well as writing, Sarah frequently participates in conference panels and has spoken at universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Royal College of Art.