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Sarah Thornton

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Sarah Thornton

Sarah L. Thornton
Photo by Idris Khan.
Born 1965
Alma mater Strathclyde University, Glasgow
Main interests Writer and sociologist of culture

Sarah L. Thornton (born 1965),[1] is a writer and sociologist of culture.[2] She has authored articles and books about dance clubs, raves, cultural hierarchies and subcultures. She now writes principally about art, artists and the art market. Thornton published a book about art's subcultures, Seven Days in the Art World.

Life and work

Thornton was born in Canada and resides in London. Her education comprises a BA in the History of Art from Concordia University, Montreal, and a PhD in the Sociology of Culture from Strathclyde University, Glasgow.[3] Her academic posts have included a full-time lecturership at the University of Sussex, and a period as Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. Thornton worked for one year as a brand planner in a London advertising agency.[4] She was the chief writer about contemporary art for The Economist.[5] Thornton has written about the contemporary art market and art world for publications including The Sunday Times Magazine,[6] The Art Newspaper,[7],[8] The New Yorker,[9] The Telegraph,[10] The Guardian,[11] and The New Statesman.[12]



Club Cultures analyses the "hipness" of British rave culture and draws upon Pierre Bourdieu's theory of cultural capital. The study responds to earlier works such as Dick Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style.

Local micro-media like music press construct subcultures as much as they document them. National mass media, such as tabloids, develop youth movements as much as they distort them. Contrary to youth subcultural ideologies, "subcultures" do not germinate from a seed and grow by force of their own energy into mysterious ‘movements’ only to be belatedly digested by the media. Rather, media and other culture industries are there and effective right from the start. They are central to the process of subcultural formation.[13]

Edited books

  • Thornton, Sarah; Gelder, Ken (1997). The subcultures reader. London New York: Routledge.  

Book chapters

Also as: Thornton, Sarah L.;  

Critical reception

Her book Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital is described by Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson as "theoretically innovative" and "conceptually adventurous".[14]

The New York Times' Karen Rosenberg said that Seven Days in the Art World "was reported and written in a heated market, but it is poised to endure as a work of sociology...[Thornton] pushes her well-chosen subjects to explore the questions ‘What is an artist?’ and ‘What makes a work of art great?’"[15]

In the UK, Ben Lewis wrote in The Sunday Times that Seven Days was "a Robert Altmanesque panorama of...the most important cultural phenomenon of the last ten years".[16] While Peter Aspden argued in the Financial Times that "[Thornton] does well to resist the temptation to draw any glib, overarching conclusions. There is more than enough in her rigorous, precise reportage… for the reader to make his or her own connections."[17]

András Szántó reviewed Seven Days in the Art World: "Underneath [the book's] glossy surface lurks a sociologist’s concern for institutional narratives as well as the ethnographer’s conviction that entire social structures can be apprehended in seemingly frivolous patterns of speech or dress."[18] In interview, R. J. Preece wrote, "I think Seven Days in the Art World might be the most important book on contemporary art of this time as it makes the art world more transparent, and might lead to reform."[19]

On July 26, 2011, Thornton successfully sued Lynn Barber and The Daily Telegraph for libel and malicious falsehood.[20] Mr Justice Tugendhat, the UK’s most senior media judge, referred to Ms Barber's review of Seven Days in the Art World as a wrongful "attack on Dr Thornton". [21] All three of the Telegraph′s attempts to appeal were denied.[22]

External links

  • - Official Website
  • , "Reality Art Show", by Sarah ThorntonThe New Yorker March 19, 2007

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Thornton, Sarah, 1965-". Virtual International Authority File. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  2. ^ 'Website of Sarah Thornton'. Retrieved 28 June 2009
  3. ^ McGlone, Jackie (30 September 2008). "Sarah Thornton - Swimming in shark infested waters".  
  4. ^ Thornton, Sarah (19 November 1999). "Advertisements are good for you".  
  5. ^ "Books by Economist writers in 2009: What we wrote".  
  6. ^ Thornton, Sarah (4 October 2009). "Selling art by the shedload".  
  7. ^ Thornton, Sarah (23 October 2008). "In and out of love with Damien Hirst".  
  8. ^ Thornton, Sarah (5 November 2006). "Love and money".  
  9. ^ Thornton, Sarah (19 March 2007). "Letter from London: reality art show".  
  10. ^ Thornton, Sarah (3 October 2008). "Is art the new gold?".  
  11. ^ Thornton, Sarah (5 February 2012). "The art of recession-dodging".  
  12. ^ Thornton, Sarah (23 October 2008). "Bye-bye to bling for billionaires".  
  13. ^ Thornton, Sarah (1995). Club cultures: music, media and subcultural capital. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p. 117.  
  14. ^   ISBN 9781134346530.
  15. ^ Rosenberg, Karen (28 November 2008). "Words worth a thousand paintings".  
  16. ^ Lewis, Ben (5 October 2008). "(book review)"Seven days in the art world by Sarah Thornton .  
  17. ^ Aspden, Peter (8 November 2008). "(book review)"Smoke and mirrors .  
  18. ^  
  19. ^ Preece, R. J. (15 June 2009). (interview) (2009)"Seven Days in the Art World"Sarah Thornton & . artdesigncafé. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  20. ^ Media Lawyer, PA (26 July 2011). "Telegraph in £65k payout over 'spiteful' Barber review".  
  21. ^ Sarah Thornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd, The Hon. Mr Justice Tugendhat EWHC 1884 (QB), Case No: HQ09X02550 (England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions, [2011] 26 July 2011) (“Sarah Thornton makes two claims in this action: one in libel and one in malicious falsehood. Both claims arise out of a review ("the Review") written by Lynn Barber of Dr Thornton's book "Seven Days in the Art World" ("the Book"). The Review was published in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph dated 1 November 2008, and thereafter in the online edition until taken down at the end of March 2009. The Defendant is the publisher ("the Telegraph")... this claim succeeds.”).
  22. ^ Media Lawyer, PA (24 February 2012). "Telegraph refused appeal over Lynn Barber review libel".  
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