In his self-appointed role as defender of art against the art market, Felix Salmon describes Sarah Thornton, the author of Seven Days in the Art World, as most senior person on the beat:
The doyenne of art-market reporters, Sarah Thornton, has quit writing about the economics of art.
The assertion is worth examining simply because Salmon’s argument hangs on Thornton’s much mentioned article renouncing her interest in the art market and Dave Hickey’s similar act of high dudgeon. According to these authorities, the art market has had a predatory effect on our understanding and appreciation of art. That’s a worthy topic of debate but so far all we have had is angry denunciations based upon flawed premises.
For the moment, let’s look at this one premise. Is Sarah Thornton the doyen of art market reporters? Salmon ignores the several writers on the art market beat with far greater tenure, access and experience.
1) The real doyen of art market reporters is The Master, Judd Tully, who has first hand notes from auctions stretching back decades. Though he has been known to select his favorite Overpriced/Underpriced works at art fairs he has yet to condemn the art market for being a market.
2) Tully writes for a specialized publication. Georgina Adam has equal reach within the trade through her role at The Art Newspaper and in her weekly column for the Financial Times. Adam’s perspective is enhanced by her many trips to the Gulf States and her deep knowledge of the market in France, the UK and US.
3) The person with the greatest visibility as well as sources among the best dealers is the New York Times’s Carol Vogel. Buyers and sellers who want to see their deals publicized wish to appear in Vogel’s Thursday column or weekend stories as the very first choice.
4) Kelly Crow at the Wall Street Journal has written some remarkable stories limning Gerhard Richter’s market as well as profiling market making dealers like the Mugrabi family. Though much younger than her peers on the art market beat, Crow has delivered what the Journal clearly wants, prominent art market stories that have an impact.
5) The Telegraph’s Colin Gleadell has an understanding of the art market that few journalists can rival. He pays close attention to the kinds of exquisite detail that others often miss.
6) Finally, though not actually a reporter, Josh Baer’s BaerFaxt is an authority within the dealing and collecting communities.
Every one of the above ranks over Thornton in every way—experience, depth of knowledge and clout. That statement is in no way a disparagement of Thornton’s work. But none of the above have indulged in Thornton’s histrionics.