Sarah Thornton, a contributor to The New Yorker, spent Seven Days In The Art World (W.W. Norton, $24.95), attending an auction at Christie’s, touring an art fair in Basel, and observing the Artforum International Manhattan offices, among other things. On her tour she discovers that all the players in today’s art world are afflicted with status anxiety, but they’re also heavily laden with cash. In 2007 Christie’s sold 793 works of art for over $1 million each. More people than ever are buying contemporary art, the future value of which is highly in doubt. One gallerist reflects that, “The newness of now, which is quite obsessive, is actually a reflection of the consumerism that you see in the whole culture.” Another suggests that “the boundary between art and entertainment is slowly vanishing. In backstage politicking dealers anxiously wait for not the best price, but the most prestigious buyer.”
Stanford White Architect (Rizzoli, $75) by Samuel White (the great-grandson) and Elizabeth White, with photography by Jonathan Wallen, is a loving collection of the works of the greatest of Gilded Age designers. White was born in 1853, and his taste and genius are everywhere apparent in the commercial and residential buildings he designed in the last decades of the 19th century. Sadly, he was just over 50 years old when he was shot by the jealous husband of a woman he was involved with. Even sadder is the fact that, due to commercial pressures, several of his greatest buildings have been demolished.
Georges Edouard Jeannert-Gris became Le Corbusier (Knopf, $45) in 1920 at the age of 33 when he joined with others to found a new magazine. As author Nicholas Fox Weber sees him, Corbusier had colossal self-esteem; at the age of 17, he began designing buildings without any training. The young Swiss left for Paris, where he was influenced by the Modernist movement bursting around him—Lalique the glass maker, Guimard, the designer, and Rodin. Corbusier’s creativity burst forth after the Armistice and his work remained vital into the 1960s. He and Mies van der Rohe were to have the greatest influence on contemporary architecture; this first full-length biography presents his life and work in fluid fashion.