'Biennale Bitch' Goes Behind The Scenes of the Art World

'Biennale Bitch' Goes Behind The Scenes of the Art World

Highlights of Nadja Sayej's new book include a run in with A$AP Rocky, calling celebrities from Marrakech, and snoring her way through Documenta.

Highlights of Nadja Sayej's new book include a run in with A$AP Rocky, calling celebrities from Marrakech, and snoring her way through Documenta.

Text: Chloe Laguette

Obviously, there's more to the art world than just auctions and appetizers. That's why arts reporter Nadja Sayej (author of the bestseller The Celebrity Interview Book) decided to finally put her nine years of traveling through the European art scene in writing. Her new book, Biennale Bitch, is composed of 30 short stories behind the art world articles, and off-the-record snapshots of Salma Hayek, Patti Smith, Lady Gaga, Claude Picasso, John Waters, Thom Yorke, the Wu-Tang Clan, and more.

In 2010, Sayej booked a one-way flight to Berlin and never looked back. Over the past eight years, she's traveled around the world for one reason—art biennales. Aside from the major Venice Biennale, she's also been the far-flung ones in Norway, Latvia, and Morocco. If a boldface name is making an art world appearance— she shows up.

Some of Sayej's monumental experiences include traveling to Vienna for an interview with Marina Abramovic, meeting Yoko Ono in Frankfurt and partying with the Princess of Libya in Marrakech. "The trick is showing up early at press conferences, hanging out backstage, sneaking into VIP areas and going to afterparties," she said Sneaking in is the best part. If you’re multi-lingual and charming, that’s the cherry on the cake. I show up. I went to Vienna for an interview with Marina Abramovic, met Yoko Ono in Frankfurt and partied with the Princess of Libya in Marrakech. "The trick is showing up early at press conferences, hanging out backstage, sneaking into VIP areas and going to afterparties," she said. "Sneaking in is the best part. If you’re multi-lingual and charming, that’s the cherry on the cake."

Sayej believes that celebrities are much more relaxed in Europe, taken aback by its charm. "The paparazzi are also less crazy here, Europe is somewhat slower paced—and old school. Social media is also not as obsessive here and because there are so many languages in Europe, the Twitterati is divided," she said. When she met Thom Yorke in Venice, he was at ease, shuffling through the crowd without much fanfare. According to her, there is no equivalent to a Hollywood studio there.

On her travels, she brought along with her a Nikon digital camera, which, until now, contained photos of some of the world's biggest stars, never seen by the public. "I was going through my SD cards and thought 'I should do something with these.' While my next forthcoming book will certainly be a black-and-white photo book of celebs, I really wanted to take the reader on a journey with each travel story, explaining each trip," she said. "I chased David Hasselhoff in a mini-truck down the Berlin Wall, hung out backstage with the Wu-Tang clan and saw A$AP Rocky do performance art. And what they’re really like backstage."

Sayej observed that the biggest difference between the art scenes across Europe, and those in major US hubs like New York and LA, is that Europe favors a more anti-commercial outlook. Whereas in the states, star power is the driving force behind the culture. "But there’s also this anti-entertainment sentiment in Europe," she said. "There’s also less digital art, as I remember seeing the 9th Berlin Biennale and thinking the curators (New York’s DIS collective), took a risky pop-friendly take, which was very un-European. "

If you're looking to dive into the art world— aka everything but the art— go grab a copy of 'Biennale Bitch.'

You can purchase it here.

And below, original photos from Sayej of her travels.

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