An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
“Great paintings live on because they’re not quite explicable.” says Steve Martin. In “An Object of Beauty” , Steve Martin puts his considerable knowledge of the art world in full display. This novel is part fictional memoir, and part primer on the business of fine art collecting. It takes place in New York City and covers a period from about 1997 through 2008.
The novel is narrated by Daniel Franks, a writer for art world publications but who is really a stand in for Martin. The main character is Lacey Yeager, who is young, ambitious, gorgeous, quick witted and morally suspect. We follow her from art school to an internship at Sotheby’s, to working for a private art dealer to opening her own art gallery. Lacey is a master manipulator of men. She has Daniel Franks in her thrall throughout the book. Lacey sleeps with every man she meets, except Franks. She commits fraud for personal monetary gain, spies on competitors, and makes the big time.
The art market is booming along with the housing bubble in the early 2000s with money coming in from Russia and China. But as they say what goes up must come down as her career slides in the collapse of Wall Street and the subsequent drying up of the big money. As Martin states: “Art as an aesthetic principle was supported by thousands of years of discernment and psychic rewards, but art as a commodity was held up by air. The loss of confidence that affected banks and financial instruments was now affecting art as well.”
As we go through the book the works of art that Martin is talking about are displayed in full color inserts so that we can better appreciate them.
Steve Martin is an American actor, comedian, author, playwright, producer, musician and composer, and an avid art collector. I knew he was funny but had no idea he was such a good writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.