An object of beauty December 28, 2010
by Robert Genn Dear Rodney, Like a lot of artists, I don't read a lot of novels. I think it has something to do with not releasing yourself to another persons imagination. But this Christmas a good one came along: An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin. Yep, Steve Martin. It's about an attractive, ambitious young woman who moves to New York from Atlanta and gets into the art business. First as a gopher at Sothebys, then as a gallerista at an upscale gallery, then as a gallery owner herself. It chronicles her rise through artist and writer boyfriends, curators, FBI agents, international dealers and art collectors smitten with the intrigue of it all. From the straight-shooters to the sleaze bags, the talk is of contemporary art and the meaning of it all is money. I don't think I've recently read anything with so much truth, clear observation, in-depth understanding and wit. Steve gets the art world, human nature, body language, as well as the dark and funny twists of fate. He knows his stuff and he nails it. Lacey Yeager is a cute wit herself with a disarming charm and soft morals. But she's a fast study and she soon understands the job is to get in low and get out as high as possible before fickle fashion turns. Art requires a shot of scholarship; the weaker the art the more the scholarship needed, and wise men jump to help her get a leg up, which she does with some frequency. Lacey also has an uncanny wisdom for what things might fetch, how to finesse, how to create shortage and demand. Her dough-head collectors have nothing much to offer the universe except their money and their willingness to pay vulgar prices for things that would be laughed out of town in Atlanta. It's a romp. So what does this sort of true life adventure do for those of us who hang back in Humptulips with our precious little easels? It makes us realize the need for art with all its novelty and mystique is deeply ingrained in the human soul. And while the vast range of stuff that calls itself art includes craft, technique and beauty, as well as crap, it's not soon to be erased from our psyches. It takes all kinds of people to make a world; you just have to watch out for some of them. In the meantime, it's all fun. "Good going, Lacey!" it had me saying. "It was really nice knowing you. You've been a slice." Best regards, Robert PS: "The presence of excessive wealth puts an unnatural spin on the appreciation of art." (Steve Martin) Esoterica: There's something to be said for putting your feet up with a good book between clumps of Christmas cake and shards of shortbread. Oh, and Scotch. Did I mention that Joe Blodgett kindly left his bottle? I think it was with the book to remind me of one of Joe's more interesting quotes: "Art is a game where impotence struts the high road and capability smiles shyly from the quiet corners." Lacey might have used that one.