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,


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.