An Object of Beauty: Steve Martin Tricks Us Into an Art Lesson
Steve Martin’s latest novel, An Object of Beauty, the renaissance man’s third to date, is at face value the story of young, attractive, ambitious Lacey Yeager, a gallerista working her way up through the ranks of New York’s societal art scene, a woman employing all manner of wit, charm, intelligence, deceit, and, of course, sex to do so. She keeps everyone guessing – from her latest boy toy to us, the readers – leaving all wondering about her professional and personal tactics. The one thing that isn’t up for debate, however, is Lacey’s intelligence. The girl is damn smart and can navigate her way through the art world brilliantly.
And that’s the thing about An Object of Beauty. One minute, you’re completely engrossed in a scandalously set rendezvous with Lacey and her French lover, and the next, you’re immersed in a comparative analysis of Pablo Picasso’s Woman with Pears and Andy Warhol’s Marilyn. Martin’s transitions between pondering the wonders of some of the great masterpieces and pondering the wonders of Lacey's high-speed life are seamless. It’s high drama, high art, and high intelligence all wrapped up into one lovely page turner.
But one might ask: Why an art-centric story for Mr. Martin? In a chicken-or-egg tale of inspiration, Martin unwittingly became embroiled in a German art scam when a painting he had purchased in 2004 was sold in 2006 and later revealed to be a fake. Ouch. Years prior, in early 1991, Martin’s view of the art world was, perhaps, a bit more comedic, as evidenced by the memorable scene at a Los Angeles museum in “L.A. Story,” which was also written by Martin. He has had a toe in the art world for years now, so it seems only natural that the New York art scene should appeal to him as creative and witty muse.
An Object of Beauty will undoubtedly suck you into its pages, and while you are there, simultaneously loving and hating Lacey, you will also surely learn something new about a masterpiece with which, perhaps, before you were only tangentially familiar. Steve Martin is a creative genius, and An Object of Beauty only serves to further prove this.