Book Review: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin, 2010

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin, 2010

First of all, I was not expecting this type of writing from the likes of Steve Martin… yes, that Steve Martin. I was pleasantly surprised by the text as well as the story itself. My appreciation for this book mostly stems from my interest in and passion for art and art history. Jasper Johns. Matisse. de Kooning. Art of the 20th and 21st centuries are discussed throughout the entire book. As a college graduate with my B.A. in Art History, this book can officially be listed as one of my Top 10’s.

Spoilers Ahead…

Daniel Franks knew Lacey Yeager was something special the day he first spotted her in class. This was twenty years ago. It is the twenty years that come after that first meeting that are told in his first book. Lacey’s story is worth writing. Daniel (the narrating character of the novel) follows Lacey’s beginnings in the art world, her climb to the top, her dangerous missteps and tumbles, and eventually her treacherous fall.

Lacey Yeager, independent, charismatic, fierce, and unrelenting, emerges onto the New York art scene at its lowest entry point, an internship at Sotheby’s. Her low-paying job has her digging through the mailroom of the fine art auction house. While the monetary gains aren’t even worth mentioning, Lacey’s keen eye and sharp wit help advance her status among colleagues and her boss.

Daniel Franks stays friends with Lacey throughout her time in New York and is privy to her deepest secrets and flaws. Over the years, Lacey moves her way up at Sotheby’s and finds herself working in a gallery, learning the inner workings of the art market. She learns how to bend the system and break the rules, which for a while go unnoticed. She opens her own gallery, which goes through its own ups and downs, like the terrorist attacks of 9-11, and the economic troubles that followed. Lacey’s bold, fraudulent adventures eventually catch up with her.

Lacey is someone you love to hate. You want just half of her confidence, a fourth of her swagger, and none of her problems. Her troubles seem the least of her worries, if you can even tell she has them at all. At her worst, she’s still better than your best, at least as far as you can tell. She’s mysterious and deceiving. She’s beautiful and wanted. She’s unpredictable.

Steve Martin has written a book that is both fiction and non-fiction. While Daniel Franks or Lacey Yeager may not be real, the characters they represent certainly are. Martin, a devoted and passionate art collector, depicts the behind the scenes dramas of the art world. The build of the art society in the 1990s and its fall after 2001 are brilliantly portrayed. An Object of Beauty is a love story. It’s the love story between artist and art, collector and prized painting, gallery owner and sales commission. Lacey Yeager was entangled in every fiber of the art world, the greed, the want, the failures, and the distortion.

Portions of the book were slow, and yet important overall. Lacey’s story made me laugh, caused me anger, disappointed me, confused me, earned my pity, and all the while made me want to have drinks with her. I can’t say much for those who don’t know art; you may find yourself wanting to learn more, you may absolutely hate it. If I hadn’t previously studied art history, I wouldn’t have caught the subtle hints, metaphors, irony, or the art jargon. If you are, however, involved in the art world, studied art, work in art, or appreciate the works of the 20th and 21st century, read this book.

P.S. : Amy Adams is rumored to be starring (most likely as Lacey) and producing the film version of this book. Dates of release are yet to be determined.

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