…what really animates this book is Mr. Martin's own sense of how the upward-mobility game is played at galleries, auction houses and art-world watering holes. This book does a wonderfully nostalgic job of capturing the "fresh and clean New York," so full of new money, beautiful young things and Gatsbyesque promise, that facilitates Lacey's uphill climb.
The New York Times
The expertise of Martin, himself a longtime collector…is dazzlingly in evidence here. The text is as useful an idiosyncratic art-history primer as it is a piece of fiction…As fiction, though, it is thoroughly delightful, evoking a vanished gilded age with impertinence but never contempt…Though Martin is merciless at parsing the pretension of the contemporary art scene…its suffusion with international cash clearly thrills and animates him. His minor characters…are as carefully drawn as his major ones.
The New York Times Book Review
…[a] graceful novel. If Martin isn't a talented art critic himself, he does a convincing imitation of one. Insightful but modest, sophisticated but deeply skeptical of po-mo gobbledygook, he offers engaging commentary on Milton Avery, Picasso, Warhol and many others…Given Martin's capacity for zaniness, the subtlety of his fiction is always something of a surprise, particularly in this case when the claptrap of so much contemporary art makes a ripe subject for comedy. There's certainly humor in An Object of Beauty, but Martin doesn't waste much powder on the easy targets.
The Washington Post
A legendary actor, comedian, and writer (Shopgirl; Born Standing Up) gifts us with a perceptive illustrated novel about glamour and subterfuge in the New York fine art market of the late nineties and beyond. At its center is Lacey Yeager, a talented, ardently ambitious Manhattan gallery dealer. A typically whimsical, insightful Steve Martin concoction. A gracefully turned fiction. Editor's recommendation.
Martin compresses the wild and crazy end of the millennium and finds in this piercing novel a sardonic morality tale. Lacey Yeager is an ambitious young art dealer who uses everything at her disposal to advance in the world of the high-end art trade in New York City. After cutting her teeth at Sotheby's, she manipulates her way up through Barton Talley's gallery of "Very Expensive Paintings," sleeping with patrons, and dodging and indulging in questionable deals, possible felonies, and general skeeviness until she opens her own gallery in Chelsea. Narrated by Lacey's journalist friend, Daniel Franks, whose droll voice is a remarkable stand-in for Martin's own, the world is ordered and knowable, blindly barreling onward until 9/11. And while Lacey and the art she peddles survive, the wealth and prestige garnered by greed do not. Martin (an art collector himself) is an astute miniaturist as he exposes the sound and fury of the rarified Manhattan art world. If Shopgirl was about the absence of purpose, this book is about the absence of a moral compass, not just in the life of an adventuress but for an entire era. (Nov.)
The multitalented comedian, musician, and author of The Pleasure of My Company examines the New York fine arts scene from its late-1990s heyday to the present. Lacey Yeager is an up-and-coming art dealer who uses her beauty, ingenuity, and lack of social conscience to rise from lowly Sotheby's staffer to owner of an exclusive gallery. Daniel Franks, a mild-mannered freelance art writer and Lacey's one-time lover, chronicles her calculated transformation much like Nick Carraway does with Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby—as an outsider, fascinated by an enigmatic woman whom Daniel describes as "curiously, disturbingly guilt-free." VERDICT While the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying and the character of Daniel is marginally pathetic, Lacey is an intriguing puzzle. Some readers may be shocked at the vulgar language and frank sexuality; others will find it honest. Plates of paintings mentioned in the text are a welcome addition. Martin's celebrity alone is reason to purchase this title; his agile musings on art and the business of art will give book clubs much to discuss. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/10.]—Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA
The NYC art world, seen through the eyes of its most impartial constituents.
In his latest novel, Martin (Born Standing Up, 2007, etc.) unveils an ambitious and heartfelt analysis of both the complexity and absurdity of the Manhattan art market. It begins, appropriately enough, with a confession. "I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down, and see the manuscript bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to ever write about anything else." This declaration spills from arts writer David Franks, who finds a small universe encapsulated in the life of his subject, ex-lover Lacey. From this humble beginning, David chronicles the rise and fall of the fine-art market from the late '90s through the present day, complete with record-breaking prices, art thefts and the premature globalization of a complex system. After college, Lacey and David enter the burgeoning artistic world, Lacey as a grunt at Sotheby's, David as a struggling writer. David habitually profiles Lacey, an insanely determined dealer with a passion for creativity and wealth. Martin offers fascinating literary capers, mixing in real-life elements like a fictional run-in with novelist John Updike and the spectacular $500 million dollar theft at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. As Lacey graduates to art speculation and gallery ownership, Martin populates her world with a host of compelling characters, among them a desperately infatuated Parisian broker, a manipulative and powerful mentor, and Pilot Mouse, a minor boyfriend who reinvents himself as a Banksy-like artistic guerrilla. To add to the reader's experience, Martin includes reproductions of artwork referenced in the text, lending another layer of sophistication to an already absorbing story.
An artfully told tale of trade, caste and the obsessive mindset of collectors.