17 November, 2010

17 Nov - Steve Martin "An Object of Beauty"

LAUNCHPROJECTS - I acquired a preview copy of An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin's latest novel that focuses on the New York contemporary art world. An avid contemporary art collector (he sold Steve Wynn the Roy Lichtenstein that just sold at auction for $43MM), Martin clearly has the inside scoop on the Manhattan art scene. He describes uptown, Chelsea, SoHo, the art market and all of the inner workings of auctions, dealing, and art intrigue. It is a fluffy and fictionalized version of Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World with sex, scandal, and intrigue thrown in to constitute a plot.

Throughout the novel, Martin lists every restaurant, hotel, bar, and gallery in which the art glitterati dwell. Ben and I laughed as characters had cocktails at Boulud, partied at the Carlisle Hotel, and flitted to Chelsea for openings at Gagosian, 303, and Andrea Rosen. By page 200 the novel started feeling more like a Zagat guide to the Upper East Side than an actual work of fiction - the next time friends request the NYC art experience we will earmark pages from Object of Beauty for a perfect week of extravagant meals, elegant settings, and posh eye candy.

The book is unquestionably a fun read. Martin's access is real and he provides an astute assessment of both the pre- and post- 911 art scene in Manhattan. The book is also tedious and the characters are better described as caricatures. The "heroine" of the story uses her golden hair, sharp wit, and easy sexuality to climb her way to the top of the art world, burning the "nice guy," the "sexy French collector," "the struggling SoHo artist," and the "strong, silent detective" to get what she wants and never look back. Surely Martin could have come up with less predictable stereotypes and a more interesting story line to weave into his insight and experience in the art world. This book made me want to write my own tale of the scandalous and fascinating world of contemporary art... pure fiction, of course.

Images: In an art conversation at The Getty, Object of Beauty, with former partner Cindy Sherman

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