Book Review – An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Yes, that Steve Martin (MAN that is a funny clip).

A few weeks ago I had on in the background CBS Sunday Morning while I was doing a bit of work at home. A story came on about Steve Martin and what he was up to. I had no idea that he was a Grammy award winning artist – on the banjo. I love banjos.

They mentioned that he had written another book (I didn’t even know he had written one before) and that it was about the world of collectible art. Mr. Martin is a fine art collector. As I have aged I have learned to appreciate paintings and other types of art more and more so this looked to be an interesting book. I ordered it up on Amazon with a few other things for my anti-library the next day.

An Object of Beauty is a novel that is primarily about a woman (Lacey Yeager) who works her way (literally and sexually) through the world of art. Martin knows a lot about this world, and I liked very much the way he described different characters who have seemingly unlimited money. One of Ms. Yeager’s suitors just hops on the Concord at the drop of a hat to come see her.

But the novel isn’t really a love story – although we hear a lot about Lacey’s love interests. It is a novel about how the art world works and the interesting sorts of people that inhabit it. Pricing of fine art is also discussed at length. Of particular interest to me was getting a better grip on why people pay tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars (or millions) for what to me is a canvas of splattered paint that seemingly my ten year old daughter could paint. Also discussed are fakes, how they are spotted and other interesting details of how the art world works.

I don’t want to give too much of the novel away. The book was very easy to read and understand for a novice art guy like me, and many of the paintings that are talked about are displayed in the book in full color. A very nice touch that I really appreciated.

I am very happy I picked this one up and read it very quickly – it moves along nicely. I highly recommend it for your winter reading.

10 thoughts on “Book Review – An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin”

  1. Living in NY I get really ripped off on taxes, but there are all the art museums and galleries so I get something back on this.

    There is also the very fine book by Prof.William Grampp on art and economics : “Pricing the Priceless”, which I have recommended here in the past. Art dealers* often talk as though money is beneath the dignity of Art, but Grampp will have none of that! His book is a serious but humorous book on the subject.I strongly recommend this.

    *some of which do great shark imitations

  2. Steve Martin wrote an entertaining play as well. Here’s a clip from his Picasso at the Lapin Agile. This production features Joe Segal, son of Boris Segal. (My son played Albert Einstein in a college production of the play. He looked and sounded just like him)

  3. Both of Martin’s earlier works of fiction Shopgirl (which was made into a moderately decent movie—the book is better) and The Pleasure of My Company are very good reads. Need to add his latest to my collection.

  4. The TNR review is by an insider member of the world Martin is ridiculing.

    These same people hated Tom Wolfe’s mocking depiction of them in The Painted Word, 35 years ago.

    Big-name mockery of the world of contemporary should happen more frequently.

  5. Funny, Robert Schwartz :)

    I haven’t read this book but I read Shopgirl and liked it very much. Will try and blog it….

    – Madhu

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