Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"She started converting objects of beauty into objects of value."

This weekend I finished Steve Martin's An Object of Beauty - his latest novel about the art world. I fell in love with Martin's novella Shopgirl years ago and am instantly attracted to any work of fiction about my field. Martin is an insider in the world of New York galleries and auctions having seriously collected artwork for decades [his first serious purchase was a print by Ed Ruscha].

From Julie Bosman's book review in the NY Times: "Part of the reason to write about art, he said, was the challenge of capturing a world that is still a little foreign to him. This comes from a man who owned an Edward Hopper painting, “Hotel Window,” that he sold at Sotheby’s in 2006 for $26.8 million. “The milieu of the book is the art world,” he said. “And the reason I chose the art world is I knew enough about it, but I don’t know everything about it. And I like that. I could have picked the milieu to be show business, but I feel like I know too much about that.”

An Object of Beauty shows struggle, greed, the desire to climb the ladder and the questionable ways one can do that while bidding at an art auction. It also chronicles the effect of the economic downturn in the arts with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy as the turning point. Beautiful color reproductions are interspersed throughout the novel with references to Richard Serra, Ed Ruscha, Maxfield Parrish, and so on. I wonder how much interest this book would have for someone not aware of art history or is it that much more engrossing because this is the world that I know?

[Steve Martin may know a lot about this topic but he needs to study up on "Europe's most famous artist."]

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