An Object of Beauty should have been right up my alley — who wouldn’t like a fable about the contemporary art market? Complete with full-color reproductions of artworks and an ambitious girl heroine? Scenes of auctions, galleries, and art-buying jaunts to St. Petersburg? Sex on a desk, paintings that move people to tears?
Oh, well. I tried hard to see the career of girl gallerist Lacey Yeager as a post-millenial House of Mirth, but that was a stretch. I’m pretty sure Steve Martin has something to say about the commodification of art works but he’s so deadpan that I couldn’t discern what that was. Or possibly I was reading too carelessly: there was a lot of wooden behind-the-scenes exposition that needed to be zipped through at speed. (Warhol overtakes Picasso; Chelsea gallery boom; 9/11; concept vs. craft; crash of 2008) Lacey is made up of little more than ambition and impressive hair. The rest of the characters, including her European lounge-lizard boyfriend and our art-writer narrator, are barely stick figures. I should have stayed with Edith Wharton.