Steve Martin is an author? Keep reading.
I had a two year stint in the very very outside perimeters of the New York art scene. By perimeter I mean I answered the phone at an art installation company in New York City for 2.5 years. Every now and then I got to speak to someone very interesting on the phone who would throw around names such as de Kooning and Damien Hirst. I hadn’t heard of either of them. I got to go into homes exactly 3 times and see the types of art that hung on the Upper East Side. My Bachelor’s in Studio Art was a joke here, a hiccup in this world. My studying slides of Carravagio in 1998 left me with nothing to contribute to this world, a point which this book sort of helps to drive home.
“I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I wrote her story down, and see it bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to ever write about anything else.” So begins Daniel Frank’s story about his college friend Lacey Yeager, a ferociously ambitious up and comer in New York’s art scene. She has landed the dream job/money-pit job at Sotheby’, cataloguing and measuring 19th century works, learning important skills that will teach her how to link value to art. Lacey has learned her power years earlier and knows that she is of course meant for bigger and much grander things than staying below ground. Her ascent to the executive floors begins not accidentally, as nothing she does is ever an accident. Every word she says is planned out in advance, no detail is overlooked. Her clothes, where she lives, where she spends her free time and the people she decides to charm out of their wits to pull them to her side have all been thought out carefully to give a specific boost to her career. Emotions are never wasted. Sound stereotypical? A little, yes. But it’s this non-attachment that allows her to stay loyal to the art she truly loves and makes her more talented than the typical art employee
Daniel has learned to keep a necessary distance from Lacey to avoid her tentacles, as he puts it. He prefers to watch her from a distance and enjoy the seeming attention she pays him during their lunch dates and night-time outings, observing her “like a science project”. But it’s hard to keep that safe space between them when Lacey approaches him for a favor. This favor catapults Lacey into the center of the art world, giving her the money to start collecting the beautiful things that she discovered early on she needs. As time marches on, Lacey marches with it, never tiring and never losing complete belief in the fact that she knows she is doing everything right. Even when it seems things are about to crumble all around her she saves herself. Again. And again. And again. Are you annoyed yet? Keep reading.
In the reviews I’ve read no on likes Lacey. “Shallow, cold-hearted, one-dimensional.” It’s easy to brush her off as the typical heartless villain – if you don’t look closer. I like Lacey. What? WHY!? She’s in a word, efficient. She knows the job that needs to get done. She asks for no help (except the mysterious favor which i’ll keep to myself) and figures out the rules for herself. She’s not weak, she doesn’t collapse at the surprises but continues with plan slightly shifted and focus intact. As an admin, I find that kind of efficiency hard to resist. As a human, I know that that could never be me which might be part of why I admire her. If Lacey’s seemingly puddle-like depth is lost on other readers, it works on me. Her inevitable fall (as is to be expected by even the most seemingly unshakable institutions) reads more like a tumble as Lacey is “one of those people who will always be okay.” Everyone has lost something including Daniel who’s favor years earlier comes back to find him in a most unexpected way.
Martin is famous for his art collection and the book is peppered throughout with 22 reproductions cleverly worked into the story line. The last 20 years of New York’s art scene are passed through to give us an inside look on the types of characters that populate the scene and the personalities that are needed to survive and succeed. Guest appearances are made, art history is doled out and at the end the reader can put down the book and take comfort in the fact that at the very least they have finally learned who de Kooning is.