By Leah Greenblatt
Updated November 17, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Somewhere between the movies, the memoirs, the bluegrass albums, New Yorker essays, plays, and piquant children?s books, one-man Renaissance project Steve Martin has produced An Object of Beauty — a dramedy of manners that doubles as an immersion course in the rarefied world of high-end art.

Object comes with excellent visual aids: small-scale reproductions of Warhols and Picassos, Sargents and de Koonings. At heart, though, it?s an old-fashioned morality tale, draped in the chic black of Manhattan?s greyhound-lithe galleristas and the fickle millionaires they serve. Enter dazzling arriviste Lacey Yeager, a wily sexpot whose junior post at Sotheby?s provides entrée to the art-world elite, but can?t contain her for long.

For all her charisma, the ruthlessly self-serving Lacey is not inherently a creature of much emotional heft or warmth. Still, Martin has a gift for rendering an esoteric scene accessible, piercing its sillier pretensions while making a case for art?s real aesthetic (if not monetary) value. It takes a certain nimbleness to play the dual roles of proxy art-history professor and compelling storyteller without falling off the literary balance beam. Martin, wry, wise, and keenly observant, rarely misses a step. A?

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