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Steve Martin Talks Art and An Object of Beauty at LACMA

"If you're too funny, I'm going to have to come on stage and hand you a card to remind you to talk about art," Writers Bloc founder Andrea Grossman reminded Steve Martin prior to his discussion with American art and cultural critic Dave Hickey at LACMA.

Steve Martin Talks Art and An Object of Beauty at LACMA
Jena Ardell

Grossman, of course, was referencing Martin's last book discussion, which resulted in New York's 92nd Street Y offering refunds to audience members after Martin was deemed not funny enough. Halfway through the discussion, mediator Deborah Solomon was awkwardly handed a note, asking her to talk more about Martin's career and less about art.

Audience members in LACMA's Bing Theatre, however, received the comic treatment as Martin and Hickey discussed art, the dark side of art auctioning and Martin's latest novel, An Object of Beauty.

Steve Martin Talks Art and An Object of Beauty at LACMA
Jena Ardell

Notable attendees to Martin's sold-out discussion included Carl Reiner, Eric Idle, Shepard Fairey and Beck Hansen.

"We brought some slides in case we run into trouble," Martin said after sensing the audience was "getting shifty" after a particular segment of art-talk.

The slides were mostly photos Martin shot with his iPhone of his personal art collection. Martin described himself as a collector of "medium things," explaining how he finds beauty in all levels of work and enjoys the "pleasure of the unfamous painter."

Martin began collecting art at age 23 and still feels humbled by his collection.

"Every time I walk past these [drawings and paintings], I think, 'How did this happen to me?' I was born in Texas," Martin said.

 

Steve Martin Talks Art and An Object of Beauty at LACMA
Jena Ardell

When Ed Ruscha's "The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire," a painting Martin references in his novel, appeared on screen, Martin joked, "This is actually a live video."

Hickey proved to be the perfect discussion companion--interjecting colorful analogies and personal philosophies about the art world.

"Buying paintings for financial gain is like shopping for your wife--it's never going to work," Hickey said.

Steve Martin Talks Art and An Object of Beauty at LACMA
Jena Ardell

Martin explained how he naturally compartmentalizes being an actor, writer and musician (in that order).

Martin said he knows when it is time to write when he lies down at night and words form in his head, and those words form sentences and those sentences form paragraphs. The same rings true with Martin and writing music.

"And I know when it's time to act because my agent calls," Martin said.

After the discussion, Martin answered a few questions from the audience. Most of the questions were merely disguised admiration from fans, leaving Martin little to answer, especially when asked how he manages being so fabulous and writing so well. Martin salvaged the situation by responding with this pearl of wisdom: "Writing fiction is easy if you never write a lie for your own convenience."

A book signing located in LACMA's Pavilion for Japanese Art followed the discussion.


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