PRINT March 2001



THIS BOOK IS A ONE- OR TWO-GULP READ, and there are in fact a couple of blow jobs in it, though its best sex scenes, including the opening sequence, are lesbian. It's about the New York art world of the '90s—about seizing opportunities by the throat in other words. The author, described in the jacket copy as a dealer and curator on both sides of the Atlantic, is also the son of Rodrigo Moynihan, the British painter, so it is doubly safe to say that he comes naturally, as well as preparedly, to the subject at hand.

Moynihan fils demonstrates the gimlet eye, funnel ear, and situational flair of an able satirist. Like many a British comic, he's funny on accents: Young Irish nurses, a middle-aged Spanish-speaking housekeeper, and a Pakistani cabbie spring into action as if on a music-hall stage. He's also good on artspeak: “Blutin's new work. . . employs surgical tools to dissect the skin which covers the mundane and exposes the intricate web of psychological implications which are hidden deep within our complex attitudes towards sexual ambivalence.” Like his near-exact contemporary (and fellow puddle jumper) Candace Bushnell, however, Moynihan is basically a high-end retailer of the human condition, and Boogie-Woogie bops along in teleready episodes wherein a dozen or so roués, crackpots, compulsives, lewd ingenues, and feckless strivers variously engage, intersect, or simply coexist in prime time together, as if on split screens.

Answered Prayers it's not. Although chockablock with scabrous incident, It doesn't deliver the thinly veiled goods on any real people, at least not as far as I can tell. Actual art-world figures and venues, referred to casually, serve as wallpaper and mood music: A fictitious artwork might be discussed in relation to Damien Hirst; the gallery known as “303” is mentioned clubbishly in dialogue. The dealers Jay Jopling and Paul Kasmin put in appearances at gallery openings or at Da Silvano. Most cameos are British and register as billets-doux to the author's friends.

At the fulcrum of the bumptious plot is a dealer named Art Spindle, who is too bourgeois to be Larry and too outré to be Arne. He's Mr. Wheeler-Dealer, yet fundamentally static—even, arguably, the moral solar plexus of the book: “You know, I've always loved art. . . . You are responsible for bringing art to the public. . . . Sometimes it's not what the public wants, but eventually they get it. Then suddenly in the early eighties there was this Zeitgeist. . . . People just went crazy. I remember selling a piece in the morning and being offered it later that day after it had changed hands five times. The fucking thing was still sitting in my office.”

The plot is in fact hustled along by a quartet of nubile females on the make, led by one Elaine Yoon-Jung Yi—a verité video collagist, and the alpha male of the group. I could see Alicia Silverstone as the hardworking and surgically improved Beth Freemantle, who gets to open her own gallery; and maybe Gillian Anderson as Brigid Murphy, a redheaded innocent of sorts; and definitely Heather Graham as Paige Quale, the rollerblading ice-princess who takes it up the . . . The title Boogie-Woogie ostensibly refers to an ersatz Mondrian that comes into play in the story, but Boogie Nights is the implied reference that counts.

Lisa Liebmann is a writer who lives in New York.