Book review: Gallery Girl by Wendy Holden

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Just picture it...starved cheekbones hitting ‘surgeried’ temples as fake air kiss meets faked air kiss.

Gallery Girl, clever writer Wendy Holden’s sexy and satirical romp through the malicious and madcap world of contemporary art, has pretentiousness well and truly framed.

Artists, collectors, gallery owners, connoisseurs and preening publicists fight ‘capped tooth and tipped nail’ in this anarchic tale of love, greed and big, big money.

A comedy first and foremost, Gallery Girl paints a beautifully offbeat picture of life in the art world’s crazy, cash-soaked fast lane where installations are ‘in’ and gold-sprayed prosthetic legs fetch £20million at auction.

Heading the colourful cast is Zeb Spaw, a long-haired, libidinous artist whose success has relied inordinately on the sex drive of his billionaire patron Fuchsia Klumpp. Ageing, demanding and capricious, her free-flowing largesse helps to keep afloat the art galleries and auction houses of London.

The sale of his ‘Prostheseus Bound’ sculpture might be a landmark moment for modern art, but it does not impress Alice who is an assistant in a traditional gallery or what her boyfriend calls ‘the wrong end of the business’.

When the gallery is forced to close, Alice finds herself working in Gold Street, the exclusive hub of just the kind of artwork she hates and what is even worse, it’s the new spiritual home of her bête noire Zeb Spaw.

Meanwhile, only yards from Spaw’s multi-million pound mansion in leafy Suffolk, brilliant but disillusioned portrait artist Dan Hart is eking out a living by running drawing classes at the village hall.

His mundane life is transformed when into his class walks Siobhan O’Sullivan, bored wife of a former boy band star, who gave up her dreams of being a painter to follow her husband around the world.

The extravagant Gold Street party season is also drawing near and there are plenty of surprises in store for Alice and the gallery gang.

As with all Holden’s perceptive and piquant novels, there is method in all this madness...most modern art, fulminates Alice in an emperor’s new clothes moment, is nothing more than ‘a heap of cr*p’.

Gallery Girl is gloriously funny and outrageously decadent but it also takes a vicious stab at all the vacuity and vitriol of the modern art world.

Chick-lit for the discerning girl.

(Headline review, paperback, £6.99)