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I read this decades ago, but I don't remember how many decades. I am positive that it was in a SF setting

I don't remember its length at all. It might have been a short fiction (short story or novelette) just around a single idea, finding the present location of some particular piece of art, composed of various objects stuck inside a box. As far as I can remember, it might quite possibly have been a long and intricate novel, with many threads in addition to this one, but only that single topic remained in my memory.

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  • @user14111 In the wiki page you indicate, "thread three" is just what I remember. Now the other two threads vaguely seem familiar, and indeed the fact that this was a novel with different threads looks better than a short fiction with just one thread
    – Alfred
    Commented May 28 at 5:03

1 Answer 1

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Count Zero, a 1986 novel by William Gibson, the second book in his Neuromancer series. A version (possibly abridged and/or expurgated) was serialized in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in the January, February, and March issues of 1986 (links to the Luminist archive).

From the Wikipedia plot summary:

Thread Three: Marly Krushkova, the former owner of a Paris art gallery whose reputation was destroyed when she was tricked into trying to sell a forgery, is recruited by ultra-rich, reclusive art patron Josef Virek to find the unknown creator of a series of futuristic collage boxes styled after the work of Joseph Cornell. Unbeknownst to her, the reason behind Virek's interest in these boxes is related to indications of biosoft construction in the design of one, which he suspects may be contained in the others.

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    as a fan of Gibson I think it's interesting that "rich person hires protagonist to track down weird thing", and how that shakes out, is also the basis for all of the Bigend trilogy (Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History) and Idoru is similar. He's written a lot of neat variations of it.
    – Erin Anne
    Commented May 29 at 1:00

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