POST BY PADDY JOHNSON LEFT TO RIGHT: Dan Cutforth, (Executive Producer from Magical Elves), Sarah Jessica Parker, (Executive Producer from Pretty Matches and actress), China Chow, (Host and series judge), Simon de Pury, (Mentor, auctioneer), Bill Powers, (Series Judge, gallery owner), Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, (Series Judge, curator, gallery owner), Jerry Saltz, (Series Judge and art critic for NYMagazine)
Good news. Work of Art, Bravo’s new reality show debuting 11 p.m. (ET/PT) June 9, will not embarrass the art world. The series pits 14 artists in competition for $100,000 and a solo show at The Brooklyn Museum and if what I saw at yesterday’s press screening and premiere is any indication, the only obstacle in the show’s road to success is its time slot. The pilot is hilarious.
This is pretty much the selling point of Work of Art, as it doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, Project Runway, which left in 2008 for the Lifetime network. It’s not just that they’re using the same casting structure — 14 artists (trained and untrained), one host (Connoisseur China Chow), one mentor (auctioneer Simon de Pury), and three judges (art critic Jerry Saltz, Half Gallery owner Bill Powers and gallerist Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn) — but that the editing remains much the same.
Interviews with the artists reveal their thoughts on their competition, a secret twist to the challenges is introduced in the studios (in this case it was just the appearance of Sarah Jessica Parker), and a Project Runway-esque soundtrack backs the entire show. As expected Work of Art’s first episode introduces audiences to the artists and asks them to execute a challenge. In this case, the task was to create a portrait of one of their colleagues. This smacks of art school, and of course the work produced was about that level, but for one or two exceptions.
“I saw artists here who were better than were in the Whitney Biennial” Jerry Saltz proclaimed during the press question period. Of course, given the amount of crap that’s made it into the Biennial over the years, the statement mostly served as a slight to the Whitney.
Saltz’ comments came up when press started to ask if the show really would find the next great artist. Based on what I’ve seen thus far, the answer to that question is a resounding no. An abstract expressionist clown painting on a palette as a portrait broke just about every good art making rule in the book, but it was still arguably topped by one artist’s absurd and hilarious claim during the critique, “I’m not responsible for your experience of my work.” No rebuttal to that assertion was shown though I assume there must have been one.
Notably, comments such as this are entertaining enough to suggest that actually finding the next great artist won’t be critical to the show’s success. Indeed, all it needs to do is produce the next famous one. Given the depth of personality on this show, that shouldn’t be too hard.