Screenshot via: Bravotv.com
Although I didn’t mention this in my review of Bravo’s Work of Art last month, based on the first episode alone in my estimation, the reality show’s greatest weakness is it’s permanent cast: the judges and mentor. Even art critic Jerry Saltz sounds a little canned, and he and Phillips auctioneer and Work of Art mentor Simon dePury are clearly the strongest cast.
Last week at a press junket I and a number of others had the opportunity to speak with Simon De Pury, China Chow, the show’s host, and judge Bill Powers. All I can say is I hope they edit the shit out of Chow and Powers because the program’s going to be really annoying otherwise. A few highlights:
Q: Do you think the art world will respect artists who win the reality show and take them seriously?
China Chow: Well I think that, first of all, whoever wins is going to get their own solo show at the Brooklyn museum, which I think is a huge endorsement, um, other than the fact that we sort of elect them as the winner of this…Um, and I think the person that won is extremely talented.
Bill Powers: I just wanna say China was moved to tears by the winner. We'll at least, leave it at that.
Q: Is there a difference between traditional forms of validation from that of museums and galleries, and those that come through different avenues like the youtube, tumblr, and reality television?
Bill Powers: I mean..look at someone like Shepard Fairey, who although has been around a long time with his, you know, Obey imagery, really jumped into the national consciousness with his Obama posters and so, you know, he's since had museum shows. I think he was arrested at a museum show in Boston and had the last show at a space in New York before he left for Los Angeles, so I mean, I think that's the guy for a long time that would have been thought of as a street artist but, you know, through a couple of his projects kind of managed to parlay that into institutional support, so…the one element that is specifically with YouTube, I think, when has video art had that level of opportunity to get their work out there that, you know, with the technology present there's just a lot more, you know, avenues to take to make a name for themselves.
Q: How has your background informed your approach to judging?
China Chow: My experience as an art lover and growing up around art and looking at it I can't separate it anyway, that's always going to be my filter in which I, I see the work and judge the work, and for me I have to say, at the end of the day I think it's important that we're discussing art, looking at art, whether or not the piece was successful or not. I think we can learn as much from the pieces that didn't work that week as we can from the ones that did, and I didn't like the elimination process, for me it was always the most best time I had was when we got to the crux of the artists and looking at their work and having that dialogue with them. Does that answer your question, sort of?
>Bill Powers: Um, I guess the first thing that came to mind is, uh”¦ there is that old saying about dealing 'if I can't smoke it I can't sell it,' and so personally I would want to be distracted or feel like there was something that resonated about a piece. And with the gallery that I have a lot of times shows that I've had have been with people who have never had a gallery show before so in some cases I would treat it as I would a studio visit.
Simon de Pury did much better when answering similar questions, even if I don’t believe he loves each contestant equally.
Q: As a mentor did you find yourself connecting with certain contestants more than others, and did you always agree with the judges decisions?
Simon de Pury: So, what I found very interesting is that obviously the role of a mentor is very different from the goal of the judge, so there are 14 contestants and obviously some of the contestants are more talented than others or some have more this more that and different personalities but it is exactly, at the end of the day, like being a father. I am a father of four grown up children and they are all very, very different, one from another. The magic thing is as a father you love them always exactly the same love and I would say that automatically being the mentor I really took an equal interest in the 14 contestants that participated in the program and basically with the elimination of every single artist that was eliminated I was each time very upset and sad that one of them was eliminated. Now in terms of my agreeing with the views of the judges. No in some cases, I would not agree with what their conclusions had been, and that is precisely what is interesting, because judging art is a subjective thing. You can see in the program what the sum of the criteria you can use to judge art and to justify why one work of art is better than another, but at the same time it remains something highly subjective and it is absolutely legitimate that not everybody feels the same way and that occasionally you have different views, even from people who are just as much inside that field as you are.