With partner in crime Michelle now eliminated, Lola has run out of plot fodder and realizes that she’ll have to actually make some art this time. The morning routine of sexual tension and cheering up Kymia has lost its edge, now, and the best BRAVO can do is Young and Dusty eating bananas and Sara Jimenez's enlightened “it’s like the fucking phoenix, you know, you like, come out / of the ashes?”
The final six contestants, sharing the audience’s notion that they’ve already been wrung dry of art, amble the 3.7 miles from the Dillon to TriBeCa Park. Lola spots their hostess, exclaiming “I see China!” [I see France! -Ed.]. At this point, Kymia groans loudly, but it's unclear whether this relates to the chipper tone of her scanner-hogging nemesis, the city’s blandest public space, or Ms. Chow herself.
This week’s challenge involves money, specifically pairing off to create work that will be sold in the park before also being shown in the gallery. Kymia gasps in horror, probably unaware of the exchange of art and money on the show because it’s pretty much all gone to Young. Last week’s fiasco (in which Lola dared to trace from a projection) established Kymia as the show’s beacon of artistic integrity, leaving her open to an extended on-screen epiphany about the relationship between art and money. You know, the same one had by every other artist the first time they bought their own materials.
Her journey starts with “the person that donates a certain amount of money to us will have something to take away with them.” This grasp of economy gives her new reasons to hate Lola, more precisely her idea of using nudity: “you know, you sell out to make money.” Kymia repeats this mantra later, adding “big deal, she’s nude. I’m not surprised.”
The time limits have gotten stricter this week, with only five hours to shop (Kymia gasps, aghast at any limitation on shopping) and complete their pieces, then two hours to sell their wares in the park space. Dusty barely gets to gloat about how his T-shirt business ‘Dirt Shirts’ will be a boon to him and partner Kymia before the entire group descends upon American Apparel like a swarm of locusts. All three teams decide to resell T-shirts (underwear in Young’s case, because his boyfriend likes his butt).
Unfortunately, without the insight to buy anything reasonably priced, the teams must augment their spray-painted novelty T-shirts with some actual art. Young supplements his smiling Y-fronts with small paintings that somehow further simplify the ghosts from Pac-Man while his partner Sara J. cranks out her usual: “I’ve made watercolors the night before and sold them on the street.”
Sarah Kabot is working with Lola this time, and neglects her own work in the confidence that Lola’s mons veneris will lead her team to glory. “I’m hoping I’ll sell enough on the street that it might make the gallery irrelevant.” Ladder in hand, she beckons Lola into the pornography dungeon.
Lola’s image, overlaid with such shocking confessions as “I do enjoy a drink at the end of the day,” stands as a monument to critic Jerry Saltz’s request that she show more of herself in her work. “Feel connected to me now, Jerry? Feel like I’m givin’ it?”
Kymia has an announcement. Her idea to swap signatures with customers and hang them side-by-side in the gallery is more artsy than everyone else’s idea and she needs to make sure that the other artists are okay with how cool she is. Lola points out the rules of the challenge: the artwork is to be completed in the five-hour allotment and therefore art created in the two-hour selling period would be against the rules. Their quarrel is cut short, and we soon see all six participants violating this rule in the park.
None of the teams have any luck with their awful spray-painted T-shirts, least of all Dusty, whose graphic of a security camera inside a map of the continental United States looks like anything but. Sarah K. needs to physically drag people over to look at her Thanksgiving-themed costumes and Simon finally has the courage to tell Young “I think I can do without your pants.” Sara J., out of merchandise, attracts a long line of customers for on-the-spot portraits. Lola has added personalized secrets to her pin-ups; in the madness of her success, she ruins a child’s innocence, and still comes out with a quarter.
After a retrospective of this season’s tears, we arrive in the gallery. The judges are particularly on point today: Jerry Saltz immediately notices Lola’s ode to him and concludes “well, she must have made the most money.” Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn (is there no one else?) returns as guest judge, with a stylish broken plate around her neck. After a comment about how Dusty’s security camera “looks like a Xerox,” Rohatyn terrorizes Young for dumbing down his piece for the gallery by reworking it onto canvas. Having sold the original pieces, a gallery adaptation is inevitable, but Young has an ‘underwear is too edgy for the gallery’ speech misappropriated from Simon’s advice.
The criticism is moot: Sara J. has raked in enough cash for the both of them and they walk away with the additional prize money. Lola forces a half-clap and a “hooray for them.” Sarah K.’s bluff has been called, and her feathers-cum-genitals get her thrown off. Lola and Kymia’s self-redemption goes unacknowledged: as Lola points out, nobody is a winner this week. And really, on Work of Art, nobody is a winner.
Next week: “I’m throwing up inside!”