Tonight’s premiere of Gallery Girls (stylized as ‘GRLZ’ in the intro) tracks the attempts of seven New York twenty-somethings to advance their art careers in spite of the inaccurate and counterproductive socioeconomic barriers the girls have erected between their peers and themselves. The pilot dawns on gallery owner Eli Klein rejecting a potential gallery girl for already having a full-time job, not knowing Chinese and not having graduated from college. (Note to Eli: if those are your criteria, you can call me.) Of course, Eli Klein has by this point perfected the rejection process, and obliterates the applicant with a one-liner: “I’m happy for you. You got to meet me.”
This kind of character is classic Magical Elves, the Bravo producer who also gave us such villains as Lola Thompson, the sex-pot and struggling artist and one-liner poets like Bill Powers, a socialite mistakenly cast as an art expert. While Work of Art was hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker herself, Gallery Girls opts instead to constantly pigeonhole itself into Sex in the City tropes, just in case the show’s attention to glamor didn’t come across in the frequent fetishistic shots of the girls cleaning in heels.
Brooklynite Angela claims Carrie Bradshaw as her inspiration, despite her hostility toward the cast members who at all resemble Bradshaw and toward the Upper East Side in general. Of the main cast members Angela evokes Carrie Bradshaw the least, especially compared to blond Upper East Sider Amy, who is introduced with her own narration about networking, which in her case means phoning her dad from a bubble bath. Meanwhile Maggie, who comes from one of the wealthier families on the show, cites Kristin Davis’ character Charlotte York (a former art dealer), presumably after being told that not everyone can be a Carrie.
Angela is the token artist on Gallery Girls, and she’s exploring the human condition through hasty snapshots of partygoers. “I always cringe calling myself an artist” explains Angela. Between her bio stating that her greatest artistic challenge is “being a harsh critic when it comes to her own work” and her description of the artistic process as “I need to find a project and just, like, kinda work on it,” I’m cringing too.
This episode, however, focuses less on Angela as an artist and more on Angela as a model and terrible date. Tonight, we see Angela flirt with photographer David Schulze, because he is “straight and tall and Australian,” like the man she lost her virginity to. However, she refuses to categorize their subsequent meetings as ‘dates.’ In her words: “the term ‘date’ is a little bit obsolete and I think we’re a little bit cool for that and I also don’t want to set myself up for failure.” Over the course of their two non-dates in the episode, Angela declares six times that she is not on a date, twice that she is on a date, and once that everything is just so clichéd.
Angela’s saga with David seemingly comes to an end when she ignores him at a gallery opening. He asks if it would be better to meet up afterwards; she asks “like next week?”
“I hope I didn’t blow it.” she pseudo-reflects as he walks away.
The show’s other two Brooklynites are Claudia and Chantal, who run the gallery/boutique hybrid End of Century in the Lower East Side. Claudia takes care of the gallery and budget while Chantal texts designers and has the name ‘Chantal.’ Claudia explains that their friendship is based on being “both the sort of people who imagine things and just make them happen.” You know, with $17,500 from their families.
Claudia is the voice of reason among the Brooklyn girls, bearing the onus of Chantal’s whimsy as well as a $15,000 debt and the gallery’s lease. Her philosophy of “friendship comes first, business comes second” unfortunately does not take into consideration that she has considerably more incentive to see the gallery succeed than Chantal or co-owner Lara Holdulick. To make matters worse, Claudia’s dress for Eli Klein’s premier tears, revealing her skin-colored “invisible” thong. Responses from her shocked peers range from “that’s awful branding, or brilliant” from Chantal to Liz noticing but not saying anything. “I’m gonna let her fucking rot” explains Liz in the confessional.
Amy is the most grounded of the Upper East Side girls. She’s the only one who seems to understand her place in the world, and in next week’s preview makes one of only two comments on the show so far that admit the existence of people other than rich art world socialites. (The other, for reference, was Liz calling someone a “commoner creature.”) She interns under art advisor Sharon Hurowitz and so far, is the only one of the Upper East Side girls to do any work. Of course, she’s also the drunk girl at the party and claims to have had a relationship with Eli Klein despite the sharp disbelief of Maggie.
Liz fits the stereotype of Upper East Side gallerinas most closely. The daughter of art mega collector Martin Margulies, her bio states that she’s trying to “build a career for herself without the connections of her father” while she studies full-time at SVA. On-screen, however, her father’s name gets her out of everything from spackling to being nice to receptionists.
At Eli Klein’s premier, Liz falls prey to what is by far the show’s most bizarre bit of drama. Angela, immediately upon meeting Liz, accuses her of being from Orange County, California. When it turns out that Liz has spent three years there, Angela reveals that the comment was some sort of ethnically-charged insult, as “Orange County doesn’t have the best reputation for diversity…” What’s even worse is that Angela herself is from Orange County, and feeds us a traumatic background tale about how the mean blonde assimilationists back home didn’t accept her for the pasty-wearing free spirit she was. Either way, I don’t think it’s healthy to upon learning of where Liz lived to say, “You look like one.”
Liz is attending Eli Klein’s opening because she’s landed an internship at the gallery, in part because of her father’s collection, but also as a scab while Maggie refuses to show up to work. She refuses to do anything that might actually help the gallery, as the 18”x24” canvases are too heavy for her to lift and everything else might ruin her outfit.
- Gallery Girls Episode 8: Cheers to Double-Fisting
- Gallery Girls Episode 7: “It Feels So Good to Be a Gangster”
- Gallery Girls Episode 6: We’ve All Made Mistakes
- Gallery Girls Episode 5: I Didn’t See a Vagina in It, But Spencer’s Boss Did
- Gallery Girls Episode 4: “Gays and Asians, We Can’t Handle Either of You Anymore”
- Gallery Girls Episode 3: “It’s Like, Actual Dirt”
- Gallery Girls Episode 2: “I Feel Like We’re Being Raped Right Now”