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Somebody, pinch me

And so begins the summer shows. You spend this time catching up on fall seasons or just tolerating the summer seasons until the season premiere of “Glee.” Well, maybe that’s just me, but other than “Mad Men,” there’s not much to look forward to until fall. So, I watched the premiere of Bravo’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” with much skepticism.

The show is the same premise as “Top Chef” and “Project Runway,” except with fine artists with varying specialties.

Here’s how it goes:

  • The artists get a challenge that they get about day and a half to complete.
  • Their projects go up in the gallery where the judges and some selected or general public view the work.
  • Someone gets picked as the best and they get immunity and someone gets kicked off.

Whoever wins the whole enchilada goes home with $100 grand from Prismacolor and their own solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. Sweet, no?

Being the art school kid, my first thought about this show was, “How can they make art a competition?” “Who are these snobs to say what’s good and what’s not?”

But how hypocritical of me. I get graded for art, be it writing or graphic design, all the time. And if I’ve learned anything in school, it’s that there is good art and there is bad art. Art should communicate and make you feel something, or nothing, if that’s what was intended. So, I gave it a chance, and I’ll be damned if I’m not hooked.

Contestants range from a grey-haired cooky landlord to an untrained amateur filmmaker.

Judges: Jeanne Rohalyn, Simon de Pury (the Tim Gunn of the show), China Chow, Bill Powers and Jerry Saltz

Executive Producer and art-enthusiast Sarah Jessica Parker encouraged the artists, “Be brave, be competitive, be yourself.”

My favorite artists to watch (not my favorite artists, just the best to watch):


Miles is a young art student from the University of Minnesota. He wears his shirts inside out, his hair is often disheveled; he wears art school like he owns it. Yeah, OK, he’s a bit of a heartthrob. Don’t let the photo fool you though, he’s got some massive bags under his eyes. (Still cute though.)

I’m no doctor, but Miles’ OCD is probably the cause of these premature puffy eyes. Miles loses sleep over it. In the last challenge, contestants had to make a sculpture from found objects—a junkyard of old technology. Overwhelmed by the site and the urge to organize every piece of it by date, he just slept while he was supposed to be getting supplies.

But he knows how to make a dark room in hours and use every material you’d ever need which has helped him win the past two challenges.


I can’t be sure of her exact age, but she could be a grandparent of several of the contestants. Still, she’s on her game—a game she’s been playing for a while and doesn’t intend on changing.

She’s stuck in her ways, as outrageous as they may be, and she isn’t budging for anyone. She’s not hard on hearing, but critiques seem to go on deaf ears. Established as she may be, she’s a bad sport.


Erik’s only evidence of artistic experience in the public’s eye is his short film “The Ghost of Christmas Presents” at the Cannes Film Festival. His work is dark despite his constant smile.

His work has that kind of got that misunderstood teenage angst about it, but he’s no teenager. I’m rooting for him, but in the first episode as part of the bottom three in the competition, he used his inexperience as a crutch.


She’s the loud-mouthed curvy performance artist with attitude and an opinion on everything—the only opinion. She got put in her place in the first episode when her high-concept portrait of Miles. Too high-concept for anyone to understand…or like. Her motto: “I’m not responsible for your experience of my work.”

But does this show contradict the point of art?

Fine art has always had this reputation as being a secret for the elite. Even with the greats, Basquiat, Warhol, Pollock, it’s all about being in the circle, being able to afford the circle…or so it seems. It’s an underground sensation of what’s new, what hasn’t been done, but it’s not underground–it’s everywhere.

Art is communication.

Is fine art being exploited by putting it on reality television? Is this the last stop on the way to some sort of Big Brother TV generation? Or is this just the exposure the art world needs? Maybe now, people will get it, or try to. If nothing else, realize there’s not as much to get.

People who don’t think art is a competition are fooling themselves. Everything is a competition, it’s just a matter of whether you acknowledge it. Trust me, if money is involved, you have an opponent.

Wednesdays at 10/9c “Work of Art” comes on Bravo. The first two episode have aired, but Bravo tends to play them often. I recommend it.


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