I will be one of the first people to admit that I am a Bravo TV-aholic. I watch that shit like I get paid for it - ALL of the Real Housewives, Shear Genius, Make Me a Supermodel, Project Runway (now airing on Lifetime), My Life on the D-List, Work Out, The Rachel Zoe Project, etc etc etc. I mean, Bravo has so many damn Reality TV shows that it's even hard for me to keep up with them. Their new show 'Work of Art' is no different for me. I heard that this show was in the makings over a year ago and was anticipating it's arrival. I had this sinking feeling that this show was going to be nothing but a disaster, imagining mediocre artists from different backgrounds working in vastly different mediums with different levels of success and education creating work based on a weak theme and then being judged by some of the art worlds "greatest" art critics and gallery owners. First off, considering that I am a Bravo TV-aholic (more so a Bravo TV competition show-aholic), I know quite a bit about the production of these so-called competition Reality TV shows. For instance, the judges aren't exactly the real judge of the show. That honor goes mainly to the producers (which often happens to also be a judge, i.e., Keidi Klum of Project Runway). It says so in tiny letters at the end credits. To create better ratings, you have to have a good mix of drama. Though Joe Schmoe may be an awful designer and should have been eliminate a while back, if he is a schmuck, he'll tend to boost the show's ratings because people are so eager to see bad behavior...idiots at play....and he'll rouse all of the contestants and either bring out the best or worst in them. Therefore, Joe will stay on the show until nearly the finale, sometimes making it to the finale. Contestants of these shows often catch on and exploit the shit out of being a villain, i.e., Omarosa from The Apprentice and Wendy Pepper of Project Runway. Their whole career is built on this persona because people love it or love to hate it and it generates revenue for them. Let's not forget to mention the ever over-done casting stereotypes: the hot girl/guy, the jerk, the goof, the snob, the cut throat, the ditz, the backstabber/"game player", the beloved/girl or guy next-door, the wanderer, the eccentric, the professional, the old guy/gal, and lastly the slut. Place all of these individuals in tight quarters with time restricted challenges and dangle lots of money and the promise of a better future in front of them and watch them play their roles. These shows are designed to be that way. It is so utterly contrived, redundant, and absolutely ridiculous that I just love it. I don't love the drama of these competition shows as much as I love to judge the work produced by each of the contestants. What I really love about Bravo's new show 'Work of Art' is that it proves my point to many that the art world is first and foremost a business.
Art is as much about business as fashion is as much about business...and most of us don't see fashion as being anything else besides all about business (Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs...the fashion Kings). When I see the judges of 'Work of Art' - Bill Powers, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Jerry Saltz, China Chow, and even the show's mentor Simon de Pury, I see nothing more than business men and women. Of course, for artists to generate revenue and create a career out of doing what they love most - creating art - you need those business men and women. The idea of "art for art sakes" results in poverty. As an Art Historian, the only artist I know that made success out of creating "art for art sakes" was Rembrandt. He of course took commissions, but only under his standards and guidelines. He rarely let a patron dictate the outcome of his artwork. The problem with this idea is that it simply does not exist today in our market. In the back of every artists mind is "how do I make this work of art likable (or resonate) to the public?" To be a successful artist in the art world today, you have to "sell out" - if you will - you have to be adored by the very fickle art world and the people in it, which is dictated by demand. The art world is dictated by lots of money. I am one of those people who have no qualms about art for profit, but unfortunately this dilutes the production and creativity of art work and the public misses out on a lot of phenomenal artists because the market only wants to see particular types of art from particular types of artists that are hip. Many of these artists drop off relatively quickly once "their style of art" is no longer popular. As people want to wear the latest trends in fashion, art collectors want to collect the works of the hottest artists. There are some artists who reach iconic status and therefore their art is always coveted and probably always will be, resting as a status symbol for the elite (art by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Julian Schnabel, Claude Monet, Picasso, etc etc).
These contestants of Work of Art are being heavily scrutinized by many of their fellow starving artists for "selling out", creating works of art that are truly uninspiring and, simply put, mostly pretty bad. They are referred to as "sell outs" because they let the business world of art dictate their creativity; therefore catering to the art world's needs and scrapping for their approval....whatever. You want to make a buck making art, it is what it is. All I have to say is that Picasso was a trend follower, but at the same time he was a trendsetter. He saw where the market was going and took two steps ahead to be on top of the market. Smart man with a keen, sharp eye on the art world and his business. I totally agree with Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City that the challenges are terrible. They are truly uninspiring and unimaginative - Ep. 1: Create a work of art that best describes one of your contestants based on the their own self-portrait and what you learned about them within the first two minutes of meeting them; Ep. 2: Turning trash into art; Ep. 3: Create a book cover for a famous work of literature (think Pride and Prejudice and the Time Machine). After all, to be a famous artists, you must be able to work commercial art too; Ep. 4: Create shocking art overnight. This was the worst challenge ever. They even brought in one of my favorite artists, Andres Serrano, as one of the guest judges. Of course, it takes much inspiration to create truly shocking art that isn't just of you showing your naked ass or spreading your cum over your drawing; and Ep. 5: Create a work of art that is inspired from your visit to the Audi show room in Manhattan. Can we say sponsor plug? I wanted to begin giving my commentary along with each episode when it first began (but never got around to), which I will begin to now (it's never too late...right?) So, to quickly give an opinion of the remaining contestants, sorting them from favorite to least favorite:
1) Miles - the sort of "rebel" of the group that enjoys taking naps during most of the show because he's ADHD and an insomniac. He is probably the most creative out of the bunch. It is obvious that he's done his homework and that he can think way outside of the box...except the shock art episode. They all did very bad except Abdi.....
2) Abdi - the jovial, high energy guy who doesn't know much about art history (which is one of the essentials of being a great artist. You have to know what's been done to create work that hasn't been done and is compelling based on our time). His works are very thoughtful and creative. His skill comes from his technical abilities, understanding scale, composition, and medium.
3) Nicole - so creative. She knows material very well, seemingly having experimented with a wide variety of media. Her craftsmanship is great. She reminds me of Eva Hesse a bit.
4) Mark - the photographer who has mad photoshop skills. He is creative and his photographs are beautiful and thoughtful. He should have stuck to his medium when completing the last challenge and creating his dark and depressing variation of Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie.
5) Peregrine - she is wacky and all over the place. An eclectic butterfly. I still do not have a grasp on her style besides knowing the fact that she is quite offbeat, quirky, and colorful.
6) Ryan - he made me laugh last episode laughing about how Miles and Nicole are a "match made in Urban Outfitter heaven." Well, he must be the poster boy for American Apparel. He is a painter, but from what I can see so far, he's not very engaging. He's made it through because his work is very mediocre and there has so far been work that is much worst. He needs to tug much harder on his creativity string.
7) Jaclyn - I have seen work after work after work of women creating work about the male gaze. Jaclyn uses her own nude body in her photography to approach the matter of the gaze, which through her translations translates to me that she had major body issues as a youngster. She definitely thought she was an ugly girl when she was a girl and probably struggled with it. There is nothing wrong with that, but her type of work I have seen time and time again. Boring!
and last AND least...
8) Erik - the self taught artists who really needs to pick up an art book or two, beginning with some theory. His artwork is excruciatingly elementary because he hasn't done his homework. He is too literal and not much of a deep thinker. To create good work, people, you have to know your predecessors...your history!
God bless Work of Art.