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Work of Art. Bravo?

Posted by: Mike Preston on July 12, 2010

I recently watched “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” on the esteemed Bravo network and I’m not quite sure how I felt about it.

The show is essentially “Project Runway” but open to all arts as opposed to fashion design. It runs a heap of talents from different artistic backgrounds (from photography to performance art) through different challenges, one per episode. Each are given about one day to concept, purchase supplies and execute. The work is then displayed in a psuedo gallery in the finale. After each challenge, an artist is eliminated by a panel of artsy judges based on how successful their work was (or wasn’t). Its the standard Bravo formula. At the end of the season, the last artist standing receives a bag of cash and their own exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Museum (not bad, actually).

Initially I thought the show was somewhat degrading to the art world. Isn’t the point of art to be a self expression or a personal reaction to something or anything? Isn’t it not supposed to be about a competition? Isn’t it not something that can be rushed under a deadline (especially if the deadline is just one day)? And finally, isn’t art supposed to be something that isn’t judged as right or wrong, but whether or not the work has something to say or connects with people in some way? It all seemed somewhat superficial and watered down; fake and contrived.

All of that aside, I watched – and I was thoroughly entertained.

Sure, maybe the show isn’t an accurate representation anything close to “real” art or discovering a “real” artist, and yes, the show might be one giant Audi commercial. But there is definitely something compelling about watching talented (or somewhat talented) people try to solve problems creatively. Its interesting to think about the brief they are given and what you might do in that situation, and then see where the 12 other artists take it. Honestly, I would probably watch it if it was school children instead of artists (not a bad idea). Obviously, I superficially judged their artwork from my couch. I hated some of the work and announced to the television how much better I could do it. But in the end, what do I know? Some of the work they create is actually pretty interesting, and to be able to create something under that kind of pressure must be an accomplishment on it’s own.

I’ll probably keep watching. There isn’t much else on TV on Wednesday night anyway.

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