Work of Art: Next Great Artist (Bravo) – Episode 1-6 Review

Work of Art: Next Great Artist

Episode 6: Public Art

Work of Art: Next Great Artist’s sixth episode highlighted some of the series’ giant shortcomings, while finally delivering some real juicy nastiness.

Dividing the eight remaining Artestants (it’s like Cheftestant, but for art) into two randomly assigned teams of four, week six’s challenge was to work collaboratively on a publicly installed piece of art. The challenge of working together collapsed one team into reality tv bickering, while the challenge itself once again prompted the creation of dreadful art.

The exhibition venue was a parcel of land in right on the Tribec/Soho border. Administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), the two teams had an amazing outdoor space to create, as China Chow (c-monster) put it, “a public art installation that has something to say”. Asking for the production of large scale, high-quality, site specific installation in two days- about 25-30 hours- is unrealistic. This is the main flaw barreling through Work of Art’s foundation. Some of the tasks fall outside of what could be reasonably done on a conventional reality competition show. Which begs the question; Why must it be such a conventional reality competition show? The rules of normative television production strangle the show, squeezing out ill-formed, half-baked art projects at a fast food pace.

Our guest judge was non-other than Yvonne Force Villareal, co-founder of Art Production Fund. I have no idea what exactly this woman or her organization do, due to yet another sloppy and vague introduction. A quick slideshow accompanied by a nebulous voice over description is the bare minimum. Maybe they should change the name of the show to “bare minimum”. All you have to do is stand there in a hyper-stylish yet off-putting getup looking super cool and we will assume that you are very powerful and knowledgeable in the ways of Art. Yvonne FORCE Villareal looked like Uma Thurman in My Super Ex-Girlfriend, down to the clunky black glasses and superhero scarf. Fierce, FORCE, I trust your art sensibility.

In the early going Nicole and Miles quickly emerged as their respective team’s vocal leader and project director. Nicole’s team created a large angular boulder surrounded by a series of smaller, similarly futuristic protrusions. The whole thing looked like bad set design from a b-movie alien planet. Bill Powers (BP) asked if it was “New Age”: Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn said its “too close to all the bad 60’s and 70’s minimalist works”. A good deal of the time China Chow has no idea what she is talking about. She thought it was reminiscent of “a modern Stonehenge”. The Mariano Rivera of art criticism, Jerry Saltz, closed the discussion with “it’s the kind of art that gives art a bad name”. And that’s what they had to say about the winning team! That’s right! Nicole’s grey scale space turds had nothing on the dysfunction going on over in Miles’ camp.

Once it became clear that this task would involve power tools and wood glue Miles perked right up, shed his dopey dourness and took grip of the project by the c-clamps. It is this very quality in Miles that his teammate Erik finds reprehensibly phony. The problem is that even if Erik is right, and he isn’t way off base, he’s way out of his league in calling out Miles. For all his pretense, Miles is considerably more advanced than Erik in conceptualizing and executing artwork. Erik, after having horrible suggestion after horrible suggestion shot down by moody Miles, finally flipped. He challenged the entire project and the character of its leader, Miles. Erik’s lack of articulation and problem solving skills devolved into a personal attack. His tirade was studded with gems like “typical art school crap”, “stuck up art pussy”, and the immortal “Miles is a total douche, but it’s exactly what I expected from trained artists who have their heads stuck up their asses.” Erik’s hot headed masculinity boiled over with a bout of abandoning the project to sulk and chain smoke. Even Miles’ brilliantly fabricated reclining perch could not save the team. They were up for elimination, and Erik was properly dismissed.

The quote of the night goes to my roommate who entered the living room with only about 20 minutes left in the show. Not privy to all the salacious infighting, she watched as both pieces were exhibited and explained. Upon conclusion, but before judging, she turned to me and said “Both things are terrible. Right?” Right. In fact, according to Saltz, the piece that gives all art a bad name was the more successful piece. Narrow resources utilized under strict time constraints, combined with poorly constructed premises is an incubator for bad art. Until these reigns are loosened, the show will continue to be a competition between bad and worse, instead of achievement versus excellence.


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