Will Bravo’s New Reality Show “Work of Art” Make a Mark?


Another week, another reality show is making its debut. With the new series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, Bravo introduces fine art to this millennium’s most popular genre of television. The show documents 14 artists, who range in age from 22 to 61 and preferred mediums include sculpture, painting, performance, photography, and architecture, as they compete for the grand prize of $100,000 and a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. Almost identical to America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway, the hour-long episodes involve competitions, judges, immunity, and plenty of bickering between the contestants.

Although there’s nothing avant-garde about Work of Art‘s form — it adheres to the reality-show template — it’s the content that has many people excited. While doubtful that it will find the next great artist, Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City called the pilot “hilarious.” Vanity Fair has expressed approval as well, hoping the show can raise the level of discussion about art across America. Heather Havrilesky from Salon is already addicted.

Even though there’s something a little off-kilter about exposing the hothouse flowers of the art world to the inhospitable chill of mass media, even though executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker keeps clomping in on her tall shoes to remind us that she totally la-la-loves art and artists because she’s just a big, fussy, important New York City connoisseur that way, even though I just know that some talentless hack will win the title of “Next Great Artist” but the title itself will prove to be a terrible curse and the winner will spend the balance of his or her days being assaulted by strangers on the street (the one experience that doesn’t fuel even more great art), I still love this show, and I will watch it religiously. Fear me.

The show is hosted by China Chow, who, as a child, was entrenched in New York’s art scene and constantly mingled with creative individuals such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. The three judges are Bill Powers, a co-owner of Half Gallery and editor-at-large for Purple Fashion magazine, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, a gallerist, art advisor, and independent curator, and Jerry Saltz, Senior Art Critic for New York Magazine and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for Criticism. It is these individuals, along with the contestant’s mentor, art-world mogul, Simon de Pury, who are responsible for making the show accessible and interesting for a mass audience through their criticisms and explanations for why a piece is either good or bad.

Will Work of Art help bridge the gap between high and low art, between expert and novice, or will it prove that these divisions never existed to begin with? Watch a preview for the show below.

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist debuts on Wednesday, June 9 at 11:00 pm.