You are still in the running to become America’s next top…artist?!

It has finally happened. Coming soon to a television (with Bravo subscription) near you: Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.

I have no choice to blog about this because I am completely torn on my feelings (and as a result, suffering from headaches, nausea, and disturbing bouts of moral relativism.) I hope that by the end of this post I will have a better understanding of my feelings for this  new  “reality tv” art form…

The premise: (from

“an hour long creative competition series among contemporary artists. Work of Art: The Next Great Artist will bring together fourteen aspiring artists to compete for a solo show at a nationally recognized museum and a generous cash prize.

Hosting this colorful new series is art enthusiast China Chow. She will serve on the judging panel alongside art luminaries Bill Powers, a New York Gallery owner and literary art contributor, Jerry Saltz, current art critic for New York Magazine, and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, esteemed curator and owner of Salon94 gallery. World-renowned art auctioneer Simon de Pury adds his voice of experience as a mentor to the contestants.

In each episode, contestants are faced with the challenge of creating unique pieces in a variety of mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography, collage and industrial design. The weekly assignments are exciting, original and will challenge the artists’ to push the limits of their technical skills and creative boundaries.”

Ok. 14 contestants. A panel of judges, including a weekly celebrity judge. A neutral mentor. Weekly challenges to win. Sudden death. So far, the bricks and mortar of every other reality-contest show that has come before it. And the prize? Cash and a solo show at a nationally recognized museum.

Here’s where I’m going to reveal more than I’ve previously cared to. I LOVE America’s Next Top Model. I love it. I love the fashion, I love the photoshoots, and I love the finished product. But I also love… the fontrum, the tantrums, the egos, the tears.

Don’t think I haven’t noticed the formula (yeah, McG, I’m looking at you) that all of these reality shows live and die by. The casting of ‘characters’, the scripted scenarios, the contrivances, and ultimately all the situations that push contestants to reveal their worst, ugliest side. It’s all there, in every reality show there’s a definite element of prescription.

Will The Next Great Artist be exempt from this formula? Don’t count on it.

My initial impression was that this show was a deliberate and insulting perversion of the art world. Annexing a group of diverse artists (and their personalities) together in a place where they are instructed to be competitvely creative; dictating on a weekly basis the medium and mission of a new work; giving these delicate, brand new creations on-the-spot evaluations… the whole thing makes my stomach lurch a bit. Everything that I have learned about the creative process, whether it be from authors, artists, or athletes, boils down to a simple tenet: it can’t be forced.

There will no doubt be scandals, like someone’s attitude affecting the judge’s perspective, or an artists’ cumulative body of work being ignore because of a stand-out piece. And speaking as a seasoned observer of Tyra’s ANTM, I’d like to know the long-tail: will any of these artists be taken more (or less?) seriously in the REAL (not reality) art world after the closing credits of the series finale? Will participation in the show have a positive, negative or any sort of impact on the artists’ careers?

Thanks for reading. This is part 1 of 2. Come back tomorrow when I’ll discuss the PROs.


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3 responses to “You are still in the running to become America’s next top…artist?!

  1. Greg

    I’m cautiously optimistic about this show!

    Hopefully the producers can preserve the integrity of the artists without exploiting the drama and characters too much.

    I’m surprised that this concept took so long!
    What better T.V. than getting ‘crazy/weird/interesting’ artists to COMPETE for a ‘prize’?!

    I’m curious as to who the panel of judges will be. I hope, for the networks sake, that they have some credibility amongst artists. However, what artist in their right mind would sign up for this??

    This show is either going to be a disaster, or a great platform for an artist to attain commercial success.

  2. Jack in Austin Tx

    This show has fallen short from its potential simply because it trys to use a formula for what is good art.
    Good art is like catching magic in a bottle. it should take something everyday and mundane and make you see it, remember it and think of it in a different way than you ever did before.
    Unfortunately what Im seeing is the NY art critics idea of what is art.
    Im afraid if you took Monet or Van Gogh and placed them on this show they would be voted out in the third week.

    • A hilarious and startlingly apt assessment Jack! And I could not agree more. The show has value in certain ways to be sure, like generating more general audience interest in contemporary art. But I think we both agree it falls short of the mark in terms of actually generating contemporary art that will have valuable long-term effects on the art world itself.
      I’m interested to see who will be in the final two – any guesses?

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