Both sides now

I wasn’t originally inclined to write this post — the “pro” answer to last weeks criticism of Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist — but thanks to CB, a contemporary from Toronto who has this annoying knack for talking me into things, I feel now like I have no choice to unpack both sides.

Last week I sited a few ways in which this show will presumably epically FAIL: formulaic revelation of character flaws, forced (and thusly stifled) creativity, and biased and impartial judging (note: NOT JURYING). I think one of my biggest problems with the premise of the show is the my concern for the profile of contemporary art. If it is something that can be so easily packaged into a 14 hour-long episodes, can we really call it art without decrying the act of currying to the masses?

Ah, and there’s the rub. I found myself a spectator to a conversation recently about art-events, and a private gallery in particular that does not typical host events or public exhibitions because “this art isn’t meant for the masses” and that’s where my attitude suddenly changed. If we’re going to have a discussion about an art-based television show, then let’s have a discussion!

How many times have you heard the phrase ‘starving artist’ – how many times on this blog alone? Artists are starving. Arts funding across North America is drying up; the recession has hit everyone hard — perhaps none so much as those already dancing just on the poverty line.

It’s not as though a television show is necessarily an artists’ ticket out of a) obscurity or b) poverty, but it couldn’t hurt it. The exposure that these artists have the potential to gain is almost immeasurable. Millions of people will learn these artists names. Granted, it only takes an affluent few to make (or break) an artist’s career.

The most important thing that Bravo’s Work of Art can offer the world is bringing contemporary art and artists into the living rooms of millions of viewers who might otherwise never have heard of them. At Art Toronto we speak often of profile and mass-audience appeal. Truly, the masses cannot afford most art; and of those few who can, not all are interested in art. But if contemporary art becomes more of a trend, more a fixture in people’s seasonal watch-lists, doesn’t it stand to reason that the profile of art and artists on the whole is raised? Will art magazines see a rise in readership? Will galleries see a spike in opening attendance? Will art fairs become the go-to place to see what’s happening and what’s coming in the art world?

What Work of Art might be missing in ‘reality’ it makes up for in audience. Truly, no audience will be enthralled by the part-time jobs of their favorite painters, to be privy to the art school criticism heart-aches, to witness the wheeling and dealing of art-as-a-commodity. But audiences will enjoy the story. They will enjoy seeing one of fourteen artists rise from obscurity to a level of stardom rarely (if ever, since this show is the first of it’s kind) seen in the art world.

Will I watch Work of Art? Probably. I’ll at least tune in for the first few episodes, so look for my review. Perhaps I’ll eat my words. Perhaps not.

I’ll leave you with the thought that irks me the most. Why are shows like this referred to as ‘reality’ when they are such obvious perversions of it?

1 Comment

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One response to “Both sides now

  1. I think you have hit the nail on the head with that last statement. Q: Who put the reality in “reality TV”?

    Yes, this show will bring to light aspiring, motivated, and talented artists. Yes, it will also expose many to the brilliant works of said artists. I will even go so far as to say that healthy competition and positive critique of artwork can be fundamental to an artist’s growth and success… But,

    These shows are so heavily edited, and pieced together to create conflict, controversy and drama, that I fear for the brave souls who expose their “creative jugular” to the harsh world of reality tv. Where the opinions of few are seen to represent the opinions of many, and we are herded into our views of what we like or don’t like, like cattle.

    There is also a flip side to this. The artists who do participate must know what they are signing up for, and enter into the situation with full knowledge of the shortcomings of “reality TV”. So I say all the power to them! I sincerely hope they are able to withstand the onslaught and rise above.

    Or, is it possible that this show will be a true representation of art and life combined? With quality, educational, and well thought out honest content….? This all remains to be seen. I look forward to your thoughts and reviews when Work of Art airs. My interest is peaked!

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