Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Survival Show for Artists: Coming Soon from Bravo

From those wonderful folks who dish out “Top Chef” and “Project Runway,” brace yourself for an art-world reality show, as yet unscheduled and unnamed.

Bravo’s “Untitled Art Project” will be an hour-long creative competition series with contemporary “artists” pitted against each other to determine who is supremely artistic. With Sarah Jessica Parker as executive producer, the competitors will battle for a gallery show, a cash prize and a sponsored national tour.

Though the producers have not revealed how much money is at stake or which museums or galleries will participate, it seemed to matter little to the hundreds of contestants who lined up for the recent auditions. Try-outs were held in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, and last week in New York over 400 joined the parade of hopefuls.

With fifteen minutes of fame as bait, the cattle calls attracted emerging and mid-career candidates of every description, many toting massive portfolios and even vanloads of their artwork.

This is cable TV, so we anticipate a stereotypical cast of characters to be selected: young to old, over-the-top to conservative, self-taught to academic, graffitist to impressionist. someone with a purple Mohawk, and, of course, someone who throws bucketsful of colorful paint.

“We want voices that believe in their art and want the world to know,” the producers proclaim. “Your medium could be one of many (or several of many) – painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, mixed-media.”

In each episode “contestants will create unique pieces highlighting art’s role in everyday life, while they compete and create in a range of disciplines including sculpture, painting, photography and industrial design (to name a few). Completed works of art will be appraised by a panel of top art world figures including fellow artists, gallerists, collectors, curators and critics. The finalists’ art work will be showcased in a nation-wide museum tour.”

What kind of competition would the contestants face? The New York Times speculates, “Life drawing with a stopwatch? Found-art scavenger-hunt race? Best post-ironic conceptual gambit in under a minute?”

Art is the last thing the “Untitled Art Project” will provide to American viewers. It might become a popular cable TV show, but will it be art? Or will it further devalue the work of sincere artists everywhere? Besides, what does Sarah Jessica Parker know about art anyway?

We’re okay with reality TV. and we can only hope this show doesn‘t exploit artists, including ourselves. Artists are not chefs, not beauticians, not fashion models, not stunt performers. And even starving artists shouldn’t be made into ridiculous caricatures of themselves.

Tell us what you think. Add your comment to vote “Yes” or “No” to the “Untitled Art Project.”

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