Can a Bravo Reality Show Convince People in Iowa That the Art World Is Also for Them?

Last night Bravo screened the pilot for their new art-themed reality show, Work of Art, at the Paley Center for Media in midtown. The show, which premieres June 9, follows the formula of Project Runway, with 14 contestants (culled from more than a thousand applicants) competing over the course of the season for a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum and $100,000 in prize money. The Observer, unfortunately,  was feeling super sleep-deprived after work yesterday and due to a few little naps, only saw little bits and pieces of the actual show. What we caught of it was funny enough–for a real review check Art Fag City–but the Q&A afterward kept us awake, if only because the room wasn’t totally dark. Taking part in the discussion were producer Sarah Jessica Parker and auctioneer Simon de Pury, who serves as a “mentor” on the show, as well as the gallerists Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Bill Powers and blogger Jerry Saltz, all of whom served as judges.

Mr. Saltz–dressed in all-black-everything–dominated the conversation, getting most of the laugh lines (“I thought I looked like a shar pei”) and deciding who in the audience got to ask questions. “Some people have told me this will end my career,” he said at one point, in response to a question about whether he and the other participants expected the show to be ridiculed or taken seriously by art-world people. On that note: the thing everyone kept trying to hammer home over the course of the Q&A was that Work of Art is meant to appeal to normal Americans, not art world insiders–as Ms. Rohatyn put it, “the museum-goer from Des Moines” rather than the Chelsea gallery assistant. Much was made of the fact that Mr. Saltz–who used to drive trucks–never learned about art in school and doesn’t have any special qualifications to be a critic, the idea being that, therefore, if he can do it so can that person in Des Moines. Sarah Jessica Parker, who has said in the past that she knows “virtually nothing” about art, but is an enthusiast anyway, said she hopes the show will “change the idea that art is for the rarified and for the very special and the elite.” After the conclusion of the Q&A, she was escorted outside and placed into a vehicle as a throng of photographers gathered around and snapped pictures.