What do death portraits, abstract art, realist paintings and photography have in common? They’re all a part of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, a new reality competition that premiered June 9, 2010 on Bravo TV, after the finale of the Bravo reality series Top Chef Masters.
Work of Art Debuts on Bravo TV
In recent years, Bravo TV has become a master of the genre that could be called “creative reality” and the network has featured reality TV shows that focus on interior design, fashion design, cooking, photography and modeling. Now Bravo brings us Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, a creative reality competition that follows fourteen aspiring artists vying to win a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum and $100,000 in cash from art supply company Prismacolor.
The competitors range in age from early twenties to early sixties, displaying all levels of professional experience (at a young age, the painter named Peregrine had her art purchased by the Whitney Museum; however, amateur artist Erik had never shown his work in public before competing on Work of Art). The first episode of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist introduces us to this varied group of artists, including the talented realist painter Ryan Shultz and outspoken performance artist Nao Bustamante. I’m especially intrigued by sixty-one year old artist Judith Braun, a free spirit who uses imagery of cats and a play on words to portray the female anatomy (Work of Art: The Next Great Artist contains a disclaimer that it is for mature audiences and some of the artistic themes can be more explicit and daring).
The first Work of Art challenge required the contestants to create their own self portraits, and then capture the essence of a fellow competitor by creating a compelling portrait of that artist. It was fascinating and quite absorbing to see each artist’s portrait take shape, to watch the less experienced artists struggle to execute their vision and observe the more seasoned artists create more accomplished works. Ultimately, one contestant on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist would win the challenge and one would be sent home. Miles Mendenhall, a young artist who struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, claimed victory and won immunity for next week’s challenge with his dreamy, sensual screen printing of Nao, done in the style of a traditional “death portrait.” Artist Amanda was eliminated when the judges thought her abstract painting could not be considered a portrait of her subject.
Two Thumbs Up for Work of Art on Bravo
Work of Art: The Next Great Artist has received lukewarm praise from critics and followers of the art world. I have to admit that while I am drawn to art and I’ve had some art history classes, I’m hardly the expert and I don’t have a lot of knowledge of the contemporary art world. I don’t have a frame of reference to comment on whether or not Work of Art represents what’s really going on in today’s contemporary art scene. I do know that Work of Art: The Next Great Artist is very exciting and inspiring to watch. As a creative person, it’s truly a delight to see other artists express themselves, striving to realize their dreams of a professional art career.
The presence of art world fixtures like host and judge China Chow and Simon De Pury, a leading figure in the international art world, adds credibility to this show that celebrates art. Actress and art lover Sarah Jessica Parker, one of the executive producers of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, stopped by to greet the artists during the first episode, encouraging the contestants to stay true to themselves and their artistic vision.
Work of Art: The Next Great Artist has inspired me to become intensely curious about art and sparked a desire in me to view more art, and create some art of my own. I’m not sure if Work of Art works as a totally accurate representation of today’s art world; however, it’s exciting, stimulating and alive with art and creativity. I can’t wait to see what artists like Nao, Miles, Judith, Ryan, Trong and Peregrine will create as the show moves forward, and I’ll be watching to see what happens. If you’re a creative person who loves art and artists, and you’re curious about the art world, you’ll enjoy Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Bravo.