Take one really tired reality show contest formula, mix in 14 contestants. Be sure at least one is dangerously off balance, not difficult if they're all aspiring artists. Add a cute host who is a self proclaimed 'art enthusiast.' Throw in three judges with varying degrees of know-it-all. Very Important Ingredient: the 'mentor,' who sets up the contestants each week and gives them a cursory walk through during challenge prep. Add a dash of over-the-top-ness, mix well with irony, sprinkle a soupçon of snarky. And you're done: Bravo's newest Project Runway knockoff with all elements intact except we're swapping out a fashion career for that of a professional artist. The winner receives a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum and 100K from PrismaColor. That's a lot of monet for these starving artists, ma cherie.
Oh yeah -- and there's no Santino, or Christian Siriano. No one even comes close. What we do have though are lots of people wearing really great glasses and some crazy getups (check out Peregrine in this episode wearing some kind of steampunk orange Mad Max outfit, complete with cloth helmet). The Rubbernecker focused on this show after glimpsing a hilarious clip recently on The Soup. And even though it's six weeks in and we're already down to eight contestants, I felt it was worth a looksee.
Let's start with the host, China Chow, the daughter of style icon Tina Chow and Mr. Chow's Michael Chow. According to the Bravo website, she grew up around artists like Warhol, Keith Haring, and Julian Schnabel, all of whom hung out at Mr. Chow. Quoth the site: "Chow has fond memories of learning to draw elephants with their family friend, renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Having spent most of her Saturdays at museums with her parents, it was inevitable that she would become an avid art enthusiast." OK then -- moving on. The judges are gallery owners Bill Powers and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, and New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz. The Tim Gunn of the show, a la the mentor who threads in and out to interact with the contestants, is Simon (pronounced see-mon) de Pury, Chairman and Chief Auctioneer of Phillips de Pury & Company.
The 8 remaining contestants are Abdi, who was selected as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts when he was at Penn; Jaclyn, who served as a studio assistant to Jeff Koons for two years; Ryan, a self taught painter; Peregrine (you knew someone had to have a name like this) who is the youngest living artist to be included in the Whitney Museum's permanent collection; Nicole, currently developing a collection for Ralph Lauren Home don'tcha know; Erik, who talks mostly about his girlfriend; Mark, a fry cook by day and self taught photographer by night; and Miles, who according to the website "enjoys skateboarding and good audio books" and on the show, gets under everyone's skin with his arrogance and frequent naps. Miles is the show's bellwether; he's the one much of the conversation revolves around. Spoiler Alert: even though he ends up in the bottom two this week, you know there's no way he's leaving. What would they all talk about?
This week's challenge is to create a public art installation for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's LentSpace. The guest judge of the week is Yvonne Force Villareal, president and co-founder of the Art Production Fund. The group is arbitrarily divided into two teams (and we all know how reality show contestants love to work in teams) -- the Red Team (Ryan, Mark, Abdi, Nicole) and the Blue Team (Miles, Jaclyn, Erik, Peregrine). At first all the children play well together, in spite of their past sniping of each other. This of course does not last long.
The Blue Team is Trouble with a capital T from the get-go. Firstly, it's a given that any team with Miles as its leader will end up using his idea for their work because he has the biggest mouth, AKA ego. Then we have Erik, who doesn't get along with any members of his team and alternates between complaining that no one is interested in his ideas and bad mouthing Miles ("You're a tremendous actor -- I love the tortured artist thing"). In a marvelous breach of continuity he is shown sulking and smoking a cigarette in the rain while his team members pack the truck with the art piece, sans rain.
Meanwhile, the Red Team works together well and ends up with a large geometric form surrounded by bits of cement that they've made into exaggeratedly large chunks scattered around the geometric form-thing. It's called "The Noumenon." Nicole describes this as a term for "searching out the hidden magic within our world."
The Blue Team's piece (entitled "Scale") is best described by Ryan who is on the Red Team as "this weird treehouse constructed by a meth addict." Erik's sole contribution to the piece is to suggest adding vines coming up from the soil on the bottom, which at first the team members dig but quickly toss aside. At one point Simon comes in to check on their progress and tells them they will be judged individually even though it is a team challenge. He then imparts some sage advice, "Be bold and brilliant!" and scoots.
Erik confides to the camera that he's been around too much and done too much "to have some stuck up art pussy tell me life lessons" and we can immediately see where this is going (according to the show's website he is new to the fine art world, so pourquoi?). The two pieces are unveiled to the judges and the public the next day at LentSpace and the Red Team seems to have the advantage as their piece is much easier to interact with for the crowd. Everyone heads back to the gallery for "the crit."
The Red Team wins (Nicole being named the winner as it was initially her concept) and the Blue Team faces the judges, with Erik and Miles being the Bottom Two -- Miles because the piece was admittedly his idea, and Erik because he's such a non-team player. No one is sorry to see him go and he packs up his bad attitude and goes home to his girlfriend, and who knows if we'll see him at the cast reunion show, eh? C'est tout!
Work of Art airs on Bravo Wednesday nights at 10pm ET.