21 November 2011

Show Me the Money

For some reason I completely missed out on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist last season. Well, there's probably a great reason, as I try to avoid TV when possible. However, I remain intrigued by a competitive reality show about producing art so I caught a few episodes of season two the other day.

Whatever you think about the role of an artist and their relationship to their work and the public, Work of Art doesn't capture it. Produced by the same people behind Project Runway and Top Chef, WoA suffers from something the other two do not: an end product you probably won't actually like. You can watch a fashion or cooking show and lust after the dresses or food, but with WoA, just seeing the finished pieces isn't enough to keep your attention.

I think this is because a show about art should concentrate more on process instead of result. Instead, the format of WoA's contrived weekly challenges tends to brush aside any possible insight by concentrating on interpersonal plot lines. Then again, how do you depict the creative process on-screen anyway? You could argue that it's an interesting show simply because it shows artists period. In order for people to support the arts, they have to know some artists maybe? Even under any microscope or format?

What will keep me coming back to Work of Art is the critiques which probably mirror real art school critiques in their harshness. Because I generally just viscerally react to a piece of art, I don't actually have the vocabulary to disparage something I don't like. Work of Art is helping me out in this regard tremendously. "This is so second hand surrealism. You failed to draw me in as a voyeur or a viewer."

The show also probably reflects a lot about the confusion of artists about how their pieces are judged. They think they went from concept to execution pretty well, and then get torn down by the panel. Inside the must be thinking "What do you know about art?!" In this case however, some of these judges purportedly do know a lot about art. Purportedly.
Most of the good art documentaries I've seen are retrospective, or have engaging protagonists or smart talking heads. Sadly some of the stuff I've been watching recently has been lacking. The short piece about the making of MOCA's recent Art in the Streets exhibit wasn't that good, despite my high expectations.

In that genre, I'd recommend Dirty Hands, the David Choi documentary ten times more. I'd also highly recommend checking out Art 21 from PBS, which is well produced and explores the working lives of contemporary artists. Start with this episode about Identity hosted by Steve Martin.

And I recently read this little book called "How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery" and while I have no aspirations on doing any such a thing (unless you want to lend me a few million dollars), it was a really interesting look into the commerical side of the art world. I'm always curious who owns art galleries, or how they make any money, this book shed some insight into that.