Michael Wilson previews the art reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist for ArtForum’s Scene & Herd column:
As the competition’s first challenge—the artists were paired off and asked to make portraits of each other—rattled toward its conclusion (the usual dramatic “voting-off” shenanigans), I found myself paying less and less attention to the (overwhelmingly dire) work and more to compiling a list of sententious quotes: “Wall power, that’s what you want” (de Pury); “To you, it’s a portrait, but to no one else will it ever be a portrait” (Saltz); “I’m getting falling leaves, is what I’m getting off this” (Powers), and the definitive “There’s no excuse for a bad painting” (Saltz again). Also good for a laugh were token tough guy Erik Johnson asking de Pury—to bemused reaction—if he fancied hitting a strip club after the show; senior feminist Judith Braun clashing with junior sexpot Jaclyn Santos; and Chow’s chilling dismissal of the show’s first loser: “It’s been said that good art isn’t what it looks like but what it makes us feel. Your art didn’t make us feel anything.” Ouch.
The Q&A that followed—host and judges, along with SJP and co-producer Dan Cutforth, were all present—was good-natured, perhaps because most questions came from TV folk astonished that a show about art could be anything other than “stuffy” (initially misheard by Saltz as “scuzzy”). Accessibility was stressed again and again, but while it would be po-faced indeed to ignore the show’s more amusing interactions, it was hard to avoid feeling that some valuable middle ground between fusty and trashy was being overlooked. And when the panelists were asked whether they had managed to find “the next great artist,” I think we can take that long, awkward pause—Saltz’s shit-stirring claim “I saw artists here that were better than artists in the Whitney Biennial” notwithstanding—as a probably not. Oh well. The tribe has spoken.
Alternate Reality (ArtForum)