REASON TO WATCH
Sarah Jessica Parker is the executive producer of this "Project Runway"/"Top Chef"-style competition.
Wednesday at 11 on Bravo. Moves into its regular Wednesdays at 10 p.m. slot next week.
THE SHOW "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist"
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Fourteen artists are assembled by Parker in an NYC studio to find the best, who will then get $100,000 plus an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Some are established (Trong Nguyen); others less so. Based on this episode, they all have the requisite skills and talent to produce interesting work. SJP turns up briefly to tell everyone, "You're all here because your work was exceptional - be brave, be competitive, be yourselves and show the world your art."
One will get dumped each week; Wednesday night, each has to produce a portrait of one of the other artists in 13 hours. The mentor is Simon de Pury, a well-known Swiss-born auctioneer who insists he knows a great piece of art in the first split second; host China Chow is an actress who grew up in the art world. The judges are Jerry Saltz, New York magazine senior art critic; art gallery co-owner Bill Powers; and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, founder of Salon 94, a "project space" for new artists.
MY SAY Would de Kooning or Pollock have submitted to a Bravo reality show to score a quick $100 grand and a show at the BMA? Nah, but scrub your mind of the utter improbability of this whole venture, and suddenly a totally engaging TV show unfolds. Forget the art - and much of what is produced in the premiere seems quite good. This show is about the artists. This crew is pungent, lively, odd, eccentric, snarky, neurotic and amusing. Then, there is de Pury, who is all of the above. Baronial with a slight rictus smile, he could easily be accessorized with a monocle and a long cigarette holder. He wanders amid the aspiring Van Goghs, dispensing dollops of wisdom, such as "This must have wall power."
BOTTOM LINE The judging process seems arbitrary - a couple of artists are penalized for being too abstract; someone who is even more abstract (let's just say this one likes cats) goes to the next round. Otherwise, a winner.