El Saltzino with Work of Art contestant Peregrine Honig’s nails, which read “Jerry Saltz.” Awesome. Click on the image to see it large. (Photo by C-M.)
As is customary, you can find my New York City Datebook over at WNYC. (Don’t miss the kissing skeletons.)
Plus, the Not at all Brief #workoFart Recap: Lordy, they saved the drama for last. Though maybe it all just seemed more intense because I was watching the whole mess in the Brooklyn Museum’s lobby, with the contestants running around getting schnockered in the background. Anyhow, onto the recapping business…
In the final episode of the season, Simon de Pury toured the country in a puffy parka visiting contestants. The three finalists toured “the world famous Brooklyn Museum” visiting art. (A friend commented after the show that the museum’s lawyers must have had a requirement in the contract that every episode contain at least ten uses of the phrase “world famous.”) Each finalist — Peregrine, Miles, Abdi — was given $5000 and three months to work on a show that would be shown at De Pury’s auction gallery. It was the most interesting episode out of the bunch, showing a less frantic, more personal process — and more of my new boyfriend Simon de Pury (Be Bold!). The gallery show at the end was all kinds of awesome, mainly because Sarah Jessica Parker ran around clutching her head as if it might fall off and groaning “wow” repeatedly. In the end, Abdi won.
El Saltzino has an extensive recap over at New York Magazine, in which he has some interesting things to say (towards the end) about how the show — for some viewers — may have pried the lid off of the insular, self-involved art world. While I think the program overall could have been waaaaay more interesting (the judging panel desperately needed an artist and the challenges needed to be a lot smarter), overall I’d have to agree.
Beyond that, I found Work of Art interesting because it was a reflection of the art industry in more ways than anyone would probably care to admit. First, it showed that being a socialite with connections is more important than being articulate about art (China). Two, that half the battle of art these days is being able to come up with a good story to go with it (Miles, Nicole). Three, performance artists are crazy (Nao). Lastly, it showed that the process of creating and showcasing art isn’t as pure as anyone would like to believe it is. There is a vast art world bureaucracy of art dealers, public relations specialists and art writers who create storylines around art and artists. And ultimately, it’s these storylines, not necessarily the art, that the vast majority of people are following.
This was a point that painter Richard Phillips made in a really smart way when I interviewed him for my article in Time. (Unfortunately, his quote ended up on the cutting room floor.) But he put it this way: “I’ve been to the Venice Biennale and there are always these huge displays where the artists seem like subcontractors to the celebrity curators in charge,” he explained. “Their work is being seen in this falsified synthetic world. What’s exciting about the show is that we are seeing this process in action.” And with that, I couldn’t agree more
Hasta pronto and see y’all at the world famous Brooklyn Museum…