Post Academic

Art and Commerce: What’s the Problem With “Work of Art”?

Posted in Breaking Academic Stereotypes by Caroline Roberts on July 17, 2010
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Obviously, we here at Post Academic are really into reality shows. I just watched a few episodes of the Bravo TV show “Work of Art,” in which aspiring artists who work in different media compete a la “Top Chef” and “Project Runway.” Apparently, people who are supposed to know something about art hate it.

Laurie Fendrich over at the Chronicle writes:

The show promulgates a massive deception that out-deceives all other reality programs: If we were to have a real reality show about artists, one that showed how artists really make art, it would bore the tears out of the audience. Artists are frequently quiet or dull sorts, and much of their art-making consists of sitting around, thinking, looking and puttering around in incomprehensible ways. No hissy fits, no artificial deadlines, and no visiting Euro-suaves like Simon de Pury, the auction-house exec, to give pats on the back and ask helpful questions.

And how is that different from a show like “Top Chef” or “Project Runway”? Cooking isn’t that fun to watch in and of itself, and I’m sure that clothing design involves plenty of “sitting around, thinking, looking and puttering around in incomprehensible ways.”

Okay, there are hissy fits on the show, and that’s a reality-show convention, but the benefit of “Work of Art” is that it emphasizes that art involves real work and skill. The contestants regularly throw verbal spears at each other about technique, and it is fun to watch how pieces come together in a single episode. The people who just slap something together and can’t explain it tend to be the ones who get the boot.

More after the jump!