Reality And Fine Art Collide In New Bravo Series In the tradition of Bravo's past reality hits, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist has painters, video artists and photographers competing for the chance to display their work in New York's Brooklyn Museum and, of course, a comfy cash prize.
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Reality And Fine Art Collide In New Bravo Series

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Reality And Fine Art Collide In New Bravo Series

Reality And Fine Art Collide In New Bravo Series

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you turned on the Bravo network many years ago, you'd see high art - a ballet or an opera. Now, you get glossy competition shows, like "Top Chef." Tonight, Bravo is bringing together the art and the competition in a new series called "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist." Think of it as "American Artistic Idol." NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports that the winner gets $100,000 and a show at the Brooklyn Museum.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: �The format is exactly like "Top Chef" and "Project Runway." There's a group of contestants - in this case, 14 very different artists: painters, video artists, photographers.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Work of Art")

Unidentified Man #1: I've spent a lot of time flipping burgers during the day and then in the afternoon, shooting scantily clad models in weird costumes.

BLAIR: There's the mentor - the Tim Gunn figure from "Project Runway." On "Work of Art" it's Simon de Pury of the auction house Phillips de Pury & Company.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Work of Art")

Mr. SIMON DE PURY (Phillips de Pury & Company): I'm very impressed, in terms of the processing. It's first rate and I hope that the result will be equally first rate.

Unidentified Man #2: Me, too.

BLAIR: The artists have to create under a tight deadline.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Work of Art")

Unidentified Woman #1: You have until midnight tonight.

BLAIR: And the personalities clash.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Work of Art")

Unidentified Woman #2: That triangle painting - it's not so good.

Unidentified Woman #3: (Unintelligible) is really rude.

BLAIR: And at the end of each episode, somebody goes home.

The producers who brought us "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" are also behind "Work of Art." They say if it ain't broke...

Mr. DAN CUTFORTH (Producer, "Work of Art"): Maybe that's creatively unambitious, but this formula kind of works.

BLAIR: Dan Cutforth and his partner, Jane Lipsitz, say they're also sticking with the familiar because the art world could intimidate the audience.

Ms. JANE LIPSITZ (Producer, "Work of Art"): You know, everyone felt that putting it against the backdrop of a familiar format was the way to make people feel comfortable.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Work of Art")

Unidentified Woman #4: I'm really into lilies - dragon lilies - and hermaphrodites.

BLAIR: The judges include an art critic and two gallery owners. The winning artist will have a show at the Brooklyn Museum.

Mr. CHARLES DESMARAIS (Brooklyn Museum): And this is the gallery.

BLAIR: Brooklyn Museum Director for Art Charles Desmarais shows off a smallish gallery where the winner's work will be displayed. He says he has no qualms about giving space not far from American masters, like Georgia O'Keefe, to an artist whose claim to fame is winning a reality TV show.

Mr. DESMARAIS: I find it very much like the juried show. And the juried show was meant to introduce artists and to give artists opportunities that didn't go through the normal channels - and so that everybody could submit their work. So I don't know. I don't think it's all that different.

BLAIR: But there are some�differences. In a juried show, the artists most likely haven't been filmed while they work in the same room at the same time as their competitors - not to mention, live together.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Work of Art")

Unidentified Man #3: I've never stayed in a place like this.

Unidentified #4: I've been sleeping in my truck, and sleeping at my parents' house.

BLAIR: Whatever it is, these 14 young artists might get ahead quicker in their careers because of the exposure. At least, that's what Andres Serrano thinks. Serrano is perhaps best known as one of the artists at the center of the culture wars of the 1980s. He's one of a handful of artists who appear on the new Bravo show.

Mr. ANDRES SERRANO (Artist): The most shocking work, sometimes, is not even meant to be shocking.

BLAIR: When the producers first asked Serrano to be on the TV show, he says he was a little skeptical.

Mr. SERRANO: Actually, I was surprised. I felt the show was good. And so I was pleasantly surprised. It was very meaningful.

BLAIR: He had only one concern.

Mr. SERRANO: I wanted to make sure that I looked good on camera. And I think I did, you know?

BLAIR: The winner of Bravo's new reality series, "Work of Art," will have a show at the Brooklyn Museum right near a show by Andy Warhol. It's anyone's guess whether the winner's fame will last more than 15 minutes.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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