Artist working

No matter how hard one tries, avoiding reality TV is a challenge (they should actually make a show about that.) The shows are as invasive as herpes: The Bachelor, Nanny 911, Extreme Makeover, The Real Housewives, Jon & Kate, COPS, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, and many, many, many more. This fall/winter  Bravo will air the first artist reality show, American Artist. It is the collaboration of Sarah Jessica Parker and Magical Elves (the team behind Top Chef and Project Runway.) The new show will serve a mash-up of amateur entertainers—that is, real people—engaging in old-fashioned game-show-style competition and unscripted activity. According to press reports, each episode will feature the show’s “contestants” competing in art-themed challenges from a range of disciplines—including sculpture, painting, photography and industrial design—and completing works of art that will be assessed by a panel of “top figures” in the art world, including artists, gallery owners, collectors, curators, as well as critics.  I briefly wrote about it HERE

Nobody asked my opinion but here’s my suggestion for a better reality show about artists. Create a show that is more like a good old-fashioned documentary. Forget about vetting “contestants.” Cast the net wide and choose 100+ recent art graduates or emerging artists from all over the country by a random lottery.  No auditions, no video entries, no artist statements. Abandon any attempt to inject obnoxious charisma or talent.  Inevitably, some will be genuinely talented, some avidly self-promotional, some charismatic, some absolutely clueless, naïve — just as in real life – or real life reality TV, per say.

Give them a list of goals to complete over the course of the season. Those who fail to make the benchmarks are gradually eliminated. Here are some vague goals that might be included:

  • Find suitable living/working space that they can afford – as well as create in
  • Apply to 30 shows and get rejected from all of them without crying
  • Get their work in three group shows
  • Contribute in some creative way to their community
  • Publish three reviews  of their colleagues’ art shows
  • Go without food and/or utilities and/or health insurance in lieu of art supplies and studio rent
  • Curate a themed group show
  • Take a business and marketing class
  • Write a business plan to open their own gallery
  • Deal with a protégé stabbing them in the back and/or taking credit for their work
  • Successfully deal with someone trying to plagiarize their work/style
  • Get a grant, residency, or a teaching job
  • Arrange five studio visits with gallery owners, art reps,  or curators
  • Find legitimate representation in a known NYC gallery (no vanity galleries)
  • Obtain a solo show by the end of the year
  • File their own taxes

Automatic disqualification if an artist:

  • Fails to make art for more than four days during the period
  • Sleeps more than 5 hours a night
  • Works longer than forty hours a week at their day job

For me, a show like this, that creatively and realistically demonstrates the overwhelming challenges a would-be artists face, would be must-see TV.


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