A reality show based on the making and evaluation of art may seem like an unlikely concept. As most of us involved in these kinds of pursuits know, the art world isn't very much like the real world. But perhaps the great virtue of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, coming this June to Bravo via Sarah Jessica Parker's production company, Pretty Matches, is that the unreal oddity of cultural production today is perfectly suited for reality television's hybrid construct of the quotidian and the absurd.
Though initially ambivalent towards reality programming, host China Chow gladly signed on once she heard "the high quality of the people involved." The impressive judging panel includes New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz and dealers Bill Powers (of Half Gallery) and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn (of Salon 94). Famed auctioneer Simon de Pury will be taking on the Tim Gunn role, acting as a mentor for the competing artists. The 36-year-old actress is the daughter of the late style icon Tina Chow and Michael Chow, an avid art collector whose restaurant, Mr. Chow, pretty much served as a second home to the likes of Warhol, Haring and Schnabel throughout the '80s. Chow's artworld upbringing has given her an understanding of how fame is an inextricable component of what it means to be The Next Great Artist. "We're in a different world now, and it's highly competitive," Chow explains. "I see this as an opportunity for artists to get their work out there, as well as a rare chance for the public to watch the process." Certainly true on the first part, considering that the prize includes $100,000 and a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. "I think with assignments every week, it made it better because the artists had no time to second guess themselves, and I was shocked with the high caliber," she says. To that end, we had to check with our old buddy Saltz. "The quality was all over the place, so it followed the same ratio I use with most art: 85 percent is not very good and 15 percent is interesting." But, he notes, "what makes it interesting is that everyone disagrees on what that 15 percent is."