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Bravo TV's 'Work of Art' favors emo-hipster backstabber Miles Mendenhall

June 17, 2010 | 12:01 pm

Miles If little else, Bravo TV's "Work of Art" -- the new reality series set in the New York gallery scene -- proves that the art world is no different from just about every other profession: It's filled with sleaze, political intrigue and big egos run amok.

The series' second episode, which aired Wednesday night, set a new challenge for the contestants. Using discarded electronics appliances, they were tasked with making an original sculpture that reveals something about the inner essences of themselves and the objects they chose. 

Artist Jon Kessler, who is renowned for his mixed-media creations, made an appearance as a guest judge and sage.

The first half of the episode proceeded more or less uneventfully. The artists, who vary in age and artistic experience, seemed mostly drawn to old television sets, which they used in various configurations and states of semi-destruction.

From time to time, auction-house host Simon de Pury dropped in to deliver encouragement and to raise the occasional skeptical eyebrow.

As in last week's episode, there was little serious talk about art aside from banal generalities. In an indication of just how seriously the producers regard art history, there was no mention Wednesday of Marcel Duchamp, Nam June Paik or other pioneers in the field of found-object sculpture.

The camera seemed to linger most lovingly on hipster twink Miles Mendenhall, the bed-headed University of Minnesota graduate who talks endlessly about his obsessive-compulsive disorder and chronic insomnia.

Keep reading -- SPOILER ALERT -- about who won and who was sent packing.

Outwardly boyish and indie-spirited, Miles soon proved that he had the mentality of a corporate shark. During the judges' review of the completed sculptures, Miles stabbed one of his fellow contestants in the back by voicing unsolicited criticism of Trong Nguyen's failed work of art. Is Miles the show's  equivalent of Omarosa? It's too early to say, but every show needs a really good villain.

In the end, Miles won this week's competition for his bizarre installation featuring a pseudo-bed surrounded by sculptures of giant anuses. (Miles took a nap in his own creation, adding a level of performance art to the piece.) Trong was eliminated from the show for his simplistic work that featured a group of television sets staring at each other.

Next week, "Work of Art" will feature models posing in the nude for our remaining contestants. It's sure to add a jolt of uneasy humor to the series, which some have faulted for its lack of theatrics and drama. But if it's bad behavior in the art world that you want, you're better off revisiting Terry Zwigoff's underrated comedy "Art School Confidential."

-- David Ng

Photo: 'Work of Art' contestant Miles Mendenhall. Credit: Bravo

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