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'Work of Art' on Bravo: What did the critics think?

June 11, 2010 | 12:00 pm

Workofart The new reality show "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" arrived on Bravo this week on a cloud of publicity and advance buzz. It no doubt helped that the show comes with a bona fide celebrity in the form of executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker, who put in a brief appearance in the first installment on Wednesday.

(You can watch the first episode online here.)

Bravo is the cable station that originally aired "Project Runway," which has since moved to Lifetime. "Work of Art" hews closely to the "Runway" formula -- it features a benevolent but firm-handed mentor figure in the form of auction-house big-wig Simon de Pury, and a svelte model-host in the form of socialite China Chow.

"Work of Art" brings together 14 contestants whose artistic abilities range from amateur to professional. Throughout the season, they will be tasked with creating original works in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture and photography.  

In each episode, one contestant is sent packing to the sound of the show's signature catch phrase: "Your work of art didn't work for us."

The judges for the show include critic Jerry Saltz and gallerists Bill Powers and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. The winner will get his or her own solo show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art plus a $100,000 cash prize.

While it's still too early to say if "Work of Art" will gain a cult-like following on a par with "Project Runway," critics are already chiming in with their assessments of the cable series. (Tweeters have also been busy posting their reactions.) A sampling of some of the major reviewers shows a diversity of opinions, ranging from admiration to dismissal.

Christopher Knight of the L.A. Times was less than impressed with "Work of Art," writing that the show "isn't as much bad as merely dull. Bad we could love; dull just sends us wandering off to the fridge, where inner essence consists of leftover meat loaf... Rather than making art, the cast is charged with dramatizing the act of making art."

The New York Times' Ginia Bellafante took a kindlier view of the show, praising the critic Jerry Saltz, who serves as a judge on the show, and complimenting gallerist Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn on her looks. "You could more generously analogize the project to traditions of the ancien régime," wrote the reviewer. "Beginning during the reign of Louis XIV, the Prix de Rome awarded money and prestige to artists who proved themselves through similar contests of elimination."

David Hinckley of the New York Daily News called the show "modest fun," adding that "Bravo has been doing reality long enough to understand the importance of a snappy pace, and 'Work of Art' delivers... Now it will be interesting to see if one not-particularly-good artist sticks around because she is a loud character who can be relied on to trash everyone else's creations."

Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker gave the show a "B+" and wrote that it "attempts to make contemporary art palatable to a broad TV audience... That's where the fun of 'Work of Art' resides, in convincing viewers that egomaniacal kooks can make good and bad art, and yes, there are standards besides split-second opinions."

-- David Ng

Photo: Sarah Jessica Parker makes an appearance on "Work of Art." Credit: Barbara Nitke / Bravo

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