Bravo Casting Call for Untitled Art Project
February 28, 2005. Hopefuls line up for ARTSTAR, the world’s first art reality television show presented by Deitch Projects and Gallery HD. Photo credit: Seth Sherman.
In 2005 auditions were held for ARTSTAR, an eight-episode art world reality television show produced by Jeffrey Deitch, a SoHo art dealer, and Voom, a high-definition satellite network. Aired the following year with appearances by an impressive host of top critics and artists the show, widely regarded to be the first of its kind, culminated in an eight-person group exhibition at Deitch Projects entitled ARTSTAR. Tomorrow Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami, will host the South Florida leg of nationwide casting calls for Untitled Art Project, a new art based reality television show destined for Bravo that is being produced by Sarah Jessica Parker’s company Pretty Matches and Magical Elves, the company who brought you Top Chef.
As yet we don’t know what to expect from the show and so the many burning questions such as “how awful will this really be” and “what does the art world stand to gain” remain largely unanswered. In regard to the timing, however, which is arguably five years behind schedule, Sarah Jessica Parker cited the presence of the nation’s new “art-positive president.” “Fortuitous” she told Artnet.
“How do you go from struggling, emerging or even semi-established artist to selling a complete show for $198 million? It’s a big art world out there, but maybe this is one place to start!” – Bravo.
So who will audition? Apart from the inevitable throngs of unknown hopefuls, who already established within Miami’s emerging scene is likely to apply? Surely the only artists that stand to gain anything from participating in such a circus are those who either seek to destroy it from the inside out, or those whose work and persona are so enmeshed that they are able to create a perfect storm of innocence and incomprehensibility around them. And let us not forget the more senior members of our community who are simply past caring what ‘people’ think.
On June 16, 2006, Deitch was quoted as saying, “In the 1970s no self-respecting artist would have stood in line to try to get on a television show.” Critics at the time argued that this was still the case; in the real world artists don’t line up to get famous. As it turned out, however, in 2006 there was at least one self-respecting artist [group] that did:
February 28, 2005. Bruce High Quality auditions for ARTSTAR. Photo credit: Seth Sherman.
On a frigid Monday morning in Februrary, 2005, as line of miserable looking student types clutching crappy paintings snaked three blocks from Deitch Projects on Wooster Street in SoHo, New York, a large pinched foam head attached to a trolley came rolling into view. This was the debut of Bruce High Quality, a character based around the idea of a dead artist, a social sculptor, who although much of his oeuvre was destroyed according to his wishes upon his demise, his legacy lives on, again according to his wishes, via the efforts of The Bruce High Quality Foundation, a group of Brooklyn based emerging artists. With satirical abandon and a great deal of skill, the Bruce High Quality crew – huddled together behind the head beneath umbrellas and plastic sheeting – lip-synced the foam head to adlibbed text-to-speak responses typed into an on board computer throughout the audition. With comebacks like “I am a lonely creature, as an artist must be. I am the long-sustained, langorous keynote, waiting for a wish, fearing its fulfillment” Deitch, famed among other things for touting the unconventional, offered their offensive yet brilliant asses a place on the show. Their subsequent refusal to participate evidenced their integrity.
Too often contemporary art pretends or rather portends to be something of important social, cultural and aesthetic value, but in the context of reality television it can really only be about money. This is tolerated of most industries, however, art is supposed to have more to it.
In America television is now considered one of the lowest social denominators. Partly due to the extreme lack of demands placed upon its networks by the majority of their audiences, it has become little more than a default form of entertainment for people who haven’t made any decisions. Not only is that a poor incentive to audition, but when the assumption is that all artists want fame – which is not the same as saying everyone on Wall Street wants money or everyone in government wants power – it reduces a job that at its best is invested in intellectual and aesthetic science, to a matter of mere celebrity. To many this is degrading – kind of the same degrading that we Miamians feel around the time that Art Basel comes to town. Now were not saying that there’s anything wrong with wanting notoriety and money, just that a person with those priorities won’t necessarily make great art.
Fredric Snizer in his gallery. Photo via Wet Heat.
Ironically it seems the show’s best hope is to ape the model of ARTSTAR, which to its credit (despite being a failure) mercifully avoided clichés of reality television such as weekly eliminations and edits that overemphasize the more salacious of the contestant’s personal interactions. If it does this, however, it will almost certainly be ranked as a redundant take-off. At least when this happens the dubious ties that those selected as finalists will no doubt be revealed t0 have to those acting as impartial judges will largely be forgotten. And with Fredric Snitzer and other Miami art professionals rumored to have more than a passing involvement in proceedings, the future irrelevance of any behind the scenes trickery will no doubt turn out to be a blessing for Miami.
Note: The success of ARTSTAR was overshadowed by the coming to light of a variety of prior relationships which finalists had to both the judges and to Deitch projects. One finalist Sy Colen was the father of a successful artist represented by Deitch Projects and another, Bec Stupak, had appeared multiple times in Deitch’s 2005 book “Live Through This.”
The few things working in favor of this project are the ambitions of the producers to make their show as big as the Turner Prize and to de-mystify the art world to the general public. However, the likelihood that this will backfire making a mockery of our industry and exaggerating the already cynical attitude harbored by the public toward the validity of contemporary art is totally likely.
“Are you concerned about the rising cost of tuition? Are you concerned about the recent dominance of the art market in higher education? That artistic achievement and celebrity are becoming virtually indistinguishable? Professional problems deserve amateur solutions. Introducing the BHQFU, a radical pedagogical experiment of The Bruce High Quality Foundation that opens on Sept. 11, 2009 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. To get involved, send an email to email@example.com.” – The Bruce High Quality Foundation.
Despite Artnet quoting Sarah Jessica Parker as saying that the aspirations for the show are “pretty democratic” it is obvious to all that in order to make the show successful then those depicted on it have to be at least a little telegenic. Not only that, but like ARTSTAR which was criticized as being an extended infomercial for Deitch Projects, we can expect to hear glowing reports of all participating cities and galleries. These implications immediately scupper any chance the production had of authenticity and cast what little hope anyone had of its redemption onto the cold fires of public [text voting] indifference. But then again, this comes as no surprise as reality TV isn’t really reality, but of course we knew that already, right?
Running parallel to the Bravo auditions is another less publicized art reality show in the making which, if the producers raise their million and manage to have hopefuls sign crippling two year contacts, will air on fox.
Below is the ARTSTAR audition diary of the mighty The Bruce High Quality Foundation.
Bruce High Quality’s diarist video about his audition for Jeffrey Deitch’s ARTSTAR reality television show.