An overall disappointment because the focus of this show is on the artist, not on the art. All too often the camera shows us the childish behavior of the self-obsessed rather than reveal to us why the experts thought any particular Artstar has a talent worthy of mentoring and promoting.
Jeffrey Deitch, gallery owner and mentor, takes us through season one. He is always upbeat and enthusiastic about the chosen artists and their work but viewers are not given much opportunity to see what he sees. Season one is largely taken up with having the group prepare something for an annual art parade through SoHo. This, frankly, is a rather unexciting premise and goal. We see a lot of prancing and posturing in the workspace, and hear a lot of whining about how people are not working together as a group. But the art criticism and feedback which would assist the viewer to understand what each artist should focus on to improve the depth and perspective of their art is largely absent. Barbara Pollack provides a few essential sentences to each artist which go straight to the essence. Other than that, the viewer is essentially left to decide thumbs up or down on their own.
With season two the show's format changes to a more viewer friendly half hour and begins with a panel of three judges discussing the art with each artist and making their selection of Artstars. But then the judges, and the feedback, disappear. For the remainder of the episodes we get a lot of videotaped apartment tours. This series culminates with a show of emerging artists in Miami and it isn't until all is installed in the booth there that one can actually see what the artists have been working on. Several of them are successful at selling their work and some even collect the cards of those interested in representing them in the future. Yet how they got from Artstar selection to sellable art and future representation remains something of a mystery.
I think Artstar was someone's great idea to mentor young artists and the filming and editing of all that was badly executed. The end result could have, at times, been a deadpan comedy Portlandia skit that takes on the pretentious and precious world of contemporary art and the all too often narcissistic personalities that live there. I am quite interested in a television series that walks us through contemporary art and the stories the artists are trying to tell with their artistic vision. But this isn't it. Work of Art, on Bravo, tried to do that in a more conventional reality show competition format, with weekly judges' commentary and elimination of one artist, but the format itself did the show in. The "cast", with it's scripted content, only frustrated viewers who were interested in the art and the art criticism. I think Work of Art probably owes a debt to Artstar for being first. I look forward to seeing what comes next.
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