Equipped with self-portraits, the artists size up their competition and are randomly put into pairs for their first elimination challenge. They learn that after only one night together, their mission is to create a piece of art that captures the essence of a fellow competitor.
The artists are taken to an appliance graveyard filled with televisions, toaster ovens, and an array of broken electronics. Using the trash heap as their canvas, the artists are charged with transforming one man's trash into another man's piece of art.
The contestants meet the President and Publisher from one of the largest book publishers in the world, who guides them through the impressive history of the marriage of art and literature. For their elimination challenge, the artists are charged with creating innovative cover art for a classic novel.
The contestants are given a fleet of cars and told to drive them through New York City, ultimately arriving at the Audi Forum. An artist's city often serves as a source of inspiration, and for their elimination challenge, the artists must create a piece of work that is reflective of their experience driving through the streets of Manhattan.
The remaining artists are challenged to create a large-scale, outdoor installation piece. The artists must put egos aside and collaborate effectively in order to create a public art masterpiece in just two days. The challenge culminates in a public viewing.
The artists find themselves in the Children's Museum of the Arts, filled with finger paint portraits and crayon collections. Their challenge is to create a work that is symbolic of the moment their artistic expression began, using only kid friendly materials to create an adult masterpiece.
The remaining four artists head out of bustling New York City to the quiet refuge of a nature preserve. Here they are invited to draw inspiration from their surroundings - exploring the landscape and gathering natural materials to incorporate into their piece.
The final contestants have been sent home to prepare a full solo exhibition. Climaxing in a large-scale gala opening, the finalists present their collections to the judging panel to determine "The Next Great Artist."