Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bravo's Untitled Art Project

I hate reality television. I think I know why. Back when I was in high school in the mid 1990's, watching music videos was very important to me. I liked to watch MTV, VH1, and BET after school every day. Then one day a new show called The Real World made its debut. I resented it because it cut into my music video time. I felt the time they spent broadcasting the shenanigans of a bunch of 20-somethings cohabiting in a house could have been better spent showing Tyson Beckford in the "Un-Break My Heart" video, or the drama of Gwen and Tony's failed romance in the "Don't Speak" video, or the tragedy that ensued when Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" spoke in class, or Alanis Morrissette with one hand in her pocket, or Aaliyah's dance moves.

But by the time I graduated from college, reality TV had taken over all 3 music networks and was starting to infiltrate other major networks as well. The aspiring screenwriter in me was disheartened. Instead of dramas and sitcoms with talented actors in starring roles, there were people who could have been my neighbors and classmates hamming it up for the cameras in the most banal and predictable ways. And Survivor and Fear Factor were only the beginning of the invasion. Game and talent shows weren't enough. Pretty soon, there were even shows about people trying to find jobs. Chefs were battling in kitchens to become Top Chef or The Next Food Network Star. Fashion designers fought on Project Runway. And even HGTV got in on it by creating Design Star, which Bravo quickly cloned in the form of Top Design.

I entertained the possiblity of auditioning for the interior design shows very briefly. Then I thought, why must I humiliate myself on national television just to get a job? Hadn't I faced enough rejection without having it exposed to an audience of millions? And besides, I'd rather just work for a firm than have my own tv show, which was the grand prize of Design Star if I remember correctly.

And so I was very skeptical when I read the announcement that Bravo is now creating a reality show about artists. It has the very artsy-sounding working title "Untitled Art Project" and the auditions will be starting soon. I suppose it was inevitable. After all, the prophetic words that "in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes" were spoken by an artist, Andy Warhol. And why shouldn't artists want to be famous? Why toil in anonymity when you can put yourself out there and get mass exposure?

Still, I feel ambivalent about this. The show has the potential to share the work that artists do with a much greater audience, though at the same time, I have to wonder if the artists who participate in the show will be looked down upon as sell-outs and panderers? Will they still be taken seriously once the show is over or will the art world snub them? Will they be tainted by the stigma of reality television?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know that there will be a casting call here in Chicago 2 weeks from today... and I am thinking about going.

They are also scouting for artists in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Go to for all the details.


  1. Thinking about going myself. I have the same concerns as you (and also I'm a little concerned that some forgotten person in my life with a grudge would publically talk about some forgotten thing that I did in my youth) but I can't help but be intrigued. I'll probably just audition and see what happens. I assume you can always turn them down... Gotta read that application carefully.

    Also, be aware that, like Project Runway, the show will own all the art you make while there (although not the art you use for the audition)

  2. Though you have questions and such bout the integrity of the show and blah blah blah. I don't. Ill see u there!!Better bring your A-Game.

  3. i auditioned in LA on sunday...

    they set the room up just like american idol, 3 pompous judges sit at a table while a camera records yer interaction and about 10 producers watch.

    first off, i'm fucking great. i studied classic academic techniques of drawing and painting from life. i work full time as a sketch artist at an averting agency. my work is infallible.

    i showed a few pieces on the easels provided and told them about myself and my background... then nothing. they just looked at me.

    "i'm gonna pass on this one" the queer said to the asian. old school in the middle told me he loved where i was coming from but that i just had too much skill and wouldn't grow in their program...

    they are looking for raw undeveloped talent... losers they can shape up into gallery director ass kissers.

    that said...
    good luck

  4. Anonymous #1: Thanks for the warning about the show owning all the art you make while you're on it. I read the fine print and it did basically say that. Actually, the fine print is pretty darn scary. You are basically signing your life away. Reality TV contracts are almost Faustian.

    Anonymous #2: Bring it on!

    Jesse: Thanks for sharing your experience. From what you said, I'm really not sure now what they are looking for. They say they want emerging artists, that they want to see samples of work, and it sounds like it would have been a great chance for you to share your great talent with the world, but then they turn you away. However, I'm not sure if having raw, undeveloped talent makes a person a "loser," as you put it. Still, I'm sorry the audition didn't go the way you hoped it would.

  5. I also went to the audition in L.A. both days. If you are a serious artist, DON'T GO!

    It was a complete waste of gas and time. The 250 people they saw each day left with broken hearts and dreams of leaving their life for 3 to 5 weeks and possibly becoming an overnight success.

    The draw of having to have a passport because you know they are going someplace overseas is not enough to give away your best work to these slimy dogs. They will have access to your work for the rest of your natural life and even beyond.

    Do not give away your art! This reality show has the markings of a failure, to me. I think that SJP and her company are on a fishing expedition, matching up anyone beautiful. After all, her company has the word "pretty" in it, doesn't it? If you don't have the "look" you aren't going to be chosen. If you are over the age of 28, you will not be chosen. If you dont' have "tagging" as part of your portfolio, you will not be chosen. They DO NOT WANT ANY REPRESENTATIVE ART!!!

    In L.A. taggers are typically gang members. Why would someone want to glorify that? There may be a subculture in N.Y. where tagging is interesting. What I saw the judges choose was tired, 1940's or 50's abstract crap. What will be interesting about a show that has all men and no women? And they only have a one note, not any breadth or range of work?

    I think the whole thing was a terrific waste of time. They are on a fishing expedition and don't really care about saleable art.

    My art lives across the street from singer Neil Young. The Southeby's auctioneer told me my piece was the best at auction. They ask you in the questionaire the highest price you have sold work. Mine was $8,500. Not a lot of artists can say that.

    I have a piece that is on permanent display and is a tribute to 9/11 at the L.A County Fairgrounds. You can't get any more provenence than being on public display for something that shook the nation.

    I think the whole thing is a terrible waste of time.

  6. Sounds to me like those who mentioned auditioning above are the exact kind of stuck up artists that need to remain where they are cause apparently you all are better than the opportunity from the jump. It's reality TV so you need to pack more than technical skill you need personality to boot. I'm sorry for your wasted time but honestly with the holier than thou tude you deserve to get shot down. Sorry reality stinks at times and pobviously you all stink at reality TV. I will shoot you a note back once I get on the show.

  7. Hey, I was #138 at the Chicago audition. Visit my blog to read about my experience: Tips for New Yorkers are included!

  8. Dana, thanks for posting your link to your account of your experience on my blog. It sucks that they acted uninterested and interrupted you while you were talking. I'm glad that the reviewer I met was actually polite and acted interested, even though I was not selected either. (I was #384.) I agree with you, it will be interesting to see what the show will really look like. I might actually watch this show when it finally airs.

  9. My mom went to the casting yesterday in Manhattan. I didn’t want her to really do this that contract they have had a lot of conditions that I felt were not in her best interest, but she had to do what she had to do for her dream. I asked her when she came back what happened, said she tried to engage the person looking at her portfolio, and he didn’t have any questions or really speak with her. She was a bit frustrated because she didn’t know what they were looking for, but I know she tried her best. If you meet her she is a very bubbly positive person, and always has a good time speaking about her art and thoughts. She said they didn’t read the application she filled out, and I know that she took her time and answered her questions thoroughly, especially since she has no formal training. I am a bit disappointed that they have the cd of her images. Will they be looking through all the people cd’s who tried out? Will they read through their answers? Is there a chance that someone in the art world will see anyone’s work that they felt wasn’t’ good enough for their show? I don’t know but I support my moms dream, and if you would like to see her works check out her web site
    Thanks and good luck to all the artist who are out there making their dream happen!

  10. I'm so sorry that things did not work out for your mom, kw. I have no idea what happens to the images submitted with applications, but I'm sure no one has the time to go through them all. Thanks for linking to her site. She has a lot of good work. It really is too bad more artists couldn't be chosen. Anyway, I wrote about my experience at the Chicago auditions, and you can read about it here:


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