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03-04-2005, 06:35 AM
Reality TV hitches its star to the art world

By Randy Kennedy, The New York Times
March 4, 2005

NEW YORK - It came long ago to the worlds of music (American Idol), moviemaking (Project Greenlight) and fashion design (Project Runway).

Now reality television is tackling the art world, one of the last creative frontiers still unvisited by the genre's camera crews, harsh judges and hordes of contestants hoping to turn a little fame into a lucrative career.

"In the 1970s when I started in the art world, no self-respecting artist would have stood in line to try to get on a television show," said Jeffrey Deitch, whose gallery, Deitch Projects, is helping create an art-reality show called Artstar. "It never would have happened."

But standing behind him on the streets of SoHo as he spoke on a recent early Monday morning were about 300 artists, most self-respecting and shivering in the cold, lined up down one block of Wooster Street, around the corner along Grand Street and around another corner along Greene Street. They were carrying all manner of art: canvases, drawings, sculptures, slides and photographs, as well as television screens and computers to show off video and performance art.

Two artists had camped out in sleeping bags to be first in line. Another was dressed as a doctor, in a white lab coat with a stethoscope draped around his neck. An artist collective at the back of the line hid inside a huge foam-rubber head on wheels, with a cigarette the size of a baseball bat jutting from its mouth.

"Is this the line for Aerosmith tickets?" one of the artists inside the head asked mockingly.

The long line led into a cavernous gallery where artists would be given a few precious moments to show their work to a panel of judges, including Deitch, and compete for one of eight spots on the show, which is being made as a pilot and will include seven more episodes if it is picked up.

The pilot was being made for Voom HD, a high-definition satellite network whose fate appears uncertain, but Artstar's creators say they will present it to other networks.

The artists who are selected will be given a group show at Deitch Projects. And in the true spirit of reality television, one could emerge as the big winner and be given a solo show at the gallery, which has shown such established art stars as Mariko Mori and Jeff Koons.

The reality show's producers - Abby Terkuhle, a former MTV executive; James Fuentes, an art dealer; and Christopher Sperandio, an artist - say it is not their intention to impose the tropes of reality television on the show. The artists who are chosen will not be forced to live together in a loft or perform competitive art stunts or cry on camera.

"There's no hot tub here," said Sperandio, sitting in the Deitch Projects Gallery, on Wooster Street, surrounded by giant Keith Haring sculptures.

But the artists probably will end up collaborating on a project for Deitch and also receiving instruction and criticism (some of it no doubt scathing) from curators, critics and established artists.

Whether this will make for good television or good art is anybody's guess, and the show's creators are frank about that uncertainty. At the show's Web site (www.artstar.tv) the creators pose the same questions that many will be asking of them as the project moves ahead:

Are there artists who can make new works under the scrutiny of high-definition television cameras?

Can the results of such a process yield a vital gallery-based exhibition?

Will Artstar yield serial television that is in any way watchable?

"Our intent with this show is to do something both credible and compelling," said Terkuhle, who helped bring Beavis and Butt-head to MTV. "Credible in the art world and, hopefully, compelling to a television audience."

But he added that it remained "a television experiment, and that's how we're approaching it, very openly."

Some people in the art world have strong doubts about this experiment.

"Perhaps it will be a brilliant critique of the reality TV phenomenon," wrote one Brooklyn artist, who calls himself T. Whid, at his Web site, www.mteww.com. "Perhaps it will subtly explore the nuances of the life of a working artist in NYC or the nuances of different artists' creative processes."

Then he added: "I doubt it. It will be just a bunch of desperate artists doing their best 'to flatter' art world honchos as they watch their dignity being stabbed out like a stale cigarette."

But many of the artists who were braving the icy wind on Wooster Street said that if trying to break into the art world through television was a little silly, it was no sillier than many of the other ways artists try to attract attention in the highly competitive New York art world.

"It's so much about luck," said Arnulfo Toro, 28, who recently quit a job working as a painter for Jeff Koons' studio, where he said he was dissatisfied by the pay. "You can be really bad and get the go-ahead and be really good and go nowhere. We all need a godfather to give us a start."

Neither Toro nor his friend, Peter Knutson, 30, a sculptor, made the cut to a group of semifinalists.

For a few lucky artists, the bitter cold, the long line and the indignities of the cattle call paid off, at least until the next cut. Adam Krueger, 22, had lugged a huge hallucinatory painting all the way to the gallery on the subway, with his girlfriend's help. When he left, he struggled down Wooster Street with it, the wind trying to turn it into a sail. But he was accepted into the group of 32 semifinalists.

Other work did not fare so well. Shadowed by camera crews and boom microphones while he moved rapidly from one artist's table to another, Fuentes paused in front of a group of canvases covered with gold and silver figures, including Jesus and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The artist explained, "I did Basquiat because he's more of an inspiration to me than Jesus Christ, really."

Fuentes nodded and smiled politely. "Awesome," he said.

The artist did not make the cut.

Copyright 2005, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

03-05-2005, 04:29 PM
This is great news! In The New York Times yet!

Still enjoying HDTV under mostly cloudy Seattle skies, Gill

Reigster at SatelliteGuys