'Project Runway' goes artsy

February 1, 2008
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It had to happen eventually, I suppose.

The “Project Runway” creators are shopping another reality/competition show to the networks—this one looking at the art world.

"There will be creative challenges, unexpected challenges, things that will test these artists outside of their comfort zone," co-creator Jane Lipsitz told the New York Daily News. "But we also want to make the challenges really accessible to the viewers because I think art is viewed as an elitist arena at times. We really feel like we can make it entertaining."

OK, let’s assume the show does fly. Would any artists out there (or anyone else) like to speculate on the upside and what’s the downside of such a show?

On the one hand, a nationally televised show means exposure not only for the dozen artists but also to some of the realities of the challenges artists face.

On the other hand, I’m not convinced that challenges and eliminations and all the other trappings of these shows mesh with the reality of creating art.

Then again, one could argue that “Project Runway” is one of the better shows of its ilk because its challenges actually reflect some of the creative problems faced in the very commercial fashion field.

But isn’t art supposed to come from a singular creative drive?

(Let’s just hope it’s not a show where viewers vote. That’s all we need is a show crowning the next Thomas Kincaid.)

Your thoughts?
  • I sat in on a lecture at Herron last year about the intersection of law, art, and business. The talk turned to who owns art as far as reproductions/etc. when the artist is paid to create (by a gallery, by an employer, by someone who commissions a piece). Intellectual property rights are obviously a very big deal for all artists so this makes me wonder...

    What also makes me wonder is an article I read in New York Magazine about reality show stars from Bravo shows who won the big prize at the end, but had no direction or mentor to assist them in getting a business off the ground. One participant I think from Project Runway had refused to take the prize money because it would mean that the show would own his designs (something along those lines--I'd have to re-read the article to figure out who it was, but he was instead living in his studio, trying to eek out a living like many in New York. I think the show has since changed its policy as far as intellectual property issues).

    I think it's a good idea on paper, but forcing artists to create sounds very unartistic to me. Unless they're in school and are working outside of their preferred element, but even then they at least get a degree at the end of it (but is that better than fame and recognition??)
  • I have watched PR and it can be very brutal with all the various personalities. Artist are just as excentric. What I see as a big issue is how they will challenge the artist each week to produce a piece of art. Many artists (myself included) paint what they feel even if they are painting a landscape or abstract colors. How can you translate that into a reality show? Can you challenge an artist with say here is a decorated room with this much wall space create a piece to reflect the design....how can it be judged? Because when you do a commission piece with those parameters you also try to reflect the buyer in the piece as well. Because hopefully the piece will be something they keep orever not just toss it when they change decor. Then there is the gallery challenge... the art fairs....the snobby elitism of the critics....As Jackson Pollock said
  • NY Dealer Jeffrey Deitch was involved in a program similar to this not too long ago.


    It never really took off and if anyone in the art world has the star power to potentially pull something like this off, it is him. My guess is there may be a little exposure and potential sales for some, but the art world tends to shun those that 'sell out' to popular culture.
  • I have a current client who is a student at Herron, an accomplished painter who is there to get her BFA (along with a number of other, accomplished, seasoned painters) because a gallery will not accept their work without the degree. She is under great pressure from the faculty to produce ONLY abstracts or studies, and greatly discourages them from doing anything that would be considered decorative.

    I think that with the exception of film or theater (which are art forms too), most art is contemplative and singular and to put an artist into a pressure cooker like this and say Create! is bizarre. It's just not something that is in the nature of most artists. Fashion is very people-oriented and I think most fashion designers could not only do well in that pressure cooker, but thrive in it. A painter or sculptor, not so much. I know when I create, I love my solitude.

    One exception that I've read about is when Harlan Ellison, whom I've mentioned in here before, would do these stunts where he'd sit with his manual typewriter in a storefront window and write a story. He'd sit there for hours on end with people walking by and stopping to watch him and he was able to just tune them out and get in the zone.

    I'd be curious to see what gets produced on the new show. Hopefully, we won't see any hint of happy little trees.
  • Sigh.
  • The situation with the artists at Herron sounds like the way music students (composers) were treated in the 40s-70s - God forbid that there be a MELODY in their work. I'm actually not sure that the conditions in music have changed - I just have not heard anyone complainng about it in present-day voice.
  • On the other hand, I’m not convinced that challenges and eliminations and all the other trappings of these shows mesh with the reality of creating art.

    Then again, Lou, you've been involved in the annual Masterpiece in a Day events in Indy at least once. The production of art within a game-like atmosphere can, if nothing else, be a good way to get people involved and interested in art, even if it doesn't necessarily produce a masterpiece.

    In the art world, though, it seems to me like the phony drama and competition engendered by the reality show setting would pale in comparison with the actual drama and competition one could get simply by observing reality.
  • Good point about Masterpiece in a Day, Brian. I do believe that sometimes an arbitrary deadline--or assignment--can liberate creativity.
    Lots of hands in this one.
    Another possible obsticle: The likely need to explain your work on camera. As you well know, most artists aren't great--and shouldn't be--about articulating in words what they've created.
    Plus, on television, it's going to be more difficult to appreciate the scale and texture of the work.
    I'll have to remind myself that this is about entertainment, not art.
  • As an artist I have found some wonderful results when pressured into
    creating within a time limit. Sometimes artists give them selves too much time to
    analyze or over work an art piece. Sometimes pushing themselves out side their
    known work box creates wonderful results that are beyond what they have
    experienced in the past. I think it would be a wonderful experiment.


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