The Bravo competition series Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, coproduced by Magical Elves and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Pretty Matches shingle, united the seemingly strange bedfellows of reality television and art. Jerry Saltz, New York magazine’s art critic and Work of Art judge, brought the armchair art critic out in his readers with his candid blog, in which he recapped each episode and fielded some interesting comments as well.
How did you get involved with the show?
I have no idea. It wasn’t something that I’d ever thought about. I was approached and even though I was completely horrified by the idea of an art critic being on a reality TV show about art, I have to admit that Bravo had me at ‘Hello.’
You have written that the reason you did the show was to prove that anyone can be an art critic. How successful do you think you were?
A famous artist named Joseph Beuys once said, ‘Every man is an artist,’ and I wondered if the fact is that everybody’s morphed and it’s now ‘Everybody is now a critic.’ The [blog] experiment for me was absolutely thrilling when I found out that many people have inner critics inside them that are not only dying to get out, but are actually quite articulate.
How did your impressions of the show change once you began to review episodes on NYMag.com?
The conversation that began honestly changed the way I look at what I do. It made me realize that the art world has to let more of the real world in. [If you] Google search me you will see how horrendous some of the negativity has been from the art world. They don’t like the show and they don’t like me for doing it, which is fair. I’m stunned by what purists they turned out to be.
What did you think of the real conversation about art that grew out of the comments of your reviews?
Those made my day. You could see that a lot of those people would rip me a new one… Each time I’d be called a name, I’d come back and say, ‘I’m sorry if you think I’m a sell-out attention whore, but what do you think of so-and-so?’ In about 90% of the cases, the person who hated me is then participating in a fairly coherent conversation about art and an art idea and that’s pretty amazing.
What was your general impression of the experience?
Reality TV is a very strange world, whose strangeness is uncannily familiar. There’s a reason that we’re all interested in it. I’m not sure what it is, other than reality contains multitudes. Whatever this little TV show was, it was a tremendous experience for me. I hope that it let a lot of people know that art is more accessible, more real and less bullshitty than they think it is.