Bravo’s ‘Work of Art’ tries for something novel, falls flat


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In its third episode, Bravo’s ‘Work of Art: The Next Great Artist’ threw the book at its remaining contestants, and the results weren’t pretty.

The reality TV show challenged its participants to create cover art for a series of classic novels -- Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine,’ and Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula.’ The winning creation will be published by Penguin Books.


Adding to the pressure in this round was a new time constraint: Contestants had to complete their designs in less than a day.

The pressure-cooker atmosphere wasn’t conducive to great creative thinking. Panic set in for most of the contestants. Judith, the 61-year-old New York-based artist, created a fingerprint chalk painting for ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but was unhappy with the results and decided late in the game on a design featuring the title of the book spelled backwards.

Abdi, the art teacher, created a photo-sculptural design for ‘Frankenstein’ but also decided to scrap it late in the competition, starting over with an abstract spray-paint-with-stenciling concept.

Jaclyn, the Long Island City artist, photographed herself topless (from behind) for her ‘Pride and Prejudice’ cover, but she misspelled the author’s last name (as Austin), causing her to break down in tears later.

Miles, who won last week’s competition, took an unconventional approach by speed-reading ‘Frankenstein’ before beginning his design. His cover art used a fire motif to reference the Promethean aspects of Shelley’s novel.

When it came to judgment time, the panel could only identify two works that merited the label of finalist. John, the art studio manager from Los Angeles, created an abstract design for ‘The Time Machine’ featuring a large red spherical object at its center. Mark, the fry cook who moonlights as a photographer, designed a sexy, blood-soaked cover for ‘Dracula.’

The winner (spoiler alert!) was ....

... John’s abstract cover for ‘The Time Machine,’ which the panelists praised for its ambiguity and conceptual daring. They also had plenty of nice things to say about Mark’s design, which they said was the most commercially oriented of the group.


This week’s loser was Judith, whose backwards-spelled ‘Pride and Prejudice’ cover baffled the judges. ‘Oh, Judith,’ sighed disappointed host China Chow upon viewing the artist’s design.
In the end, Judith proved to be a bit of a sore loser. The artist bad-mouthed one of her fellow underachieving contestants in her exit interview and seemed to harbor contempt for the book-cover assignment.

‘Maybe I didn’t really belong in this situation, away from my own process. ... I’m not interested in having a job designing book covers,’ she said.

One wonders why a self-described ‘fine artist’ who isn’t interested in commercial enterprises signed up for a cable TV reality show.

-- David Ng


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