(Photo: Andrew Eccles/Bravo)
Work of Art is back! Tonight the Bravo reality competition series returns for its second season of searching for “the next great artist” with a fresh crop of 14 contestants mentored by the ebullient Simon de Pury, who continues to give Tim Gunn a run for his money in the scene stealing department. Host China Chow joins veteran judges Bill Powers and Jerry Saltz to evaluate and critique the works produced in response to creative challenges, and tonight’s is a doozy. The artist-contestants are charged with breathing new life into a piece of “bad” art—chosen from a hilarious assortment that includes a painting on velvet of a wizard, a ceramic frog, and a mirror-flecked pastel abstract that we swear we’ve seen on the wall of a faded Palm Beach hotel. The guest judge is none other than photographer Mary Ellen Mark.
If this season opener is any guide, the producers (Magical Elves, with Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Pretty Matches) have realized that it can be awfully enjoyable to watch people make art—as opposed to, say, cook up and plate an entree in the Top Chef kitchen—particularly if they’re good at it. And so the bulk of the episode is concerned not so much with personality-baring confessionals or judging huddles but with following the artists’ diverse paths to their final works. Art and design lovers will delight in the tight shots of making, from drawing and painting to sculpting elaborate paper creations and deconstructing a cat statuette. The range of the artist-contestants is part of the sophomore season fun. “I think it’s interesting to have people outside the bubble, so more self-taught artists versus grad school/MFA kids, and that’s an interesting clash on the show—to see outsiders versus insiders,” Powers tells us. “I also think it’s interesting to pit sculpture against photography against painting, because can you say that this painting is better than this sculpture? That’s another interesting dialogue.”