Divine Comedy, and “Reality”

Well it was bound to happen. The art community has entered the eighth circle of hell. Dante’s waist-deep piles of excrement, or whatever punishment he assigns for the sins of narcissism and self-indulgence, will soon be filled with artists from all over the country. Why? Because here in New York they are waiting in line, “cattle call” style, to hopefully be cast as “contestants” on a new reality TV show.. A “struggling artist” reality show. Like “Survivor” and “Project Runway” and “Top Chef”.

This morning over a cup of java, I read this New York Times article, and almost spit my coffee all over the place. My first reaction was, “Oh come on! This is going too far!”. I’m not a snob, I swear. I’m not even a staunch “purist” by any means. And I certainly don’t begrudge artists the ambition to succeed, be discovered, and get their foot in the door. I just really, really dislike reality TV.

Remember when reality TV first came on the scene? It was fine at the beginning. A little stupid, yes, but a harmless novelty. Mildly entertaining, emphasis on “mildly”. But is it just me or have things gotten completely out of hand? Now EVERYTHING – all professions, vocations, and aspirations – are being converted to a shrill competition format. They even have these shows for hairstylists and dog groomers! WTF? And since ratings are the most important thing, the shows are designed to bring out the nasty in their contestants and encourage the most uncivil of behavior. I hate that. I mean, has anyone seen “Bridezillas”? Oh my god. I watched about three minutes of that horror and frantically changed the channel back to my beloved PBS. That’s three whole minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. If Dante were alive today he’d invent a separate circle just for those Bridezilla bitches.

Is the creation of art even suitable for the aggressive, fast-paced tone of these reality shows? It seems so antithetical. Here’s a quote from the Times article in which Nick Gilhool, one of the producers, ponders that very question:

Mr. Gilhool said the main criterion in picking artists was to create a show that “people in the art world will want to tune into every week to actually see the work.” But he added that the fragmented and raucous nature of contemporary art would probably make it trickier to produce than competitions dealing with more straight-ahead creations like food or clothing design. What would be the equivalent, for example, of a “quick-fire challenge,” the part of “Top Chef” in which cooks have to whip up a dish lightning fast? Life drawing with a stopwatch? Found-art scavenger-hunt race? Best postironic conceptual gambit in under a minute?

Ugh. That sounds like a disaster. The next thing you know they’ll create one of these heinous shows for art models. And THAT would be a real disaster! It’s bad enough that we’re blogging on the Internet 😆

17 thoughts on “Divine Comedy, and “Reality”

  1. DaveL says:

    I completely agree with you about “reality” shows. I refuse to watch any of them. They have pretty much destroyed what little of value was on television. This new idea has to be one of the worst ever.

    Art is not a competition.

    • artmodel says:

      Dave, well said. I have misgivings about this show idea too. It just sounds like crap!

      I don’t understand this obsession to turn everything into a contest. Especially art of all things.

      Sent you an email.


  2. Waverly says:

    It’s bad that we’re blogging on the internet? It gives us a voice.

    • artmodel says:


      Oh no, that was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek! Totally kidding around. I’d never make a remark like that to be taken seriously. Just another stupid example of my facetious, smart-ass humor. I was hoping the smiley face would have indicated as such.


  3. Ron says:

    I don’t know. Like you I am generally no fan of reality shows, but just think about the colorful personalities of all the artists you write about. Picasso, you’re voted off the island. Modigliani, you’re fired. Toulouse Lautrec, you’re the new Parisian Idol.

    As we all know, a great deal of life drawing is done with a stopwatch, so that actually would be reality. For TV however, I suspect that the life drawing competition will be drawn out (pun intended), rather than a race.

    • artmodel says:


      I love it! What a trip imagining those guys on a reality TV show. With their personalities and temperaments that’s a ton of drama! I thought of a few others worth picturing in a reality TV setting: Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock 😆

      I had the exact same thought about the life drawing stopwatch. Just like gesture poses, so yes that’s one of the more “realistic” ideas.

      Thanks for your comments!


  4. Rog says:

    OK, I get excited watching my paint dry. I get excited watching other people’s paint dry. But I find it hard to believe other, non-painters will get excited watching paint in paintings dry; even if they are water colors. I also find it hard to believe that people will get excited watching scultures sculpt. Therefore, it will bomb… unless the common masses get excited over how they are going to insult artists to no end. This it will be a disgrace to the art world. I just hope their videographers suck … so the show will suck. Un fortunately for us, some videographers are actually good “value trained” artists.


    • artmodel says:


      It takes a special person – and a fervently passionate artist – to get excited watching paint dry! My uncle used to equate the experience with listening to Brahms 😆

      You make a good point about how the show will be appealing to non-artists. I still don’t understand what the actual presentation of the show will be. But if it gets on the air I will probably watch at least the first episode out of curiosity.

      Thanks for commenting!


  5. K L says:

    I can’t comment on this one…yes I can! I don’t watch the television at all. I quit watching the news also..If I want a weather report I step outside and look up.

    • artmodel says:


      Well if you don’t watch the news then you sure won’t waste your time with reality shows! But believe it or not, there is some good programming on TV. I am a fanatic for “Whale Wars”. Go Sea Shepherd!


  6. PADoug says:

    Art Modell Reality: Hmm, I think it may have been done already.

    But don’t worry Claudia, I can’t imagine ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox spending hours editing out “body parts” by putting those silly flesh colored dots everywhere.

    If they do ask you to model for a show, I would suggest you absolutely INSIST they only film you fully frontal nude to make them work for their money! Just kidding of course. No need to add to the perception of exhibitionism.

    Let them play their games. Art will continue to thrive, so long as people have the urge to create and explore. Just ask the astronauts of the moon landing (Historic 40 years, you and I both share, Well, I just turned 41). Don’t loose your vision over simple vanity dear. Cherish the opportunity to know that some some people sit on their asses and make more asses; while we enjoy getting off ours to run wild and free like the wild horses.

    In kindeness,


    • artmodel says:


      Those are some unique comments! But I can assure you I would never appear on a reality show of any kind. Honest, candid blogging and nude art modeling is more than enough “exposure” for me! 😉

      I like the wild horse analogy. Thanks for that!


  7. Stephanie says:

    I, for one, love reality shows. Now, I’m not talking “The Bachelor” or a sleaze-fest like “Temptation Island.” If I’m ever that interested in the amorous relations of others, I’ll stick to porn — it’s much more intimate. However, there are a number of very worth-while reality shows on TV that I find to be highly entertaining and even edifying.

    There are 4 reality shows that I adore — American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway and Top Chef. Of those 4, the only one I can call a guilty pleasure is American Idol. The other 3 are amazing venues for creative and talented individuals to get a little recognition. What could possibly be wrong in that?

    Additionally, not all reality shows are determined to show the cattiness between competitors. In fact, the dancers competing on So You Think You Can Dance couldn’t be more supportive and loving of one another. Each week, viewers get to see incredibly talented, aspiring young dancers perform in brilliant pieces choreographed by persons emininent in their field but completly unknown to the layperson. As Debbie Allen recently said, this show is not a competition, “[it’s] a conversation that’s connecting a community of dance around the world.”

    The reality shows on Bravo are wonderful in that they introduce us to different professions and industries while (usually) maintaining the dignity of the participants. Shows like Project Runway and Top Chef reveal a behind-the-scenes look at the things we take for granted in our day-to-day existence. Once again, they showcase talented and creative individuals while entertaining and educating viewers. So bring on the ganache!

    I’m not sure how a reality show for artists would work. However, if it is handled with panache, it could be great! There are so many imaginative individuals out there and I welcome the opportunity to hear from them and see their work. If the show does not rise to the occasion, then big deal. We don’t need to tune in for episode 2.


    • artmodel says:

      Stephanie!!!!!!!! You go girl!! 🙂

      Nobody explains or advocates their take on things better than you. With regard to this post, I consider those shows like “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” in the tradition of good old-fashioned “talent shows”, which they are. I know they’re categorized as “reality” but I don’t agree with that label. It seems like any show that isn’t a sitcom or a drama is automatically a reality show. “Project Runway” is very entertaining but I’ve never seen “Top Chef”. And I hate “The Apprentice”.

      The shows I dislike are the ones where a bunch of people are thrown together either in a living quarters or an island, or are competing in a setting that isn’t respectful or dignified. It’s those conflict-baiting shows that I just can’t stomach. People screaming at each other, hurling insults, etc. If I wanted to see that I could just watch cable news 😆

      Your last paragraph has now made me feel intrigued about the art world show! And you’re right, if it sucks we just stop watching, and it could very well get cancelled if they can’t make it work.

      Thank you Stephanie!!!


  8. DaveL says:

    I also don’t include those talent shows in the “reality” category. I agree, they follow in a pretty much ancient tradition. Some are done better than others in terms of being actual talent shows and not fake soap operas with the behind-the-scenes antics. And they give some folks with amazing talent a place to display it.

    And, I’ll make a confession. There was one reality show that I did enjoy. It didn’t last long, but it was hysterically funny. Did you ever see “Fire Me”? It was a competition between two contestants who were given low level, usually customer service-type jobs and the task of getting fired as close to 3 p.m. as possible without going past that time. The one fired closest to 3 won. I’ll always remember the guy at a coffee shop counter who hit on every single person he waited on, regardless of age or gender. Then there was the woman in a small dress shop at a mall who walked around the shop singing opera at the top of her lungs.

    We all have to have our guilty pleasures.

  9. Jennifer says:

    The concept of a ‘reality show’ for artists sounds fairly boggling – but, as some of the comments note, might just work because so much of contemporary art is about flash and ego anyway! I’ve been taking my daughter to singing workshops in London this week and while she was there, I’ve filled the days by catching up on exhibitions I would normally not get to see and it’s been – well, I could say an eye-opening experience, because I’ve seen such a huge variety of art, both old and contemporary, which I’m still assimilating. Years before reality TV became popular, we did have a low-key ‘reality’ art show in the UK, though it was far too genteel to be thought of as that. It was called ‘Watercolour Challenge’ and I only caught the last couple of series, but I loved it, even though I’m not a landscape watercolourist. It was fascinating to get a hint of the thought processes that went behind interpreting the scene people were given. However, sounds like the US show will be rather more extreme than that! And we’ve just had a week’s worth of life models on TV, created by ArtAngel, who put on ‘alternative’ art shows. Each day a well known artist would draw a model in various poses, with the intention that the viewer draws along too – I’ve got them held on the V-box with the intention of giving it a go when I get chance. So I guess we’ve almost had the art model reality show!!

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