Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Art That Illustrates (Not Imitates) Life

From what I can tell, someone who is (at best) barely acquainted with me clings to the impression that all I do is drink, travel, and watch Bravo’s Real Housewives.

She’s left something out. I also watch Gallery Girls (still Bravo).
I couldn’t have cast it better myself. Not everyone can relate to a subset of rookie go-getters who have moved to New York to stake their claims in the contemporary art world. But anyone who has recently spent entry-level time in a competitive, elitist, commercial, glamorous-to-outsiders industry will be familiar with the people in this neighborhood: the trust fund kid; the little brats who might as well have been set up with trust funds, what with the high-end parental handouts they collect; the middle-class-bred voice of reason who works the hardest and whines the least; the too-cool-for-mainstream-mores hipsters whose funky attitudes start to make mainstream mores look marvelous. All that’s missing from this lineup is the tragically innocent pushover (the one who doesn’t “need alcohol to have a good time”) who steadily gets eaten alive.
One lesson a walk through this landscape can drive home: elitism comes in many different shapes, structures, and socioeconomic situations.
I react to TV shows the way I react to people. I respect the real deals and stay clear of the phonies with the predictably limited and smooth-talking scripts. By now, most of us know that reality-show storylines entail a fair amount of behind-the-scenes producer-generated manipulation. But reality-realm producers can’t be held accountable for everything seen on screen. For example, if you’re wondering why six of the seven Gallery Girls cast members are white, don’t pass too much judgment on Bravo – take a long look at the industry it documents.  
The last scripted show I occasionally followed was Dawson’s Creek. “Nor should you,” one character would say to another. Yes, script-keepers, that’s a very accurate representation of how Generation Y teenagers in the United States troubleshoot with each other.
 “I hate Brooklyn,” a just-out-of-college, non-native Manhattan resident blurts out on Gallery Girls, staring down the camera with an exhausted grimace. There’s not a producer on the Bravo payroll who’d be willing or able to regulate rawness like that. 


  1. LOL! Have you ever watched Gilmore Girls? I always thought it utter ridiculous how the characters spoke to each other - no one talks that fast (well, not an entire town, maybe one or two nutcases). And every time I saw an episode on, I'd find myself thinking "no one actually talks like that".

    My favourite scripted line has to be from Gossip Girl when Serena tells her mother "I want to find myself" and her mother, Lily, responds: "Honey, no one ever 'finds' themselves. We all just Live". Now theres a true line, if there ever was one ;)

  2. I confess I have not seen Gallery Girls...just the short promos. Maybe I am misunderstanding what actually happens in the show...but the impression I have is that these are young women who try to look beautiful at gallery openings, and expect someone from a gallery to hire them on that basis. I operate in a subset of the art world: fine-art photography galleries. That is not how I see people getting hired. Most gallery assistants have been art majors in college and have a degree to show for their efforts. They are serious, educated people looking for a job. Many will go on to get a masters or a Ph.D. A strong percentage are hired on the basis of recommendations from professors, and they fly in for an interview. After they are hired (if they are hired), they come into New York to look for an apartment, and, hopefully, get settled. Another strong percentage are themselves artists, and working in a gallery is how they seek to support themselves. Of course, there are many who are unpaid interns. Not all of these are rich kids, by any means, but, yes, someone is paying the bills, and it is probably the parents, for a few months, anyway. I'm still puzzled by what is meant by "Gallery Girls" as a term. What I see in galleries are hard-working young people (male and female) with a background in art and also good computer skills.

  3. I love finding a show that fits me. I am strangely attracted to Long Island Medium...

  4. I enjoy a good reality show, and a good guilty pleasure, but I am discouraged by the recent flavor of many of these shows. The formula of hate-these-pretty-empty-souls seems like bad juju. I have never seen Gallery Girls, so no judgement there.

    Elitism is a cruel part of human nature. And don't we all get our first taste in grade school when the in-group and out-groups establish themselves?