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Sarah Jessica Parker Has Highbrow Hopes for Art-World Reality Show

Can reality television make a meaningful contribution to intellectual life? (Beyond making fodder for cocktail-party chats on the decline of culture, that is?) Sarah Jessica Parker, whose production company created the new Bravo show Work of Art, thinks so. As she explained last night at a Paley Center panel introducing it, she hopes that the reality competition will move Americans to “start thinking about art, and realizing that they have opinions and start exploring art in their own communities.”

The show’s judging panel, which includes gallerists Bill Powers and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, auctioneer Simon de Pury, enthusiast China Chow, and New York art critic Jerry Saltz, all agreed that the show, which debuts June 9, should make fine art more accessible. “I don’t think we made it for an insider art-world reaction,” said Greenberg Rohatyn. “Really, our interest was more the museumgoer in Des Moines or the artist in St. Louis — to open up the dialogue and to be inclusive.”

But this is a competition, right? Did the show uncover a major artist? After a long, awkward silence and some hesitant titters from the panel, producer Dan Cutforth claimed that they had indeed found a “great” artist. And as Powers pointed out, the show’s prize, a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum, could be a doorway to greatness: “Just the platform and exposure that someone is going to get through that — any time an artist is included in the Whitney Biennial … some of them are really able to rise to the challenge and make good on that opportunity.” An art critic in the audience wanted to know how they convinced the Brooklyn Museum to go along with what he clearly considered to be a shenanigan. “We just asked them,” said Cutforth. “We didn’t twist any arms and we didn’t pay anyone off. We don’t have the money and we don’t have the influence.” Joked Saltz, “Who knew it was that easy? You should all be asking for shows.”

Photo: Patrick McMullan