Bravo's Work of Art has come to an end, declaring the next Greatest Artist In the World (or something) and sending China Chow back to the tupperware in which she surely must sleep. (She's aged approximately three days in the past thirteen years.) So how'd it all turn out? Are we satisfied? Hm, well, not really.
As Ken Tucker astutely points out, the final episode was kinda weak. Or, at least, the final collections kinda were. Because the convictions behind them were weak. Basically Young and Kymia both completely threw out their shows after Simon came to visit them and said he responded to the personal stuff the most, and they both ended up creating ham-handed things about their dead fathers. Dead fathers are like a hallmark of art, this is true! But just hanging some of his shirts on the wall and hot gluing photos to them is not really art worthy of $100,000. Or even the possibility of $100,000. That was what Young put out, while Kymia did some cool drawings but then had to go and overstate by building three coffin-like things and filling them with dirt and sticks and stuff. Oh, coffins! Like death. Now we get it. Just very literal stuff, guys. And stuff that didn't even seem that genuine. It felt deliberately tearjerk and it was surprising to see the judges so snowed by it all.
Sara Jimenez, who always seemed more serious than Young and more in control than Kymia, did a show that was not solely about death (there was definitely still death in there) and also incorporated mixed media and themes in interesting ways -- there was a lot of paper and allusions to birds and bugs -- and even if some of her stuff was a little done-for-her (i.e. just using notes people wrote you as 'art' doesn't really count, maybe) it was definitely the most interesting of the evening. And yet! And yet the judges sent her home first, perhaps because her show didn't make China Chow cry, and that was in the fine print of the contract she signed. Sorry, Sara! You're the true moral victor, if that counts for anything. (It does not count for anything, if you consider that the actual victor got $100,000 while the moral victor just gets blog shoutouts in exchange for not working for three months.)
So it was between Young and Kymia, Young who had won so much throughout the season because of his obvious statements about things (blacked out newspapers are about a missing writer, a big pink board that said 'Prop 8' is about... Prop 8) and Kymia who spent most of the season weeping at art tables. And the surprising winner was, gasp, Kymia! Whoaaaa. That must have been rage-inducing for Lola, huh? And the other one that didn't like Kymia? Ha, that's kind of satisfying to think about. And really I'd much rather have had Kymia win than Young. Look, Young's whole thing was very sentimental and personal for him, absolutely, but he took preexisting photographs and preexisting shirts and hung them up on the walls and that was kind of it. Kymia at least made some stuff. So, well done Kymia. Not that thrilling of a conclusion, but a conclusion nonetheless.
Will this show get another season? Well, that remains to be seen, but we certainly hope so. We're hooked! There's something admirable in this reality show, in its struggle to frame high art in a easily consumed way. Sure it mostly doesn't work -- well, at least most of the art comes across a little elementary -- but artists are weird and fun to watch and Jerry Saltz is an effectively bitchy judge and, of course, our beloved China Chow is an imperious restaurant heiress ageless witch creature and we love her for that. So, work on, Work of Art! Maybe next season don't cast so many people who are exactly the same. (See: Kymia, Sara, Lola, and like three others.) Oh, and why not have season one's Miles stop by for a visit. He doesn't have to say anything! Actually it's probably better if he doesn't say anything. He can just stand there and look pretty, and Jerry, and those at home, will nod and say "We have a winner."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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