A New Web Series That Aims to Demystify the Art World
Contemporary art is having a breakthrough moment, thanks in part to celebrity crossovers, ubiquitous fashion collaborations with artists, and record-setting auction returns. But why is it still so difficult to talk about?
For curators and collectors, thinking and speaking about art is second nature after years spent in the field. But with the audience for art expanding, the art world’s daunting vocabulary remains inaccessible to many. A discussion that bridges these two worlds is still missing.
Earlier this year, Sonia Tower, of Ovation TV, introduced me to Shaw Bowman, who had come over from Comedy Central and was set to produce Ovation’s first original Web series. Shaw wanted to tackle the world of contemporary art, bringing it into the realm of entertainment while still being informative to a wider audience.
My role was to provide art-world expertise, and Shaw reached out to artist and comedian Casey Jane Ellison to create a character who would serve as an intermediary between the art world and the viewer, mixing sincerity with skepticism.
The result is the brisk, three-minute talk show Touching the Art. Casey’s blunt questions take aim at the barriers between the uninitiated viewer and contemporary art, and her panel of art-world professionals helps demystify the most fundamental issues surrounding art and its place in broader society.With two episodes finished, I talked with Casey about our experiences working on the series:
Casey, how did you see your role in this project?
I wanted to take part in a conversation about art that’s self-aware and interesting. I wanted to help facilitate that and participate in it.
Now that you’ve seen the first two episodes, what are your strongest reactions?
Shooting was incredibly fun because it was the first time that I got to meet these women (artists Catherine Opie and Mary Weatherford, writers Jori Finkel and Carol Cheh, and gallerist Michelle Joan Papillion participated in the two pilot episodes), and I learned a lot that day. I was playing the role of a host who didn’t have clear answers to these questions, and that role actually came true. I became a student by listening to their responses and participating in the conversation.
I think this series offers a view into real discussions that are happening face-to-face between artists.
We decided to have all female panelists, but that wasn’t the intention at the outset.
Conversations today are still dominated by a male force, and this was a way to open the discussion. I think it’s a nice change. I also think it’s not a big deal. We take a defensive stance on that choice, but if we didn’t mention it, I don’t think anyone would care.
In a sense, it also makes the acerbic aspect of my character more unexpected. Some viewers will see me as being “mean” to the guests, but if I come off that way to someone, I think it says more about them than it does about me.
For more information, visit www.ovationtv.com/touching-the-art.
Photos: Courtesy of Touching the Art