Top Chef made terms like sous-vide and velouté household names for loyal viewers. But can Bravo's latest reality competition show, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, make the art world accessible?
That's what executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker and everyone involved in the lively new show are banking on.
"I hope it inspires viewers or at least inspires dialogue and conversations," host China Chow tells PEOPLE about the show, which debuts Wednesday (11 p.m. EST) on Bravo. "Maybe it makes them want to be creative. I think any of those things, to any degree, would be a positive thing, which is why I wanted to be involved. And they can disagree with us and they can like the art or not like the art."
With 14 artists, spanning all mediums and ages – and all vying for $100,000 and a show at the Brooklyn Museum – there's plenty of personality flying along with the paint.
"They’ll surprise you," Chow says. "There are some contestants you think, 'This one’s gonna win the whole thing.' I saw audition tapes ... them talking about their previous work and all that kind of stuff, and based on that, I thought I had it all figured out. Boy, was I wrong."
Mentor Simon de Pury, chairman of an art auction house, echoes the sentiment.
"Very much like in the art world at large, you have very strong personalities, some very strong egos, which is natural because artists tend to have large egos," he says. "Because very often it’s all about yourself because you create a work of art and normally you are all in your own bubble, in isolation, and that’s why it was so brave of these contestants to compete."
In the first episode alone, which finds contestants challenged to produce a portrait of a fellow competitor using any technique they prefer, the diversity of styles and strong reactions to the work prompt some tensions in the workroom – not to mention when it's time for the judges panel (which includes New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz and gallery owners Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Bill Powers) have to critique the work and (eventually) send someone home.
"They definitely did learn from another and got inspired from each other," de Pury says of the artists, who all work in the same space. "You see some artists where you felt in the beginning, 'My god they are not doing that great.' And surprisingly they go very, very far in the competition."
"So, some of the results were very surprising," he says, "and that’s why I think it going to make for a very interesting program because of all the suspense and unexpected turns."
Tell us: Will you watch Work of Art? Are you excited about this new reality competition?
Sarah Jessica Parker's Work of Art Lets the Paint – and Personalities – Fly
06/09/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT