Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Exhibitionists

While we're on the topic of art on television, here's another programme about art. The Exhibitionists is an art programme which those of us who live outside Wales will not have seen. (As with yesterday - some of the links below are accessible to anybody anywhere in the world - even if you can't access iPlayer)

I came upon it accidentally when researching for the previous post Show Me the Monet - X factor for Artists?.  The programme is only being broadcast in BBC Wales but is available for all to see on iPlayer (if you can access iPlayer!)

The programme is the result of a collaboration between BBC Wales and The National Museum of Art in Wales, in Cardiff.

The programme is very odd.  If yesterday was "The X Factor" for Artists, then The Exhibitionists appears to be "The Apprentice" for non-artists (these are the contestants)

I think what's beginning to concern me is that the BBC is "dumbing down" art by making it into a game show activity with all the silliness and wasting of time which could be given over to real content that this involves.

This is Phillip Moss, the Commissioning Executive for BBC Wales, explaining how The Exhibitionists came about.
We wanted to bring a reality format to a programme about art, with our 'Exhibitionists' being whittled down each week in a way that would be very familiar to viewers of Masterchef or The Apprentice.
This might be OK is there was surfeit of art on the BBC - but there isn't.  Why doesn't he explain why a reality show format was judged to be the best format for making art accessible?  Just because something is popular doesn't necessarily make it appropriate.  Are we going to get "Angry Birds do Art" next?

The basic aims behind the programmes of opening up the Museum of Wales in Cardiff, making it less intimidating and getting new people though its doors are all absolutely fine.

The question is - bottom line - does it really have to be a reality/game show format which makes art more accessible?  Are the BBC seriously saying they lack the imagination and creativity to come up with new ways of doing that - and have to rely on what are becoming quite tired formats which work better in other spheres of interest.  Just because it might work for cake-baking doesn't mean that it will make people rush out to art galleries.

I'm also very puzzled, if the aim is to make the art more accessible, why so little effort is put into promoting the associated websites which open up the scope of art in Wales to those who watch the programme or access the programme via iPlayer.  These are simply not highlighted enough on the iPlayer website.

Interestingly the tasks involved with the episodes to date are actually interesting and a real challenge.  They help people understand more about what's involved in exhibiting art to the public.

For me this is a programme which is might well have a place in the schedules - but only if equal time is devoted to a more in-depth and educational approach to art.

Here are the links to the episodes on iPlayer.  The OTT "blurb" comes from the BBC not me

  • Episode 1: In a ground-breaking new series, five members of the public compete for the chance to stage an exhibition at the National Museum of Wales - choosing works from the huge national collection, much of it stored in the museum's underground vaults. The exhibition will be staged in the prestigious Gallery 24 in the National Museum of Art in Cardiff and will be open to the public for eight weeks. In this episode, the competitors get the run of the stores for the first time, and must also conduct a guided tour in the world-famous Impressionists gallery. 
  • Artworks from episode 1
  • Episode 2: Five potential Exhibitionists have become four and the remaining competitors have to identify works of art from the stores of the National Museum of Wales. Together these works are worth over £1.5 million, and one is by arguably the greatest artist of the 20th century - but which one is it?
  • Paintings from Episode 2
  • There are two more episodes to broadcast in July 

Art in the National Museum Wales


  1. It's interesting to contrast the woeful lack of art coverage in mainstream media with the burgeoning independent scene. Look at the Urban Sketchers phenomenon, which has brought together professional and amateur artists from across the world.

    Evidently TV people are responding to what they perceive as public demand, and I don't think interest in art history is that great. Of course there's no reason why art should have to be viewed through the prism of art history - you can have more fun bringing artists to life as was the case in 'Desperate Romantics', the show about Pre-Raphaelites - but unfortunately the majority of people who write and broadcast on the subject are art historians.

    Really, I think that if we want people to take more of an interest in art we have to encourage the MAKING of art in schools, clubs, etc. There's an understandable tendency for people to view art as something created and enjoyed by an elite - people who are good at drawing, rich enough to collect or educated in art history.

    As the Urban Sketchers movement shows, get people drawing themselves, encourage them and give them an outlet for their work, and they will respond with enthusiasm!

  2. Another art reality show you may or may not be aware of is "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" an American art competition show which if following your reality show comparisons appears to be "Project Runway" for art students.

    It starts with 15 students who work through a set of challenges to compete for a solo exhibition, it's an interesting serise.
    It's on Sky Arts so isn't easily accessible, but well worth a watch if you can.


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