Grennan & Sperandio – looking for ‘reality’ in the world of art

invisible city - a comic book project by grennan and sperandio

Deitch Projects – the gallery of uber-art-scenester Jeffrey Deitch – is launching ARTSTAR, a reality TV show based on the lives and practises of contemporary artists:

ARTSTAR is the first-ever unscripted television series set in the New York art world. Selected from this open call, eight artists will have the opportunity to participate in a group exhibition at Deitch Projects, and may have a chance to land their own solo exhibition with Deitch Projects. ARTSTAR will document these eight artists as they interact with leading critics, collectors, curators and artists in New York, while making new artworks as part of a historic collaborative exhibition at Deitch Projects.

My first response is glee, as I’d imagine the programmes would be a glorious litany of tantrums, egos, posing and naked desire. But looking through the (limited) information on the website, I see that Christopher Sperandio, part of the artistic partnership Grennan & Sperandio, is listed as an executive producer.

I’ve long been a fan of their work, which involves an almost ethnographic immersion into an exisiting community, with the final artwork as a collaborative production with people from the community. Recently, their work has focused on comic books that illustrate the lives of people in specific communities. They did a version of this project with people in York for the Photo 98 festival, when I was production manager at Impressions Gallery.

The comic books are perfect vehicles for the vernacular stories they uncover, and are seen as mainstream products, distributed by Fantagraphics or DC as well. In the light of Sperandio’s involvement, ARTSTAR is an extension of their practise, using another vernacular vehicle – the reality TV show – to uncover the invisible lives and stories of a particular community – the NY art scene.

The success may hinge on whether this is as empowering an intervention as most of their work. Starting with their ground-breaking contribution to the show ‘Culture in Action’, where they worked with the unionized employees of a Chicago chocolate factory to design and market their own chocolate bar, their work has used cultural production as a tool of empowerment. Will ARTSTAR do the same? We will see artists taking power of the medium to wrest control of the artworld’s economic hierarchy? Or will it just focus on the most telegenic spats and hissy fits and synch them to a retro-punk-funk soundtrack?

We Go It - a collaborative art project by Grennan & Sperandio

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