Proving that reality competition shows can actually increase our exposure to art and design, MTV has launched The Exhibit, a series in which seven artists compete for $100,000 and a coveted installation at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. “The artists’ mediums are diverse: they are painters, printmakers, sculptors and multimedia artists, says host Dometi Pongo. “Each week, they are given a prompt or commission to inspire their work in hopes of sparking conversations about today’s most pressing issues.”
Ready to release your inner art critic? Here are 5 things to know about MTV's The Exhibit.
The competition premiered in a vault.
“In the series's first episode, the cast, cameras and film crews were allowed into the Hirshhorn Museum’s vault for the first time ever,” Pongo declares. “For the remainder of the season, the series mostly takes place at MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art. Artists have 10 hours to complete works that respond to the weekly commission.”
Cast members aren't booted.
Unlike other reality competition platforms, there are no weekly eliminations on The Exhibit. “Given the subjectivity of art, it’s most fitting for artists to be in competition with themselves each week,” Pongo points out. “With no elimination, viewers get to see these artists grow as their work evolves and they consider feedback from the judges, and as their relationships with each other evolve as well.” Still, the stakes are high. Each commission brings them closer to a successful body of work that could result in winning the entire competition.
Why that grand prize is so impressive.
“Aside from the money awarded, institutional support can be a game changer for a working artist,” Pongo explains. “It’s not hyperbole to say that an artist showing work, and in some cases for the first time at a Smithsonian Institution museum would be career-defining for the winner of The Exhibit.”
You can see art in motion and make your own judgments.
It's a great opportunity to start those observations to analyze art from your own perspective. "For me, the series helped me to understand how important it is for the motivation of the work to be understood: Why did the artist make this particular choice? How do their life experiences inform their perspective and the way they approach the work? What larger conversations did the artists want the viewers to have," Pongo shares. "The next step is moving beyond mere aesthetics and challenging ourselves to think through the artist's perspective."
Art can be made under a time constraint.
“The artists did have some time prior to production to contemplate the prompts but it is the adrenaline and pressure of a hard deadline that can inspire ingenuity,” Pongo theorizes. “As the story goes, one of Jay-Z’s greatest albums, The Blueprint, was reportedly recorded in two weeks with nine of the songs recorded in just two days. And while it may take a little longer for paint to dry or different design elements to take shape, remember it is the artist’s motivation that imbues the work with meaning. As you’ll see in the series, the motivation behind the powerful works created this season has sparked some impactful conversations about gender roles and identity, race, religion, environmentalism and so much more.”
The Exhibit airs Fridays on MTV.