The boundary between art and pop culture has been breaking down since the latter half of the twentieth century. It’s no surprise then that the past ten years have seen several television shows that deal with contemporary art. Here we highlight a few that our readers might enjoy.

Art on television has come a long way since The Joy of Painting. In the past decade many programs have featured contemporary art, from insightful documentaries to satirical sketch comedies. Regardless of their format, they all provide a distinct perspective on the contemporary art world, shedding light on the often murky world of contemporary art in a variety of ways. Here are just some that we’ve found:

Promotional image for season 6 of 'Art in the Twenty-First Century'.

1. Art21 | Profiles of contemporary artists

Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century is a show on the US station Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS), each episode profiles one contemporary artist, the show won a Peabody Award for its in-depth and thoughtful analyses. Season six premieres on 13 April 2012 and will include an episode on Chinese dissident-artist Ai Weiwei. Art21 also produce several online exclusives and education guides for K-12 educators who want to introduce students to contemporary art. You can watch a preview of the Art in the Twenty-First Century episode on Ai Weiwei below.


2. Work of Art | Art reality show competition

Though many critics scoffed at the idea of a marriage between contemporary art and reality television, this weekly elimination-style competition has just completed its second season in December 2011. The Bravo channel show’s success is no doubt helped by the effervescent art critic Jerry Saltz, who acts as a judge, and eminent auctioneer Simon De Pury, who plays the tough-love mentor figure.

Judges and contestants from season two of 'Work of Art'.

3. ArtCops | Art theft documentary program

Six billion dollars of art and artefacts are stolen each year, pointing to a thriving art black market. Though its producers have yet to declare a release date, ArtCops will be both an intriguing glimpse into the world of stolen art and a reminder of the social and cultural losses involved in art theft.

4. Art Republik | Art series from the Philippines

Art Republik is a new television show on the Philippines’ Knowledge Channel featuring Filipino artists in a range of fields. Produced by the Asian Christian Arts Association, Inc., the show aims to introduce Filipino contemporary art and artists to a wider audience. It débuted on 28 February 2012.

5. Whole Day Down | Online sitcom

Billed as “a web series about art and the apocalypse”, Whole Day Down is an absurd take on the contemporary art world. The series follows two second-career gallery owners as they deal with eccentric artists, irritable financiers, and a host of absurd predicaments. Hilarious, and often worrisomely accurate.

Patrick Breen and Willie Garson star as two hapless gallery owners in Whole Day Down.

6. This is Modern Art | British documentary miniseries

Written by English art critic Michael Collins, this 1999 documentary won a BAFTA award for its witty commentary and insider’s look into the art world. The first three episodes can be found on Youtube. A great watch!

7. Destination Art | International art scenes

This weekly show on Halogen TV travels to a different art hub around the world each week. So far Asian stops include Tokyo, Israel, Moscow and Mumbai. Destination Art is not Halogen TV’s only art-themed show either. The network also produces Art in Progress, on contemporary art inspiration, Aperture, on photography, and Artland, on American art.

Logo for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles' upcoming online television channel, MOCATV

8. MOCA TV | Up-and-coming online channel

Part of Youtube’s new original channels initiative, MOCA TV is a diverse set of shows produced by the Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art. The network, which debuts on July 2012, will include a weekly art news round-up, a documentary about street artists, an MTV Cribs-style show featuring artists’ studios, and an art comedy series, among others.

Were there any art shows that we missed? We’d especially love to hear about programs that deal with contemporary Asian art. Leave us a comment below with your suggestions!


Related Topics: art resources, list posts, art media

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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