The Smithsonian and MTV are launching a reality television art competition


The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC is launching a reality competition art show, The Exhibit: Finding The Next Great Artist, which will air both on MTV and the Smithsonian Channel. The winner of The Exhibit will win $100,000 and a solo exhibition at the Hirshhorn.

Artists competing in The Exhibit hail from throughout the US, with three of the seven based out of the greater New York area, and others from Miami, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis, with work that runs the gamut from painting and sculpture to video, performance and more. Many of the competing artists have already shown their work widely, both in gallery and institutional settings; they include multimedia artist Jillian Mayer, who has had solo-shows at the Perez Art Museum and elsewhere; sculptor and performance artist Baseera Khan, who had a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2021; and Misha Kahn, who is represented by gallery Friedman Benda. The other competitors are Jamaal Barber, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Clare Kambhu and Jennifer Warren.

The show will be hosted by MTV news anchor Dometi Pongo, with Hirshhorn museum director Melissa Chiu taking on the role of “lead judge” and accompanied by fellow judges including artist Abigail DeVille, art world digital strategist JiaJia Fei, Maryland Institute College of Art president Samuel Hoi, artist Adam Pendleton, art collector and former NFL linebacker Keith Rivers, artist and critic Kenny Schachter and writer Sarah Thornton. The series will premiere on 3 March on MTV before re-airing 7 March on the Smithsonian Channel. The winner will ultimately be announced at the Hirshhorn Ball, the museum’s annual gala.

Reality shows set in the art world have not historically been successes: there was the short-lived 2010 Bravo show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist—a competition show with what sounds like an effectively identical premise to The Exhibit, which ran for two seasons and featured judges Jerry Saltz and Simon de Pury, among others, and in which the winner won $100,000 and a solo-show at the Brooklyn Museum; Gallery Girls, which ran for one season in 2012, also on Bravo; and Artstar, the 2006 reality show that was a brainchild of gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, and which lasted one season. More medium-specific programmes like the glass-blowing competition Blown Away and the ceramics contest The Great Pottery Throw Down have found far greater success.


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