by Mary Fletcher

Artists compete to win a paying commission from one homeowner

Three artists go round the potential client’s house, as they put it, ‘snooping’. They meet the buyers and pitch for a commission. One is thrown out. The remaining two make some art. The buyers choose between the results. Most of the art is absolutely dreadful and so is the rest of the encounter. The presenter says things like how amazing it is that the artists are all so different. None of the buyers betrays the slightest dislike of the works presented. The buyers in general are overcome with emotional reactions of admiration and sentimental attachment to personal references in the work – symbols of their dead relations or their recent marriages.
We get glimpses of the artists filing, casting, sticking or painting. They are all mutually appreciative of each other’s efforts. They all say the works are good value for money. A selection is made – quite often the buyers buy both works. In general it’s a lot of kitsch, twee, well-crafted birthday card sort of banality. The works are presented in the buyers’ homes to universally awed friends. There’s a certain fascination with guessing who is rejected, with seeing the apparent genuine effort and appreciation involved. I am personally longing for a reaction of horror and rejection, just one, like there used to be on the programme where interior decorators presented people with a room that might appall them.
I was telling a neighbour about the program. Why watch it, he says, if it’s so bad? Is it the absolute dearth of any good TV about living artists? Is it liking the idea that people are encouraging folk to buy art? Is it a superiority complex stoked by comparing my work with these? Is it longing just once to be impressed? Am I hoping for out-takes where the presenter reveals what he really thinks?
Aargh! But there I am recording it!

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