About 75 residents of the reality-based art world gathered at the TriBeCa Grand last night to watch episode one of Bravo’s new reality show, “Gallery Girls,” which focuses on seven young women trying to make it in the New York art world.
The gates of this notoriously exclusionary realm were not substantially breached, nor was its territory accurately depicted. Not in the first episode, at least, in which the best any of the seven women can achieve is an internship with Eli Klein, the SoHo dealer of Asian art who once showed the works of Charlie’s Angels star Lucy Liu.
The show wastes no time lowering your expectations. “I grew up watching Sex and the City,” says one of the subjects onscreen (was it Kerri, the blond go-getter with the great bone structure, or Maggie, the petulant strawberry blond? hard to say, the intros go by so fast), “obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw’s life.”
The seven young women serve as foils in a class war between the trust-funded and the strivers, between Manhattan and Brooklyn (no other boroughs exist for our heroines, apparently). Those who actually have to earn money can’t work unpaid internships. So with loans from family, Chantal Chadwick and Claudia Martinez Reardon start a Lower East Side clothing and design boutique that features some art. “I interned at the Gagosian,” says Martinez Reardon. “Not my jam.”
Liz Margulies, daughter of Miami collector Martin Margulies and thus by far the show’s most high-profile subject, scores an internship with Klein, who, rejecting another prospective intern, shows her out, saying, “I’m happy for you that you got to meet me.”
Klein is plainly thrilled to have bagged such a specimen as Margulies. In one off-camera moment, he offers to buy her a coffee. Liz points out to the camera that she’s happy to do anything that involves sitting in a chair. “Eli knows that if he bosses me around, I’m going to get pissed off and tell my dad.”
A competing intern, Maggie Schaffer, who has interned for Klein for three years, is at one point sent to fetch coffee for the dealer, who specifies that she should stir in the sweetener before delivering the drink. When she disappears from her internship out of pique and then reappears in hopes of resuming it, Klein, apparently unaware of her long tenure, agrees that no one should have to work unpaid for more than, say, 30 days.
Kerri Lisa, who supports herself with a job in hospitality but, inspired by visits to European museums, hopes to get into art, loves the art world’s parties and openings: “It’s like, who am I going to meet? Who am I going to go home with? It’s fun.”
Amy Poliakoff was, it seems, in the news before the show’s debut. According to Thomson Reuters, an Amy Poliakoff sued the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in 2011 when they flunked her, demanding a return of her $43,940 in tuition and other damages. (Poliakoff’s counsel, Lefkowicz & Gottfried, declined to say whether this was the same Poliakoff, citing confidentiality agreements. Bravo has not yet returned our call but an off-the-record source at Sotheby’s confirmed her identity.) She is depicted as a party girl living on her father’s money and working an internship at Coplan Hurowitz Art Advisory. When she goes to the beauty parlor for eye treatment and says, incredulously, “A hundred lashes?” the viewer will be forgiven for imagining another variety than she has in mind.
Not much art is shown in episode one, which instead features cattiness and rivalry among the seven women, and overweening narcissism. Ridiculous statements by the show’s stars abound, and elicited raucous laughter among those watching with A.i.A.; at other moments, the audience was dead silent with embarrassment, for example when model/aspiring photographer Angela Pham wonders, “Who wouldn’t want to sleep with me?”