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Bravo’s Gallery Girls, our latest TV guilty pleasure, is as real as a botoxed forehead

Not so very long ago at an art opening, a small dishwater blonde came creeping about with a strained look on her face. “I heard you speaking English,” she said softly, “and I was hoping I could hang out with you.” I looked around at my fellow Anglos, and responded, “Sure. Why the hell not?”

It turned out that she was a young journalist from New York. She was in Montreal checking out a couple of festivals specifically, and the scene, in general. We got to talking, and she let drop—in an oh-so-casual-but-pointedly-not-so-casual way—that while she was but a tadpole in the shark tank called Manhattan, she had connections where it really counted. “Yeah,” she said, “my sister is quite the ‘it girl’ on the gallery scene.” Then she mentioned a name, and searched my eyes for a flicker of recognition.

And the name, you ask? Couldn’t tell you. Not because I don’t want to (I so love you all), but because a) as soon as she said the name, I promptly forgot it and b) it was nobody of import. To me, anyway. Regional social cachet rarely travels well. This being said, I’m sure her sister was very key in NYC. Or, at the very least, Chelsea.

 

Gallery Girls is Bravo’s newest “docu-series”, featuring the highly edited lives of seven vainglorious twenty-somethings desperate to climb the ranks of New York’s art scene. All aspire to be curators, art advisors, artists or gallery owners someday. For now, however, most are consigned to be the assistants and the ass kissers, the unpaid interns and the low-level sycophants. Now, I could try to recount the names of these characters…er, people, but I presume, if you’re anything like me, you’d be hard pressed to remember who’s who (even by episode four). Better I should tell you how they distinguish themselves. There are the Brooklyn/Lower East Side girls, and the Upper East Side/Gramercy girls. There are the wealthy daddies’ girls, and the outré, middleclass upstarts (some with daddy issues). There are those who flip the bird to interning at the established galleries, and strike out on their own, and those who’d rather hang than get their hands dirty. There are those who dress in black and smudge carmine on their lips (and inadvertently, teeth), and those who think “peroxide” and “frosted mauve” are legitimate hues on the colour wheel.

There is also a pompous schmuck of a gallery owner who is positioned as a would-be villain (typified by such lines as, “I’m happy for you that you got to meet me”), but he is neither here nor there.


As much as there are extremes painted in stark relief on Gallery Girls, there are also the much welcome shades of gray—the personalities and moments that dance in between. One particular young woman comes from a working class family, has the striking bone structure and golden mane of a high-society thoroughbred, lives paycheck to paycheck in the West Village, hustles hard at two high profile jobs, and seems to bridge the divide between the uptown and downtown denizens on display. 

But the real fun is in the extremes, is it not? Which is why most viewers will tune in week after week. Bravo is now the bastion of new camp after all, with its self-aware (but sometimes deliciously not), slave-to-fashion mean girls happily playing it up for the camera. The younger viewership will love Gallery Girls for its Girls meets Sex In The City “real life” storylines (it gleefully references SITC several times, giving the show a strange sort of ouroboros quality.) The older viewership will love rolling their eyes and squirming uncomfortably at the folly of youth. As for the rest of you? You can tune in occasionally to scream at the ugly scenic cutaways, edited through what appears to be those wretched Instagram filters, and pooh-pooh the inaccurate depiction of the art world writ large. You’ll be in the fine company of several critics who slammed the show, even before it premiered.

 

Gallery Girls
Mondays at 10 p.m. on Bravo TV