Emma Allen

Artless in America

Artless in America: For the Final Installment of Her Column, a Few of the Columnist’s Favorite Things

Room Number

As a mopey tween, I dreamed of following the example of Claudia Kincaid, the protagonist of E.L. Konigsburg’s celebrated children’s book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: I would hide out in a bathroom stall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until closing, and live in the Met, spending my nights curled beneath a musty duvet in a period bedroom. Read More

Artless in America

In the Name of Science, the Columnist Gets Scared at MoMA

Not haunting MoMA. (Photo by Martha Holmes//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

It is an unfortunate fact that when I get scared, I cry. Until I decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art, scare myself silly, and then look at One: Number 31, 1950 by Jackson Pollock, however, this was not something that affected my journalistic endeavors.

This self-inflicted terror was all in the name of science. My aim was to test out the theories of New York-based researchers Kendall J. Eskine, Natalie A. Kacinik and Jesse J. Prinz, who recently published an article in the journal Emotion titled “Stirring Images: Fear, Not Happiness or Arousal, Makes Art More Sublime.” Read More

Artless in America

On the Road… in the Wilds of Denver

Ed Ruscha, "Brakemen Eat," 2010. (Courtesy the artist and Gagosian)

I don’t really get the West. I find it hard to conjure up an image of a fruited plain or purple mountain that isn’t Hanna Barbera-esque. When I used to play the Oregon Trail computer game, my covered-wagon-mates would all perish before you could say “Donner Party.” I’m the kind of New York snob who, throughout all her out-of-tristate American experiences, keeps up a constant refrain of “Aren’t the people so nice?” and “Aren’t the portions so big?”

So when I found myself at the Denver International Airport, standing between a Starbucks and a tornado shelter, I started panicking. Read More

Artless in America

Artless in America: In Her Inaugural Column, the Columnist Learns to See Spots

Spots. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

In the two years since I became an arts journalist, my interaction with art has been marked by weird flukes, awkward mishaps and, generally, bizarre situations. I conducted an interview with pop-music princess Katy Perry, who had just been painted, nude, on a cotton candy cloud, by Will Cotton; I nervously perched on a $28 million Eileen Gray chair at Christie’s; I almost spooned with Marina Abramović on a giant beanbag in Atlanta.

Throughout, I’ve often had the sneaking suspicion that I’m the wrong woman for the job. After all, I’m a veritable queen of calamity, prone to bumping into priceless objets. And I wondered, as perhaps most of us do, whether I was actually any good at looking at art—I get fidgety staring at anything for more than a few minutes. Read More


A Piece of Work: Watching Bravo’s Art Reality Show So You Don’t Have To — Looking Back on Season Two

Young Sun, Kymmia, Sara (Photo courtesy of Heidi Gutman/Bravo)

After spending the holiday season absentmindedly spilling eggnog on ourselves as we brooded over how we might pay apt tribute to the now completed second season of Bravo’s reality seminar on the state of the art world, we recalled our school days, and specifically the “lecture poems” we would occasionally compose. One penned such a poem by scribbling snippets of a professor’s biweekly homily in one’s notebook, and then, without changing the order of any of Professor So-and-So’s comments, excising words until what remained was well-wrought verse, rife with the feeling of the lesson, if not its drier facts. Read More

Work of Art

A Piece of Work: Watching Bravo’s Art Reality Show So You Don’t Have To – Episode 9

"Work of Art." (Bravo)

Paul Gauguin sailed all the way to French Polynesia to find his languidly exotic Tahitians. Swiss photographer Robert Frank drove straight across the U.S. to document the utter weirdness of The Americans. Diane Arbus plunged into the seedy underbelly of New York to bring back traces of its oddballs and freaks. Now, the art historians behind Bravo’s reality gem Work of Art: The Next Great Artist have brought this time-tested trope of artist-as-pioneering-colonizer/anthropologist straight to your TV set. On last week’s episode, Work of Art’s scholars argued that to be a truly great artist, one must leave the comfort of one’s Midtown West condo and vast studio space and venture out into the great unknown, to unveil the secrets of the “other” that inhabits the dangerous wilds beyond. Read More

Work of Art

‘Work of Art’ Recap, Episode 9: Reality Goes Upstate


“Come for a day, stay for a week,” reads the tourism website of Cold Spring, New York. That’s a fine slogan, but it did not, alas, apply to our intrepid contestants on Bravo’s Work of Art: The Next Great Artist this week, who were destined to hop a train from Grand Central for a brief, nervous jaunt up and down the town’s Main Street, during which time they marveled at how picturesque (read: creepy) everything was and how weird the locals were, before fleeing back to the (much less weird and creepy) world of reality television. Read More

Work of Art

A Piece of Work: Watching Bravo’s Art Reality Show So You Don’t Have To – Episode 8

"Work of Art." (David Giesbrecht/Bravo)

“Throughout history, artists have always faced a struggle with art versus commerce,” Work of Art: The Next Great Artist contestant mentor and real-world auctioneer extraordinaire Simon de Pury professed, with the sweeping arm gesture of a true scholar, in the latest episode of our favorite reality-TV survey on the Art World at Large. We eagerly nodded as we scribbled “history = art v. commerce” in our Trapper Keeper. If it’s on Bravo, it’s probably true. Read More

Work of Art

‘Work of Art’ Recap, Episode 8: Take It Off, Take It All Off

Selling art to Simon de Pury, on Work of Art

“The following program may contain material that is unsuitable for young viewers. Parental discretion is advised,” read the ominous title card preceding last night’s episode of Bravo’s art-world reality romp, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Immediately thereafter, the sassy sex-kitten contestant, Lola Thompson, — who probably still gets carded trying to buy tickets to R-rated films — proclaimed, “I need to put more of myself out there to show the judges more of who I am.” One didn’t really need to keep watching. It was already clear that Ms. Thompson was going to get naked. Read More