From a psychological standpoint, Markus and Indrani are essential to each other's emotional needs in ways that would require all the quacks in Austria to explore. "I always encourage Markus to flirt," she says during one fashion shoot, as if unaware that providing such encouragement is a waste of her valuable time. Maybe she just doesn't really how subtle Markus is in his approach, as when he very subtly asks a model, "Are you single?" Naturally, the dynamic between Indrani and Markus creates a certain energy on the set.
It is not clear that this energy is clean. What makes Markus "hot" may well be contributing to global warming. Women's Health is a perfectly good magazine, and its photo editors are bright people, but snapping pictures of Eve for its pages needn't be a fraught existential adventure. Markus is a sadist by temperament and principle. Standing with a model on railroad tracks, he roars loader than the approaching train. "We could die right here," he says. "Who cares as long as you get the shot?" Well, there's the assigning editor, for instance, and the interns hoping for references, but he's a weird dude, and there you have it, and Indrani offers him a deconstructed shoulder pad to cry on. She even looks on supportively when Markus does an extremely strange thing by the standards of the glamour industries: Leaning in to give a young model an air kiss, he aims one at her left cheek—a rogue crossover move that a lecher or lover boy can work to his advantage.
None of contestants on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET), which is essentially Project Runway gone to the Saatchi Gallery, would ever attempt that shady lip maneuver. The majority are too polite, and even the megalomaniacs have a sense of politesse. The show is a civilized place—a salon where aspiring artists and judges discuss critical values and aesthetic issues directly, with concision and sincerity. Also, the contestants are saving their lips for kissing ass at studio crit.
The season began with 14 wannabe art stars scratching and gouaching and conceptualizing away in search of the big prize, which includes a solo show at the God-do-I-need-to-move-out-of-Brooklyn Museum. Try rooting for tireless Miles, the baggy-eyed installation artist. Go to Bravo's Web site to relive the dismissal of Trong, who tried to perpetrate a lame-ass metatextual autocritique that wouldn't have impressed any kindergartener familiar with the Postmodernity of SpongeBob SquarePants. Know that each of the artists here is a child of Pop, intuitively and definitionally. Each of them rolls the creative process, the finished work, and her public performance as an artist into an eager consumer package. They're all operators with soundbites on line one.