artnet Asks: Touching the Art Executive Producer Bettina Korek

Why the entertainment business is where the art action is.

Bettina Korek.
Photo: Andreas Branch for Patrick

Casey Jane Ellison, Bettina Korek, Jori Finkel, Catherine Opie.
Courtesy Bettina Korek.

In June, Ovation launched Touching the Art, a humorous fine arts–related web series hosted by Casey Jane Ellison. Ellison interviews her guests—which, as part of its stated plan, will always be a panel of women—with the kind of humorous and awkward antagonism reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis’s internet comedy series Between Two Ferns. The executive producer of the show is Bettina Korek, founder of For Your Art, an LA–based organization that produces and hosts events that encourage engagement with art.

The first episode included a panel of formidable, successful women: Korek, writer Jori Finkel, and artist Catherine Opie. While you may at first be thrown by the host’s demeanor, or wonder whether or not you’re meant to take her seriously (sample question: “Is art somehow better if it’s made by someone who starred in Transformers?”), according to Korek, it’s all part of opening the conversation, making art more accessible, and getting the audience involved. We caught up with Korek during a recent trip to New York.

Touching the Art is shot in LA (the first episode was filmed at Regen Projects), and all the guests are Los Angeles–based. Does this show reflect an LA state of mind?
I think that it’s exciting that the show is coming out of LA because obviously so many ideas and values are transmitted through entertainment. I think with so many artists in LA right now, with that becoming the defining characteristic of the city in a way, it’s exciting that this is coming from there. I think also reflects that flattening that we think of when we think of LA—the landscape, the somewhat less hierarchical nature of the ecosystem. It counters the idea of putting art on a pedestal. In that way, it does reflect an LA sensibility.

How did you get involved?
I came to this through Sonia Tower (president of the Ovation Foundation) who introduced me to Shaw Bowman, who oversees their digital media. He had been wanting to engage a conversation and was interested in Casey Jane Ellison. Shaw brought the three of us together, to think about what layer of the conversation was missing. This is an opportunity to take a step back and think about how impenetrable the conversation about art that we have tends to be.

The show is sort of a microcosm for the experience we have looking at art. It’s exciting that more and more museums are focused on engagement and audience development. That brings with it a real conversation of what is going on in peoples’ heads when they’re looking at art. They don’t always know what it is. I think, in a way, the show has that same quality.

Casey’s very different from your average talk-show host. How was she to work with?
I think Casey’s character embodies a lot of stereotypes about people’s responses to art. It’s great how it’s hopefully giving access to conversations that aren’t generally made public like this. It’s interesting watching it with people who are in art and outside of art, seeing whether or not they feel like she’s frustrating. I like that people have different reactions to her. I think it reflects how successful she is in this role. She’s an artist and a comedian. She started a cult. She’s exploring what it means to be an artist and move through these different personalities.

What other artists would you like to see on the show?
I’d love to see Andrea Bowers on the show. She’s someone that is uniquely able to give a very straightforward perspective on complicated dynamics.

Do you have the next show lined up?
Not yet. But we aren’t against having a man here or there.

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