Art Incubator

MICA hosts candidates to be the next great American artist during the Smithsonian-MTV show, “The Exhibit”

When the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden partnered with MTV on the new docuseries, The Exhibit, its makers pursued what they called an, “art-for-everyone ethos.” The unique take on reality TV followed seven American artists over the course of six episodes, so that the show’s judges were able to assess a body of work. More importantly, the format gave audiences insight into the creative process. From ideation, execution, critique, and iteration, the series made clear that artmaking is experimental by nature and is as much about cultural exploration as it is about technique and craft.

Because the artists required studio space and access to fabrication resources, The Exhibit needed a partner in the art world beyond the Hirshhorn. It was only natural they came to MICA. As one of the top art colleges in the U.S., and one of the Baltimore-Washington region’s leading art institutions, the College has the kind of state-of-the-art facilities needed for the series’ intensive artmaking and for the MICA students who, everyday, embark on the same kind of creative trial and error approaches as The Exhibit’s contestants.

The Exhibit was filmed almost entirely at the College, with the featured artists given studio space on campus and access to fabrication labs and other tools, where they worked with everything from paint to linocut to 3D printing. During the show’s run, the museum’s director, Melissa Chiu, led a rotating panel of art world judges — among them MICA President Sammy Hoi, artist Adam Pendleton, and critic Kenny Schachter — who evaluated the originality and execution of the works. The show’s finale culminated at the Hirshhorn, where winner Baseera Khan one of two 2022-2023 McMillan/Stewart Endowed Chairs in Painting at MICA was invited to exhibit and received a $100,000 cash prize.