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This is the second time so far this season that my task as mentor was to wake up the contestants at some unbelievably early hour. You can imagine how early I had to get up that morning to be ready for shooting at 5:30am sharp. When watching the episode, it gave the impression that I was chirpy and full of eagerness and energy to start the new day. I can assure you that it was an optical illusion, since by temperament I am a night bird and I sometimes find it agonizingly hard to get up at the crack of dawn. I always felt people in the auction world were working incredibly hard, but when I see the hours that people in the world of television are clocking my full respect goes out to them. Getting all packed into a small van with the remaining nine contestants and driving out to the impressive plant of the New York Times was actually a most fun experience. It is the longest time I have had the chance to hang around with them, since my contact otherwise is strictly limited to my studio visits and to the gallery openings. Despite the competitive nature of this show, I felt a very positive spirit of camaraderie between the artists and that all of them regarded it as a great opportunity and as a rewarding experience. The printing plant itself was truly impressive, the filmed segments give a sampling of its magnitude. It must be the largest newspaper printing facility of its kind in the world. In the context of the speed of light changes that are due to the advent of the digital world, it also already feels like a symbol of the past. The choice of Adam McEwen as a guest judge for this episode was an inspired one. Some of his earlier work is directly newspaper related. The wind is blowing heavily into his sails these days. An exhibition with his new work is currently being shown at the Marianne Boesky Gallery and two days before the airing of this episode I had the privilege of selling one of his recent works for a new record price of $150,000 at Phillips de Pury. Adam McEwen generously had donated a work for an auction to benefit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. As someone who is frequently asked to conduct charity auctions, I have huge admiration and respect for successful artists who give something back. It is always the same artists that are solicited over and over again. By far the most generous artists in that respect are Damian Hirst and Chuck Close. Over the years each of them has donated works worth millions of dollars. Besides their artistic merits this is something that needs to be honored.
Now to the works of the contestants: Young's work in support of Ai Weiwei was very simple and its impact was all the stronger as a result of it. Dusty did an equally powerful work. Of all the contestants he has the best feeling for scale and proportions. Walking into the gallery his work's wall power was instantly evident. For once on my studio visits Lola knew already pretty well what she wanted to do and I am happy to see that she made it into the top bunch. Bayete's work looked initially promising with his golden doors and I am sad to see that the final execution and his defense of the piece during the crits did not prevent his elimination. Had I known that the comments I made to the Sucklord would trigger him to do a work that was potentially worse, I might possibly have held back. Every episode reveals different aspects of his personality that are endearing and highly entertaining.