On the three television screens in his apartment Monday night, art dealer Eli Klein sported a gray suit and gelled hair as he gave orders to two girls who landed internships at his SoHo gallery.
It was the premiere of “Gallery Girls,” a Bravo reality show that follows the adventures of seven 20-somethings at the low end of the pecking order in New York City’s art world. Klein, 34, is one of the main characters.
Off-screen he seemed more boyish and low-key as he mingled with clients, friends and family members lounging on beds and sofas in his SoHo flat. He wore his shirt untucked and regularly checked his iPhone for Twitter mentions of his name.
“Kinda shocked that Eli Klein agreed to appear on #gallerygirls. He must enjoy being a villain,” wrote Benjamin Sutton, an editor at Artinfo.com, in a Twitter post.
In the show Klein was brusque with interns at his SoHo gallery, which specializes in contemporary Chinese art. These are unpaid jobs requiring low-level work and often given to the presentable offspring of wealthy families.
In the show, Klein quickly sends one applicant packing: “You don’t speak Chinese and you haven’t graduated from college.”
At the party, the dealer’s father, Richard Klein, said, “He is a sweetheart.”
Another “Gallery Girls” party was hosted in an apartment across the East River in Brooklyn by art bloggers Marina Galperina and Paddy Johnson. Galperina had published a drinking game on her AnimalNewYork site before the show started at 10 p.m.
Players had to take a drink every time any one of eight things happened in the show, including: “someone mentions their parents” or “someone refuses to do basic work” or “someone’s cleaning in heels or any other similarly ludicrous combination of inappropriate attire and physical labor.”
Could they get seriously drunk by the episode’s end?
“We are taking sips, not drinks, because it’s a Monday night and we have to go to work tomorrow,” Galperina said. “I have to curb my cynicism.”
As their guests drank chilled rose and crunched baby carrots, the two women shared their reactions on Twitter.
“I dunno. I liked #gallerygirls,” wrote Johnson, editorial director of a blog called Art Fag City. “Based on the twitosphere reaction though, I think I might be alone in this.”
A Twitter post from Art Fag City blogger Corinna Kirsch called the show “a drunk ‘Mean Girls.’” “OMG I’m already bored,” wrote Hrag Vartanian, editor of an art website Hyperallergic.
At Klein’s apartment in Manhattan, Amy Poliakoff, another “Gallery Girls” cast member, squeezed her Tory Burch clutch as she watched a scene. A childhood friend of hers who is one of Klein’s interns ridiculed Poliakoff for babbling and drinking too much.
“She was very mean to me,” said Poliakoff, 25, wearing Valentino heels and a little black dress by Catherine Malandrino. “My image is exaggerated a little bit, but it makes things more entertaining.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.