Ugo Nonis on His Work of Art Elimination: “I Don’t Think Keith Haring Owns Lines”


Last week on the season premiere of the BRAVO reality show Work of Art, the first contestant eliminated was Ugo Nonis, a tall, dark, and handsome Frenchman whose thick-lined pop-art squiggles the judges’ repeatedly derided as aping Keith Haring. “They say good artists borrow and great artists steal,” offered gallery owner Bill Powers. “This feels like something borrowed.” Tonight, the second episode airs at 9pm, and stars Voice cover subjects Sucklord and Michelle Matson.

We spoke to Ugo about what it was like to be the first man eliminated, the Keith Haring comparisons, and his roommate Sucklord.

How do you think you were represented on the show?

I think I came off okay. There was definitely [an emphasis on] the French accent, but it’s fine. I didn’t feel too stupid watching it and saying, “Oh my God. Why did I say that?”

What do you think about the judges repeatedly comparing your work to Keith Haring?

I can see the similarities in his work and what I do, but I think my work is also like another 1000 artists out there. If you look at Keith Haring’s style–I’m not talking about the content, I’m talking about his style–I don’t think it’s that original. I’ve seen artists do that type of work before Keith Haring did it, and it never really stopped Keith Haring from doing his thing. The style that I’m using is similar to his, but I don’t think Keith Haring owns lines.

Is the Keith Haring comparison a criticism that you’d heard before?

I don’t take it as a criticism. I’ve heard that compliment before–and I welcome it, really. It’s where I am in my career. Who knows what’s going to happen, really. I’m an artist, I’m alive, and I’m going to keep creating.

What did you think of the Sucklord when you first met him?

When I first met him, to be honest with you, he was hiding behind a hoodie and facing the wall. I was like, “Holy shit, who is this guy?” I remembered, “This is reality TV.” The second I met him, [I realized] he’s got a charming personality. I’m super-glad that I got to meet him. I wish him the best of luck for the rest of the season because I think he’s pretty awesome.

Sucklord was your roommate, right?

Yeah. Uhhh. Ahhh. I don’t know if I can talk about that. It wasn’t on the show.

Publicist breaks in: Yeah, if possible, we can just stick to what had aired.

Oh. [Pause] Okay. You were definitely painted as the handsome and exotic cast member.

Really? I didn’t get that.

Well, you were.

[Laughs] It’s my fake French accent that I worked on really hard for the show.

Are you surprised they eliminated the handsome and exotic cast member first?

MMM. I was surprised no matter what. But you know what? When you look at the contestants, they all have a good reason to be there. I wanted to go a lot further. It’s hard to differentiate the reason why I’m out. It’s a complicated machine. A lot of it is out of my control. But I don’t feel mistreated or misrepresented.

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