The best art-world podcasts to listen to right now
Whether you want to track unsolved art crimes, hear rare archive recordings or tune in to analysis of today’s art market, there's a podcast for you out there somewhere. Harry Seymour rounds up the pick of art-world listening from around the globe
Every Friday, The Art Newspaper releases a new episode of The Week in Art, its podcast series hosted by features editor Ben Luke in association with Christie’s.
It has quickly become one of the art world’s most listened-to podcasts, offering the latest news, views and reviews — usually two to three stories each week.
The best recent episodes from the 141-strong back catalogue include ‘Art theft: are museums safe under lockdown?’, in which the journalist Martin Bailey broadcasts advice to the thieves behind the recent Van Gogh heist in the Netherlands on how to care for the work they stole. And in ‘Donald Judd 101’, the newspaper goes some way towards filling the void left by the American artist’s three Covid-19-postponed New York shows by discussing his enduring legacy with his son, Flavin Judd, and MoMA’s chief curator of painting and sculpture, Ann Temkin.
Hosted by Jennifer Higgie, editor-at-large at Frieze magazine, Bow Down: Women in Art is a podcast series from 2019 that pays homage to eight women artists of genius. Higgie also recently revealed that series two is about to begin.
Each 20-minute episode is co-hosted by a leading curator, critic or artist, who also nominates the subject, whether it be Agnes Martin or Angelica Kauffman.
The British artist Helen Cammock, winner of the 2018 Max Mara Art Prize for Women, discusses the life of the 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi in her episode, reflecting on how Gentileschi (who was raped around the age of 18 by her painting tutor), portrayed women who grew stronger through suffering.
In the three decades since 13 masterpieces were stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, not one arrest has been made, and no credible sightings of the works have been reported.
In 2018, the Boston-based radio station WBUR and The Boston Globe newspaper reopened the case files and made a podcast about their investigation. The result is the award-winning 10-part series Last Seen.
It begins with the museum’s security guard holding the frame from which Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee was violently slashed, then twists and turns through the city’s criminal underworld, weighing up the evidence against who might have committed the art crime of the century.
In the first three weeks of its release, the show was downloaded by more than one million people. It even had its own public hotline for the sharing of additional information.
Bowuzhi, or ‘Museelogue’, is a Chinese podcast founded in 2015 which looks at global museum culture from an Asian perspective. There’s a revolving team of five anchors, including an architect, photographer and critic, who host alongside the podcast’s founder, Yu Wanying. Each episode gets around 30,000 listeners.
Some of the best recent episodes include an interview with the curator of the Golden Afghanistan exhibition at Nanjing Museum, and a show about the recently published book The Museum of Lost Art, which was written by the founder of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), Noah Charney. The episode follows on from a talk that its host, Wanying, gave at the Shanghai Sinan Bookstore about the publication last summer.
Did you know that the Acropolis in Athens was originally painted in bright colours? Or that because Britain invented the postage stamp, it’s the only country in the world that doesn’t need to include its name on designs?
Art Matters is a fact-packed fortnightly podcast, written and presented by the art historian Ferren Gipson, which tackles these and other weird and wonderful subjects, such as witches in art and a history of painting by numbers. It’s produced by Art UK, a charity dedicated to digitising works of art in more than 3,200 British public collections, 80 per cent of which aren’t normally on view.
In the winter of 2019, the British broadcaster and critic Alastair Sooke presented The Way I See It, a podcast that invited 29 creatives, including the Michelin-starred chef and co-founder of London’s River Café, Ruth Rogers, the American fashion designer Zac Posen, and the actor Stanley Tucci, to discuss a work of their choice from the 200,000 held in New York’s MoMA.
Tucci chose a bronze sculpture made by Alberto Giacometti in 1947 called Head of a Man on a Rod. Having recently directed a biopic of the artist with Geoffrey Rush in the title role, he was the ideal candidate for a lively discussion with MoMA’s senior curator Anne Umland.
Another great episode from this BBC-commissioned series comes from Janna Levin, a theoretical cosmologist and professor of physics and astronomy. She chose Van Gogh’s Starry Night, explaining how to spot Venus in the painting’s sky, and offering a fascinating theory behind its turbulent night-time winds.
At the time of writing, the Royal Academy of Arts’ podcast had 239 episodes — one of the highest numbers of any on this list. Some of these episodes, which tend to consist of artists, architects, curators and other creatives interviewing one another, clock in at well over an hour.
The majority, however, are around the 50-minute mark. One definitely worth listening to features TV presenter and Monty Python member Michael Palin talking about why he switched from making travel to art documentaries. Another is the artist Tracey Emin discussing her memories of Lucian Freud with the artist’s assistant David Dawson, which was recorded to coincide with the RA’s 2019-20 show, Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits.
Alice Neel, Lee Krasner, Betye Saar, Yoko Ono, Helen Frankenthaler and Eva Hesse all helped to shape the visual world of the 20th century. The six episodes of the Getty podcast Recording Artists use archival interviews to explore how.
The series is hosted by the American curator Helen Molesworth, who invites contemporary artists and art historians on the show to discuss the recordings, as well as what it meant to be a woman artist working against the backdrop of the civil rights and feminist movements.
Helen Frankenthaler’s interview recordings from 1968 and 1971 are a particularly poignant reminder of how the achievements of these women often went uncredited.
Each episode of the The Lonely Palette begins with the host, Tamar Avishai, interviewing unsuspecting members of the public in a gallery about one work of art. The result is refreshingly unfettered, off-the-cuff discussions. After quizzing the onlookers, Avishai then goes on her own deeper dive into the work’s history.
While ‘podcaster-in-residence’ at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Avishai made five episodes to coincide with the 2019-21 exhibition Women Take the Floor. Some of the works she covered are Patty Chang’s brilliant piece of feminist video art Melons (At A Loss), Georgia O’Keeffe’s haunting Deer’s Skull with Pedernal and Carmen Herrera’s seminal graphic painting Blanco y Verde (no. 1).
The British cultural historian and BBC presenter Dr. Janina Ramirez has been making Art Detective since 2016. The episodes fall into two groups: those that focus on a specific work of art, and interviews with a curator or writer about their area of expertise.
One of the best examples of the former is Professor Mary Beard talking about the impact of the revolutionary Ancient Greek sculpture Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles (which is known only through surviving Roman copies). An interview with medieval manuscripts curator Julian Harrison, about the historical roots of the iconography used in the Harry Potter franchise, is a fascinating example of the latter.
99% Invisible delves into the overlooked aspects of the architecture, design and culture we encounter every day, from Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia to mobile phone ringtones; from building with sand to the origins of the hit song ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’. Its brilliantly inquisitive nature has made it hugely successful (it’s now in its 10th year), and it regularly ranks among the Top 50 Podcasts on iTunes.
One recent episode, ‘Masking for a Friend’, provides a fascinating and reassuring look at the history of protective face coverings and their use against airborne illnesses.
From leading art market researchers ArtTactic comes the ArtTactic Podcast — a weekly dose of business news from industry insiders.
It’s noteworthy because of the refreshingly candid way that dealers, collectors, gallerists, heads of auction houses, financiers and journalists talk about the numbers that keep the art world turning.
Recently, the series has turned its attention to how the global lockdown affected the art world, with episodes such as ‘Shipping and logistics during the coronavirus pandemic’, in which the CEO of ARTA Shipping offers his take on the art market. And in ‘The Coronavirus’s impact on the Chinese art scene’, Lisa Movius, the Asia correspondent of The Art Newspaper, gives a first-hand account from Shanghai of the dilemmas faced by fairs, galleries, museums and collectors.
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Maria Stoljar began her podcast journey as a mission to recreate several American series in which artists are interviewed about their careers — but in her native Australia. The result, Talking with Painters, has (to date) showcased 95 artists since 2016, and while many won’t be known outside of the country, the show’s theme of how artists can make a living from their profession is a global one.
Some of the most recognisable names are portraitist Ben Quilty, who had a 2019-20 solo show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Ken Done, Australia’s answer to David Hockney. The two-part show on the vagabond Scottish painter Ian Fairweather, who drifted between trucks, boats and remote islands around Australia during the 20th century, is also worth a listen.
For Spanish speakers, HablemosArte takes an accessible approach to discussion of everything from Damien Hirst’s sharks to Dalí’s melting clocks. Huzuohuyou is a Chinese art, culture and history show in which its guests consider obscure cultural topics such as war art.
Meanwhile in France, the Musée d’Orsay’s 13 episodes of Promenades imaginaires each tell a fictional story inspired by the characters in a painting from their collection — such as Degas’ dancers or Manet’s cat. Italian listeners can enjoy an archive of podcasts produced by Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi, such as ‘Place and Identity in Italian Photography’ and ‘Cartography in art’.