We’re all finding different ways of coping with being stuck at the home during the lockdown. Some people are nurturing new passions for crafts, from knitting to felting to jewellery-making. Others are taking to the kitchen, discovering new recipes and baking more bread than they could possibly eat. And of course, all of us are just trying our best to get on with it. Whatever that might mean for each of us.
Personally, I’m extremely grateful in these times for the arts. Not just fine art of the sort you might find in our museums. But everything: from Netflix to books to Hollywood films to music. And particularly, I’m grateful for podcasts.
I’ve been an avid podcast-listener for years, but I’ve definitely upped my intake during this pandemic. And since we’re a company primarily focused on art and art history, I wanted to share the best art podcasts and podcasts about art that I’ve listened to, before and during the lockdown. So, in the hope that it might help to you keep sane, here are my top five podcast episodes about art.
WNYC’s Radiolab is the King of Podcasts. This is a hill I’m more than willing to die on. Some of the stories they cover are truly jaw-dropping. A lot are subtler, and make you think in an entirely new way about something seemingly mundane. The show is also beautifully produced, and best listened to alone in a darkened room. Can you tell I’m a fan?
If you’ve never listened before, you could dive into any episode. But since we’re dealing with podcasts about art here, Unravelling Bolero is a good place to start. It tells the story of a woman who became obsessed with Maurice Ravel’s famous composition, Bolero, and attempts to recreate it through the medium of painting.
The Week in Art is a weekly podcast from The Art Newspaper. While some of its episodes can be a little dryer than some of the other art podcasts mentioned here, it’s a good place for up to date, informative commentary on the art world today.
The episode I’m recommending here, Who Owns the Parthenon Marbles?, is a good place to start. It gives an overview of the controversial history of the Parthenon Marbles (known in the English-speaking world as the Elgin Marbles), and how they came to be at the British Museum. More interestingly, it also brings the story right to the present day, as the hosts ask: how will the Brexit negotiations affect the situation?
The British Museum has two podcasts: the British Museum Podcast and the British Museum Membercast. They both offer interesting, informative episodes about the history of the museum and its collection. In short, they’re both a great way to experience the museum at home.
In this episode of the British Museum Membercast, presenter and comedian Iszi Lawrence talks to Clive Gamble, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton, to tackle one of the biggest questions out there: what makes us human?
As the name suggests, Art History for All is a podcast which aims to make art more accessible. Naturally, we’re big fans here at THATMuse! Each episode, writer and host Allyson Healey focuses on one work of art. I’m recommending this episode in particular, mostly because it focuses on one of the highlights of several of our treasure hunts at the Louvre: Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa.
As always, the episode is a deep-dive into both the historical, political and social context for the piece, as well as its composition and reception. The whole thing is told with a completely unpatronizing, informative and fun tone (well, maybe this episode in particular isn’t super-fun, but that’s no surprise given the subject).
Did you read our recent blog post on tales of scientific subterfuge at the Natural History Museum? If so, you’ll be familiar with this story. In 2009, the Natural History Museum Branch in Tring, Hertfordshire, was the victim of a very strange crime. An American music student named Edwin Rist broke in overnight and stole almost 300 rare bird specimens. He later stripped these of their feathers, which he sold to fly-fishing enthusiasts. Fly-fishers use the feathers to make colourful, exotic lures. And they’re and are willing to pay a fortune for the best feathers.
Listen to the episode to hear this bizarre story covered in much more detail – including why fly-fishers are willing to pay such a high price for feathers, and what happened to the remaining feathers after Rist was caught. It’s not so much a podcast about art, I suppose – although fly-fishers would probably say their colourful, intricate lures are very artistic. However, since it features one of our museums, it’s worth including here.
What are your favourite podcasts about art?
Or indeed about anything! Let us know what you’re listening to in the comments. And if you’d like to get regular updates from our blog, sign up to our mailing list!