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9 art podcasts to keep you inspired during lockdown

Published 1 May 2020

Plug in your headphones, sit back and relax with one of these podcasts, transporting you into the art world from the comfort of your front room.

  • 1. The Lonely Palette

    Tamar Avishai worked for years as a lecturer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, unpacking masterpieces from its collection to aid visitors’ appreciation. Now an independent podcast producer, Avishai shakes up the traditional roles, instead inviting unsuspecting museum-goers to share their observations as a basis from which to explore iconic works. What follows are warm, accessible, often revelatory dissections of the different artworks, from Patty Chang’s Melons (At A Loss) (1998), which saw the performance artist slice through ripe cantaloupes attached to her chest, to René Magritte’s The Son of Man (1964) – the one where, as one viewer puts it, the man “has a damn apple in front of his face”.

  • 2. Bow Down: Women in Art

    With nine episodes each just 20 minutes in length, you could devour this series on trailblazing female artists in just three of your allotted daily outings. The pithy format means host Jennifer Higgie dives right in, probing different guests about their chosen artist from the past. Results include cultural historian Shahida Bari on her fascination with two of the RA’s founding members Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, film theorist Laura Mulvey on the explosive talent of Chantal Akerman, and Turner-Prize-shortlisted artist Helen Cammock on Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

  • 3. Meet Me at the Museum

    Once a throwaway text to a friend or aunt, the proposition “meet me at the museum” now carries a sense of nostalgia, redolent of carefree Saturday afternoons before lockdown began. It is also the name of an Art Fund podcast, the latest series of which arrives as a memento from happier times. Writers, actors and TV presenters nose around various institutions with a companion at their side, offering listeners trapped at home the chance for a vicarious afternoon out.

  • 4. Dialogues

    Art gallery David Zwirner’s podcast series Dialogues acts as a kind of art world blind date, bringing a different duo of guests together every episode to discuss a shared passion relating to the field of art. Listen to classicist Emily Wilson – the first woman to translate the Odyssey into English – ponder the epic poem’s enduring power with painter Chris Ofili. Or eavesdrop on Swedish artists Mamma Andersson and Jockum Nordstrom, a couple for thirty years, reflect with gentle humour on the ups and downs of their shared creative lives.

  • 5. Only Artists

    More creative matchmaking here, as BBC Radio 4 invites two artists from different disciplines to meet – often for the first time. With no presenter guiding the format, conversations freewheel into delightful territory, often peppered with sweetly starstruck moments as one artist shyly describes their admiration for the other’s work. With seven series to sink your teeth into, why not start with the most recent, which includes numerous rendezvous with Royal Academicians, including Chantal Joffe hanging out with critic Olivia Laing, Antony Gormley and the Irish novelist Roddy Doyle, and Norman Ackroyd reflecting on the glory of the natural world with writer Robert Macfarlane.

  • 6. Sculpting Lives

    “I struggle with being boxed,” remarks artist and new Royal Academician, Rana Begum, on Sculpting Lives, an incisive series on the lives of female sculptors. Introducing listeners to five artists – Begum, Phyllida Barlow RA, Barbara Hepworth, Kim Lim and Elizabeth Frink RA – the show’s hosts, art historians Jo Baring and Sarah Turner, determine how each has upturned their own set of expectations, carving a permanent place for themselves in the canon of sculpture.

  • 7. Stance

    A wide-ranging culture podcast presented by curator Chrystal Genesis. Delivering a fresh perspective on a broad mix of subjects, from art and music to science and celebrities, Genesis covers stories generally missed by mainstream press. Some of our favourite dispatches include a trip to La Colonie, an art space set up by the artist Kader Attia for young people from minority groups in Paris to debate issues of race and identity (Episode 25), and a visit to the south-east London studio of Royal Academician, Vanessa Jackson, to chat about the relationship between colour and mood (Episode 33).

  • 8. Recording Artists

    There is something irresistible about listening to great artists of the past speak aloud. While you’ve no doubt pored over countless images of them in their studio, or perhaps admired their personal effects in a museum, nothing has the same spine-tingling immediacy as hearing their voices in your ears. Using archival audio interviews, Helen Molesworth assesses the output of six women artists, letting their words guide our understanding. Hear Alice Neel on motherhood, Helen Frankenthaler on the anxiety of influence and Betye Saar on discovering “your particular jelly bean” – that thing that makes you uniquely you.

  • 9. Talk Art

    A podcast with all the gossipy, twinkly glamour of an opening night private view, Talk Art has proved a runaway success, even garnering coverage in the New York Times. Guests such as Elton John, Tracey Emin RA and Ian McKellan join actor and collector Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament to discuss their personal relationship with art. The spontaneous format – where Tovey and Diament fire off thoughts and questions seemingly ad hoc – injects the conversations with a chatty, sometimes playful informality, making it easy company for your next government mandated walk.

    And while we hope that’s enough to keep you amused, informed and entertained, why not sample the RA’s own collection of streamable talks and podcasts, available on Soundcloud: Paul Smith on creativity, Rose Wylie RA in conversation with Frances Morris, Peter Blake on the artist’s tools and many more…


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