Rank #1: Art Theft and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
On March 18, 1990, two thieves entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole 13 objects from the museum's collection. This incident, which has remained largely unsolved, has drawn attention to the problem of art theft in the contemporary world. In today's episode, we discuss the heist, some of theories regarding who was involved, and the issue of art theft more broadly.
Rank #2: Claude Monet and the "Birth" of Impressionism
In August, The Art Newspaper reported that Donald Olson, an astrophysicist at Texas State University, had pinpointed the exact moment that Monet painted his work Impression: Sunrise to 13 November 1872. The report described this moment as the "birth of Impressionism." In today's episode, we discuss the painting and unravel some of the problems of this claim.
Rank #3: Turner's Seascapes
Joseph Mallord William Turner has been the subject of a number of projects recently, from the 2014 biopic Mr. Turner to the exhibition J. M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free (currently on view at the De Young Museum in San Francisco). For today's episode, we discuss Turner's depictions of the sea, a subject he represented throughout his career and which helps us understand the complexity of his art and ideas: the picturesque, sublime, engraving, etching, Immanuel Kant, Goethe’s color theory, Isaac Newton—we’ve got it all in here!
Rank #4: Dismaland: Art as Politics
This past August-September, a seaside town in England hosted a very different kind of holiday attraction: a dystopian theme park by the anonymous street-artist-turned-legit-artist Banksy. Called "Dismaland," the park, erected on the site of a derelict lido, was actually a curated exhibition of works by dozens of artists, all of which expressed critical views of mainstream culture and politics. In this episode, we introduce you to Dismaland through a discussion of street art and Banksy's oeuvre; look closely at a few works on display; consider the ways in which Dismaland intersects with three major trends in contemporary art; and talk about the fate of Dismaland as recycled materials for a notorious refugee camp near Calais, France.
Rank #5: Jeff Koons
The biggest show of the year in New York (and maybe America, or the world) closed this weekend: the retrospective of Jeff Koons at the Whitney Museum of American Art. While Koons is a controversial figure who has achieved more commercial than critical success, the consensus about this show seems to be that the works, in the end, are indeed masterpieces. In this episode, we put aside the hype and look very closely at three sculptures spanning the artist's career, in order to see if there is more than meets the eye.
Rank #6: Kara Walker's "A Subtlety"
In today's episode, we discuss New York's summer blockbuster exhibition, Kara Walker's A Subtlety. Walker is a prominent but controversial artist who makes art that comments on social problems related to race and gender; this work was the result of an invitation to make a work inside the defunct and soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and drew tens of thousands of people in two months.
Rank #7: Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist and political activist who has been named the most influential artist alive. A retrospective of his work has been touring the U.S., and his name is constantly in the news (whether for his art, his run-ins with Chinese authorities, or his internet memes). While his activism has earned him international acclaim, it tends to overshadow his art; in this episode, we focus on looking closely at three of his major works, in order to understand the importance of his choices as an artist (and not only as an activist).
Rank #8: Halloween Special: Romanticism and the Dark Side of Things
Happy Halloween! In today's episode we discuss Romanticism, a period that produced some of our favorite creepy images in the history of art. Romantic artists like Caspar David Friedrich, Francisco Goya, William Blake, and Théodore Géricault explored themes of death, despair, the sublime, and madness––perfect for your Halloween enjoyment!
Rank #9: Thomas Kinkade's Industry of Light
In today's episode, we discuss one of the most popular and controversial artists of the last century, Thomas Kinkade (1958–2012). Kinkade's works often depict a pristine, idyllic, timeless past that continues to resonate with viewers. Many in the art world, however, have consistently criticized Kindade for glossing over the more problematic aspects of our collective past, as well as for his business and studio practices.
Rank #10: NYC's Buried Treasures
It's that time of year (well, one of those times of year) when tourists flood our city of New York. If you're planning a visit, check out today's episode, in which we discuss some of our favorite less-traveled haunts!