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: 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 #6: 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!
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: 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 #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: The Parthenon Marbles
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Parthenon (a temple atop the Acropolis in Athens that was constructed in the 5th century BCE) had fallen into a state of ruin. From 1800 until 1812, Lord Elgin, who had been England's Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, removed approximately half of the Parthenon's remaining marble sculptures, eventually selling them to the British Museum where they are currently housed. In today's episode, we discuss the history of the marbles, and the various arguments for keeping them in England and for returning them to Greece.
Rank #11: KITTEHS! (i.e. Cats and Art)
It's our 20th episode, so we decided to talk about two things that are near and dear to us: cats and art. Listen as we discuss four works of art that feature cats as well recent exhibitions of cat imagery, and ultimately try to answer the question: what can cats tell us about art?
Rank #12: 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 #13: Grand Transit: The MTA and Grand Central Terminal
Continuing with our recent theme of New York City architectural and cultural gems, today's episode delves into one of the most vital elements of the city's infrastructure: its transportation system. Listen as we discuss the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Transit Museum (located in a decommissioned subway station), and the crown jewel of the train system, Grand Central Terminal.
Rank #14: The Seasons
Spring has finally sprung in New York City, so we decided to spend an episode discussing how artists have represented the seasons , using four very different examples: the medieval cathedral at Amiens, 16th-century Netherlandish artist Pieter Bruegel's The Harvesters, François Boucher's series Rococo tour de force called The Four Seasons, and Wassily Kandinsky's abstract quartet of paintings on the same subject.
Rank #15: Construction Controversies
In this episode, we look at the ongoing debate over the proposed expansion plans of two beloved NYC museums: MoMA and the Frick. - See more at: http://www.arthistory.today/#sthash.200u0nvd.dpuf
Rank #16: Art and Crisis in the Middle East
The rise of organizations like ISIS (or ISIL) has brought attention to the looting and destruction of ancient artifacts in the Middle East. In today's episode, Colette LeRoux and Gina Konstantopoulos join us to discuss the history of looting and iconoclasm in the Middle East, and how contemporary events and civil strife are impacting research in their fields.
Rank #17: Four Updates
When we started Art History Today and its podcast, State of the Arts, we wanted to show how art and its history make and inform the news. Because many of our topics are stories that have continued to develop, we're using today's episode to review updates to four of our previous episodes. FYI, we're also continuing to update our coverage of these stories through posts to our Facebook page, and also, to the original blog posts for each episode.
Rank #18: Charlie Hebdo and the Tradition of French Political Satire
In today's episode we discuss the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo, whose offices in Paris were attacked on January 7th, 2015. Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy, having produced cartoons that have invited criticism and even violent action for decades. In its images, we can see the continuation of a long tradition of French satire, the characteristics of which we focus on in the episode.
Rank #19: Art Market Mayhem (with special guest Natasha Degen)
On November 12, 2014, the auction house Christie's hosted its annual fall auction of major works of postwar and contemporary art in New York. With sales totaling $852.9 million, the auction now stands as the highest-grossing auction in history, and has led some to speculate that the billion-dollar auction is imminent. In this episode, Natasha Degen, an expert on the art market, joins us in discussing how the art market works, as well as its history and future, and its relationship to larger social and economic trends.
Rank #20: Fascist Aesthetics
In recent months, the term "fascism" has appeared frequently in the media. Many pundits have argued that the political tactics and rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump echo those of fascist leaders like Benito Mussolini and Hitler. On the other hand, a smaller number of pundits have made the same claim about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, the 2016 Olympics in Rio marked the 80th anniversary of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which expressed the fascism of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. In this episode, we discuss the rise of modern fascism; outline the major characteristics of fascist aesthetics; and look at a few examples of fascist aesthetics in practice, from the 1930s to the present day.