I used to think of art history as something I don’t have time for, am uneducated about, and maybe don’t have enough money to appreciate. I am unlikely to be able to afford a magnificent work of art at any time in my life, I didn’t grow up in a particularly art-appreciative home or school environment, and I don’t consider myself artistic. But since I’ve been listening to a few art and art history podcasts, I have really started to shift my mentality. Art is very culturally significant, and can capture a moment in time through the lens of a very creative person that can then be interpreted and discussed by others. And–there are a lot of fascinating stories in art history.
The ArtCurious Podcast investigates the artists, concepts, and periods of art in history. This is done through storytelling at a pace that would perfectly match a walk through a museum gallery room dedicated to that subject. Host, art historian, and museum curator Jennifer Dasal has published twelve podcast episodes to date, ranging in topics from the theories around Vincent Van Gogh’s death to the belief that some statues cry tears. Each episode, which typically lasts around 30 minutes, includes a fully researched, ad-free story. The ArtCurious website has pictures of some of the art and people discussed as a companion guide – which you definitely need if you’re learning about art.
The most recent episode, about the painters and lovers Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, was one of my favorites – they had an intense relationship and both were very ambitious, and of course that lends great material for storytelling. But my favorite episode of all is the second one, wherein Dasal poses the question: was Van Gogh murdered? Theories abound and there has been much research on the subject, but I love hearing all of that condensed into a story I can listen to in a short amount of time. For this particular episode, I really liked that Dasal provided multiple viewpoints alongside facts, and shared what she believes to be true at the end of the episode. Here are two adjacent clips from the episode – they’ll give you a feel for the type of storytelling and for Dasal’s voice as a host:
I have enjoyed the diversity of topics that ArtCurious has addressed so far; Dasal has gone back to the time of Marie Antoinette, zoomed back to the 50’s and 60’s in New York with Weegee and Andy Warhol, and discussed arguably the most famous painting ever, the Mona Lisa. I’d like to hear a bit more basic education about the art category an artist fits into (e.g. what does it mean if someone was an impressionist, in the context of the story, similar to the description in episode 9 about abstract expressionism and why that was even an art form at that time (post-WWII)). I hope to hear more international and racially diverse art history as well in future episodes. But Dasal is off to a tremendous start, and I am really engaged so far. I truly look forward to new episodes dropping in my feed.
I rate every podcast on the same eight categories (below) – every show isn’t funny, it doesn’t teach me something, isn’t always polished – but the one category that I’d say holds a little more weight than the rest is whether a show makes me a better person or not. ArtCurious’ five-star score is indicative of why I highly recommend this show. Sure, there are some kinks to work out, as there are in most shows, but these stories make me want to know more about art, to visit museums, to teach my kids that art is important and historically significant. Art is essential to learning history – who can truly learn history just by reading words? The expression captured in a work of art adds so many other dimensions to a point of time in the past. I’m really looking forward to learning more about art history through this and other shows and I invite you to do the same.
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss! Also subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter!
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (5 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (4 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (4 / 5)
Flow & Production Value (3 / 5)
One thing I think the podcast still has to work out is the background music. Beautiful music is certainly used throughout, and it’s never an inappropriate choice for the overlaid narration, but it’s distracting to me. It’s a little too loud and extensive: there are so many different melodies used throughout each episode. Background music is really tough, and to make a narrative art history podcast engaging it does need some balance between spoken word and silence, but I’d like to see Dasal continue to evolve the music approach.
Humor (3 / 5)
Investigation (4 / 5)
Storytelling (5 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (5 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (5 / 5)
Start with These Episodes:
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The Lonely Palette, 99% Invisible, Art History Unstuffed, The Sculptors Funeral