Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Manet Go Digital: Art Museum Podcasts on iTunes

Muse­ums have always been in a tricky posi­tion. Instead of bring­ing art to the pub­lic, they have made the pub­lic come to them. And, even while they did this for per­fect­ly log­i­cal rea­sons (the works of art are price­less and del­i­cate after all), muse­ums have nonethe­less lim­it­ed their abil­i­ty to reach more peo­ple and pro­mote a wider appre­ci­a­tion of fine art. But thanks to pod­cast­ing and oth­er dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy that may soon begin to change.

In recent weeks and months, sev­er­al major art muse­ums have launched pod­cast col­lec­tions that give the pub­lic eas­i­er access to art edu­ca­tion as well as infor­ma­tion about their wide-rang­ing art col­lec­tions. For starters, The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art in New York has post­ed on iTunes (get the rss feed here) a series of pod­casts fea­tur­ing both artists talk­ing about their work and New York celebri­ties read­ing from artists’ writ­ings. (You can lis­ten, for exam­ple, to Kevin Bacon read­ing excerpts from the let­ters of Vin­cent Van Gogh.) Next, we move a lit­tle down­town to The Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, oth­er­wise known as MoMA (iTunesfeed), which offers an exten­sive col­lec­tion of edu­ca­tion­al talks, includ­ing the art crit­ic Michael Fried in a lengthy con­ver­sa­tion about the work of Edouard Manet, and a series of talks about Dada and Sur­re­al­ism. Mov­ing west to the Philadel­phia Muse­um of Art (see col­lec­tion on iTunes), you can down­load edu­ca­tion­al dis­cus­sions about the work of Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Eakins, among oth­ers. Final­ly, mov­ing much fur­ther west to San Fran­cis­co’s SFMOMA, you’ll find some stel­lar pod­casts (iTunes —  Feed), includ­ing the entire audio tour of the muse­um’s Anselm Kiefer exhi­bi­tion. (The pod­cast col­lec­tion assem­bled by the Hir­sh­horn Muse­um & Sculp­ture Gar­den also has its own talk about Kiefer­’s work, plus many oth­er good lec­tures.) Final­ly, anoth­er SFMOMA pod­cast worth your atten­tion is “Mex­i­co as Muse,” which gives a brief intro­duc­tion to the life and pho­tog­ra­phy of Tina Mod­ot­ti.

Many oth­er major muse­ums — The Nation­al Gallery in Lon­don, The Smith­son­ian, The Art Insti­tute of Chica­go, to name a few — have recent­ly launched sim­i­lar pod­cast col­lec­tions. They’re young and some­what light on con­tent, but we sus­pect that they, too, will grow over time. We also sus­pect that many of these muse­ums will even­tu­al­ly give you the abil­i­ty to down­load their audio tours to your own iPod, sav­ing you the has­sle of rent­ing the muse­ums’ audio devices. You can find these pod­casts, as well as many oth­ers, in our Arts & Cul­ture Pod­cast Col­lec­tion.

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