Here’s my guide to the best podcasts for art and culture lovers.
Do you have extra time on your hands? Are you craving some creativity? As a swimmer without a pool, I’ve been taking long walks and listening to podcasts to keep my mind busy and soul nourished.
And these are good times for listening. This may be the golden age of podcasting. If you can’t go to a museum and don’t want to sit at your computer gazing at virtual museums, podcasts are the next best way to experience cyber art, culture, and history.
Here are my picks for the best arty audios to keep you going or on the move. You can learn about the lives and works of famous artists, scandalous events in art and world history, UNESCO sites, and pop culture phenomena.
The Top Podcasts for Art and Culture Lovers
1. Art Detective
What’s it about? Dr. Janina Ramirez, who describes herself as a “medievalist,” hosts this podcast. It gives you bite size snapshots of the world of art history. With expert guests, she decodes and unravels the truth behind a particular art work, brings it to life, and puts it into its historical context. You get a double dose of art and history.
Try this episode: Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam (discussion of how Michelangelo created the centerpiece of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican)
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic
2. Cultural Gabfest
What’s it about? Culture Gabfest is an award winning Slate podcast. It features Slate culture critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner debating recent cultural happenings or phenomena. They discuss a myriad of topics from highbrow to lowbrow, including films, TV shows, books, and cultural trends in society.
Try this episode: Spoiler, Tiger King (analyzing the so-called documentary and its many villains)
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify
3. Stuff You Missed In History Class
What’s it about? This twice weekly podcast is for history buffs. Hosts Holly and Tracy discuss quirky episodes in world history and fascinating historical figures, things not covered in your generic history class. They have two special series on Offbeat History and one on Classic History.
Try this episode: Marchesa Luisa Casati (a look at the startling life of the eccentric Italian heiress and art patron)
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Spotify, RadioPublic, Apple Podcasts
4. Tate Shots
What’s it about? The Tate Museums in London are some of the most iconic art museums in the world. The Tate Shot podcast tackles the goings on in the museums, spotlights iconic works of art and artists, and conducts artist interviews. Expert hosts give you a 20 minute mini cyber art lesson.
Try these episodes: Auguste Rodin — The Kiss (analyzing Rodin’s most famous piece of art) or The Art of Creativity (exploring the myth of the tortured artist)
Where to listen to it: Tate.org.uk, Apple Podcasts, Player FM
5. Revisionist History
What’s it about? This podcast is Malcolm Gladwell’s journey through overlooked and misunderstood events in history. Each episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea—and asks whether we interpreted it right the first time around. Sometimes a second examination sheds a more accurate light, or gives a different spin, on the topic.
Try this episode: The Lady Vanishes (a popular painting by a female artist never accepted to the Royal Academy)
Where to listen to it: Revisionist History website, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify
6. The New York Times Book Review
What’s it about?: This podcast purports to “take you inside the literary world.” The NYT Book Review’s editor, Pamela Paul, speaks with authors, critics, and NYT reporters about the latest book releases and other bookish news in the literary world.
Try these episodes: A History of Seduction or Parenting When the Family Is Locked Inside
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, NYT app
What’s it about? This is technically a YouTube channel, but feels more like a podcast. It’s a somewhat more academic site with hundreds of videos about individual works of art, architecture, and UNESCO sites.
The video podcasts are presented as a conversation between two art historians, usually the enthusiastic Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris. I enjoy them and think the pair find a way to bring even esoteric art subjects to life.
Try these episodes: Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome (exploring a “new” site from ancient Rome), The Case for Mark Rothko (why the artist’s hazy rectangles are important), or Edouard Manet’s Olympia (the Musee d’Orsay painting that caused a scandal and changed art history)
Where to listen to it: YouTube channel
8. History Chicks
What’s it about? This podcast introduces you to an interesting cast of female characters in world history — factual or fictional. It’s hosted by Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweide. For each profile, the pair discuss the challenges, failures, successes, and juicy bits from the lives of each woman. Their show notes are chock full of relevant media, books, museums, and other links.
Try this episode: Marie Antoinette (a misunderstood queen who was the victim of tabloid fodder). You can read more about Mari Antoinette here.
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Podbean
9. Opera Cheat Sheet
What’s it about? In this weekly web feature, art and culture editor St. John Flynn and producer Eric Skelly provide a fun overview of the opera to be heard Saturday afternoon on HPM Classical and houstonpublicmedia.org. Relatable and witty, the pair describe plot lines and zero in on performance highlights. Sometimes they interview performers.
Try this episode: Madama Butterfly (Puccini opera about love and heartbreak)
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Podbean, RadioPublic
10. The Modern Art Notes Podcast, the MAN Podcast
What’s it about? Since 2011, historian and art critic Tyler Green has hosted The MAN Podcast. It’s a weekly hour long visual art vlog. Green’s program features artists, historians, authors, curators, and conservators. The BBC named the program one of the world’s top 25 cultural podcasts that would “blow your mind,” and “enrich your life.” Each episode tells the full story of a work of art.
Try this episode: Michelangelo (biographical examination of the life and art of the Renaissance sculptor and painter)
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Podbean
11. A Piece of Work
What’s it about? This is a podcast for both art history nerds and casual fans. It has ten 20 minute episodes about modern and contemporary art hosted by the charming, and occasionally hilarious, Abbi Jacobson. It’s both fun and informative. There are interviews with artists, curators, and writers.
Try this episode: Andy Warhol’s Art of Self-Promotion (how Warhol made consumer culture fine art, making himself famous along the way)
Where to listen to it: NPR, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts
12. Art Curious
What’s it about? Contemporary art curator Jennifer Dasal hosts Art Curious. The podcast tackles art subjects that go beyond what you learned in your generic art history class. She examines art propaganda, shock art, the great rivalries in art, and pop culture.
The podcast tells stories that focus on the iconic art of a given era. Dasal also has an excellent series of episodes on famous rivalries between contemporaneous artists — Pollock vs. De Kooning, Picasso vs. Matisse, Michelangelo vs. Raphael, etc.
Try this episode: Shock Art: Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. (Psst, if you want to known more about Goya’s controversial Black Paintings in the Prado Museum in Madrid, here’s my complete guide.)
Or this episode: Was Van Gogh Accidentally Murdered? (analyzing whether Van Gogh really committed suicide, a received nostrum) Here’s my own analysis of this fascinating historical whodunit.
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic, Podbean
13. Fresh Air
What’s it about? Narrated by Terry Gross, this NPR podcast is the gold standard for cultural podcasts. It’s part art podcast, part news hour, and part op-ed. Gross looks into all facets of the modern world — from novelists to politics to pop stars to influencers.
Try this episode: Stephen King (discussion of the current pandemic and his new book)
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, RadioPublic, Apple Podcasts, NPR
14. The Renaissance: A History of Renaissance Art
What’s it about? Denis Byrd hosts this wildly informative art podcast. The ambitious show tackles the history of the Renaissance one artist and one art work at a time. Byrd offers contextual history and an academic take on how an art work was created and why it still matters now. The podcast is a master class in Renaissance art history.
Try this episode: The Rise of the Medici — the impact Florence and its ruling family had on the Renaissance era. Here’s my own nutshell history of the Medici family and the Medici palaces in Florence.
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Podbean
15. The Great Women Artists Podcast
What’s it about? This podcast is hosted by Katy Hessel, the creator of the hugely popular Instagram account of the same name. She’s an art historian and curator. Beautifully presented, her podcast celebrates female artists. Hessel interviews female artist and presents curatorial discussions of their work.
Try this Episode: Eleanor Naine on Lee Krasner
Where to listen to it: SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Podbean
16. Last Seen
What is it: This podcast tells the story of the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, my favorite museum and a must see site in Boston. The thieves handcuffed the guards and, in 81 minutes, stole 13 works of art including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, and sketches by Degas.
The podcast explains the robbery itself, the lax museum security, and the mobsters that might have been the culprits. The podcast is full of spine-tingling revelations, unforgettable characters, and teasing cliffhangers. Last Seen is as thrilling as podcasting gets.
Try this episode: Episode 1 “81 Minutes” (describing the heist)
Where to listen to it: NPR, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean
What’s it about? This Washington Post podcast regals you with the journeys former presidents took to procure The Oval Office. Host Lillian Cunningham discusses their personalities, leadership styles, and legacies. To lighten the mood, she always asks, “What would a blind date with this person be like?” It’s a sneak peak about what the presidents were like outside of the public sphere.
Try this episode: Donald Trump: Division and Union
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Podbean, YouTube
18. Rebuilding the Renaissance
What’s it about? If you’re a fan of Renaissance art, tune into Rebuilding the Renaissance. It’s hosted by the vivacious Professor Rocky Ruggeiro, who does indeed make “art and history come to life,” his stated intent. In this podcast, you’ll virtually travel through Italy, with a focus on Florence, the “Cradle of the Renaissance.” Ruggeiro provides a chronological examination of the great master works of the Renaissance era — paintings, frescos, cathedrals, buildings, and UNESCO sites.
Try this episode: Florence: Brunelleschi’s Dome, Florence: Donatello’s Bronze David, Padua: the Scrovengi Chapel
Where to listen to it: Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart Radio
If you need some more virtual art and history, you might enjoy these other guides:
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