From Ancient to Modern Art: 7 Art History Podcasts to Download ASAP

September 20, 2023

And while art is undoubtedly subjective, you can still familiarise yourself with the artists and history behind what are considered the world’s greatest masterpieces while keeping abreast of current developments in the contemporary art world. And one of the easiest way to do that? Art history podcasts!

Visiting the Vatican Museums with kids

Sometimes, all we need is a bit of context to understand the art around us.

Ask any two people their opinion of the same piece of artwork, and you’re likely to elicit two very different responses. Add a third person to the mix, and the conversation becomes even more multifaceted.

While one might struggle to see the merit, another might instantly recognise the genius, and this is often why people tend to question their own ability to ‘understand’ art, and lament their supposed lack of knowledge on the art front.

But here’s the thing – just because you like a piece doesn’t necessarily mean you understand it, and just because you don’t like a piece doesn’t necessarily mean you misunderstand it. Sometimes all we need is a bit of context – and that’s where art history podcasts come in.

Understanding the art world: Finding the perfect podcast

A huge number of us rely on podcasts in much the same way previous generations relied on news programmes and documentary series.

Not only can we keep up with current affairs on a daily basis, we can delve into subject matter we fear we’ve neglected or explore topics which we’ve always hoped to learn more about.

If art and art history falls into that category for you, then why not take a look at the best podcasts to download if you hope to up your game on the art front! From art history to modern art, there’s something for everyone, and more than a few gems to keep in mind the next time conversation takes a turn into the world of art.

Belvedere Torso in the Vatican Museums

The famous Belvedere Torso, a statue by Apollonius of Athens, in the Vatican Museums.

The Lonely Palette

For those who feel out of their depth during art conversations or somewhat at sea in museums, The Lonely Palette podcast, which was launched in 2016, acts as a reminder that art does not discriminate, and is always open to interpretation from anyone willing to engage with it.

Catering to listeners of all levels, host, Tamar Avishai, chooses one piece of art per episode, and performs a deep-dive on its history, with the help of museum-goers and art lovers.

Eager to prove the accessibility of each piece to her listeners, Tamar discusses “the movement, the social context, the anecdotes, and anything and everything else” that is likely to engage both art novices and art aficionados, alike.

From Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Frida Kahlo’s Dos Mujeres, this podcast series is a must for anyone eager to expand their art history horizons.

Woman sitting on a bench in a museum looking at works of art.

Everyone interprets art a little bit differently – and that’s a beautiful thing! Photo credit: Gilber Franco

ArtCurious with Jennifer Dasal

Launched in 2016, ArtCurious is a podcast which brings art history to life by unpicking the fact from the fiction in the art history realm.

As current listeners will know, certain topics emerge consistently throughout the series meaning that more than one episode will be devoted to themes, which include ‘Shock Art’, ‘Rivals’ and ‘True Crime’.

From examining the conflict between Michelangelo and Raphael to questioning whether famed German Impressionist painter Otto Dix plotted to kill Hitler, Jennifer Dasal dissects the stories and sagas behind some of the world’s most famous artists, not to mention their acclaimed work.

As Jennifer herself has explained, ArtCurious is dedicated to ‘exploring the unexpected, the slightly odd and the strangely wonderful in art history’, making it the perfect podcast for anyone who wants to step behind the curtain, and find out more about the world’s best known artists.

Art Detective

Hosted by Dr Janina Ramirez, Art Detective takes the view that ‘understanding art allows us to understand history’.

By examining world-famous art – from sculpture and paintings to the written word – with the help of experts in the field, Dr Ramirez gives her listeners an insight into the social, cultural and historical landscape of its time, ultimately illuminating more than just the physical manifestation.

Launched in 2016, the series is nearing its 70th episodes, and has featured discussion on The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos, and The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke by Richard Dadd.

Read more: The Art Lover’s Guide to Pompeii – A City Frozen in Time

A Piece of Work

Hosted by Abbi Jacobson, A Piece of Work, which was launched in 2017, focuses on modern and contemporary art, with each episode spanning less than 30 minutes in length.

Drawing to a close in 2017 after just ten episodes, A Piece of Work drew on the opinions of curators, artists and art fans, and managed to be educational, informative and entertaining – a delivery which has reaped considerable praise from listeners, many of whom have requested a second series.

Experiencing and interpreting art is the name of the game here, with listeners praising all those involved for their affable approach to the subject matter.

Hermann Nitsch being interviewed in front of his artwork at the Nitsch Foundation museum

Prefer more modern artists, like Hermann Nitsch? Then A Piece of Work is the art history podcast for you. Photo credit: Wiki Commons

Art History for All

Hosted by Allyson Healey, this podcast perfectly delivers on its title – it truly is art history for all. And really, what more could you want if you feel your knowledge on that front leaves a little to be desired?

Art History for All seeks to prove that art is accessible to everyone regardless of whether you fall into the category of ‘art lovers’, ‘art haters’ or ‘art-is-just-okay-ers’.

By way of further explanation, its brief introduction adds: “Art History for All takes you beyond the art historical canon and helps you find the way in which art speaks to you (even if it’s never spoken to you before).”

Launched in 2018 and nearing its 22nd episode, the series focuses on a single piece of art per episode, and aims to create a connection between the piece and the listener.

Oh, and judging by the wholly positive reviews this podcast has received, it has undoubtedly succeeded in its aim.

The Conversation Art Podcast

And last but by no means least, we turn our attention to The Conversation Art Podcast. The final in our list, this podcast, which is hosted by Michael Shaw, recently aired its 250th episode!

The Conversation Art Podcast, which is based in Los Angeles, draws insights from artists, art dealers, curators, and collectors whose passion for the subject cannot be overestimated.

So what can you expect from it? Put very simply, you will be privy to conversation about contemporary art, which as the host explains at the beginning of every episode ‘goes behind the scenes and between the lines of the contemporary art world’.

If your aim is to familiarise yourself with contemporary art and the figures which populate its world, The Conversation Art Podcast is the one for you.

The Renaissance: A History of Renaissance Art

As the title suggests, The Renaissance: A History of Renaissance Art is – oh yes, you guessed it – a podcast devoted to the art and artists of the Renaissance period.

Launched in 2015 and hosted by artist and art teacher Denis Byrd, the podcast is perfect for anyone seeking both an overview of the time period as well as a more in-depth knowledge of the era’s biggest names.

Across 28 episodes, Denis examines the artists, their mentors, their contemporaries and their inspirations, therefore making it an ideal listen for anyone who is keen to familiarise themselves with a time period which brought us Michelangelo’s David and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Michelangelo’s David

How much do you know about Michelangelo’s David?

Ready to experience the Renaissance masters up close? See Michelangelo’s David for yourself on our VIP David and Duomo tour, or spend time alone with Mona Lisa our small-group Louvre tour!

by Niamh McClelland

View more by Niamh ›

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