Artist Maurizio Cattelan duct taped a banana to a wall, titled it "Comedian", and sold 5 editions of the artwork for as much as $150,000 each. Why did it capture our attention, curiosity, and memes? What does it mean?
Empathy is a term we hear a lot, but what does it mean and how does it work? Looking back through art history, we find many moments when art has allowed us to share in the feelings of others, from Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to representations of the Buddhist deity Jizō Bosatsu, along with the Röttgen Pietà, Guáman Poma's First New Chronicle and Good Government, the ink drawings of Chittaprosad and Zainul Abedin, the work of Ghana Think Tank, and more.
The naked and the nude have been frequent subjects for art throughout the history of human creation, and also the frequent subject of censorship. What's wrong with seeing the unclothed human body? And what is its place in art?
Sampling, appropriating, borrowing, stealing. Whatever you want to call it, artists have been copying since time immemorial. We look into the history of the practice, and share our theories of why it is done, and what it can offer us.
The powerful and privileged have hoarded precious artifacts in museums for centuries, and it's only recently that these treasures were made available to the rest of us. What purpose did museums serve? And why does every city have one today?
This week we tackle the intersection of art and our changing climate. Throughout history, art has helped reveal the climate around us and highlight our fragile relationship to it. We look at navigational charts from the Marshall Islands, Katsushika Hokusai’s "Under the Wave off Kanagawa", Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s "Hunters in the Snow", Mali's Great Mosque of Djenné, the Ise Shrine in Japan, steadily sinking Venice, the cave paintings of Lascaux, and Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, among others.
Should art be beautiful? Revisit ancient philosophers' thoughts on beauty and consider why we might be skeptical of beauty today. From The Art Assignment.
The Met Museum in New York is a treasure trove of art, filled with masterpieces of human creativity, but what if it *wasn't* organized geographically or by time period? Is there a better way?
Have you heard of Italian Baroque artist Artemisia Gentilschi? Find out why her popularity, and that of other artists, has risen dramatically since the 1970s. From Art Assignment. Created by Smarthistory.
There is a huge range of ways that gender has been understood and represented in the history of art. We look at a few examples that show us gender is a concept that has never been fixed: Hermaphroditos by the ancient Greeks, Titian's Venus of Urbino, Baule portrait masks, the photographs of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, and Maya stone carvings.
What's the point of making realistic paintings when photography can do the trick? We look at the history of artists recreating the world as we see it and ponder why it's still happening. From Art Assignment.
Corporate lobbies and board rooms are often graced with impressive art, but why? What's the rationale behind this expense, and what impact does it have on the rest of the art world? We look at the history of corporate collecting, starting with Chase Manhattan Bank in 1959, trace its meteoric rise since, and work through the reasoning behind it.