Two years ago and a bit, I shared a link with you about a video series produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in which curators talked about how individual pieces in the museum had changed the way they see the world. It was charming and smart and in a short enough format that I could justify watching it as soon as it appeared in my in-box*–208 minutes spread over the course of a year fits into anyone’s schedule.
Evidently I’m not the only who loved it because the Metropolitan Museum is now producing a related series, The Artist Project. Contemporary working artists–different ages, genders, ethnicity, media–discuss works of art in the Metropolitan’s collection that spark their imagination. Some of them discuss works in their own media. Others chose a work that has no obvious relationship to their own, until they talk about it. The relationships between curator and art were intelligent; the relationships between artist and art are more intense and more personal and no less intelligent. Some of the artists focus on what a work meant in their own lives or an extraordinary artistic technique.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the episodes that stick with me the most are the artists who are deeply aware that works of art that transcend time are also rooted in their own time. Listening to an artist discuss how the form and content of , say, Kongo power figures or Egyptian mummy paintings are formed by their purpose is always interesting and often illuminating. Sometimes when you add art to history you get more than art history.
Give it a look–you can afford two minutes a week, right?
*Unlike, say, the 15-18 minute long TED talks that show up in my in-box every day. Which are also worth watching. Eventually.