In case you are feeling the pain of the money you paid to the federal government this week, here is a treat from the National Gallery of Art—free audio and video podcasts! So if finances are forcing you into yet another stay-cation this spring break, you can at least enjoy some of the best cultural programming that DC has to offer, all from the comfort and economy of your own home.
Under the Video Podcasts, you can check out the Exhibition Highlights of the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection, which took place a year ago. Harry Cooper, the National Gallery's curator of modern and contemporary art, guides you through the exhibition. Cooper, the narrator of several of the video lectures on the NGA website, gives an overview of many of the big names in modern art while walking you through the exhibit, stopping at a choice few to explicate in more detail, starting with a 1960 De Kooning.
The newest video on the site is meant to accompany the exhibition currently on view at the galleries, Gauguin: Maker of Myth, which will be on view until June 5, in case you live nearby. The series of four podcasts is narrated by Willem Dafoe and features Alfred Molina as the voice of Paul Gauguin. It gives you insight into Gauguin’s life and the philosophy behind his art, and happily, it also features the most important aspect of any exhibit: the art itself.
Among the wide variety of video podcasts offered, there are introductions to many of the exhibitions the NGA hosts and several captivating artist portraits. There is even a neat little video on the process of making a Spanish polychrome sculpture.
The audio podcasts are not quite as exciting as the video ones and require a certain familiarity with the subject matter, since the art isn’t shown along with the presentation. Ordinarily, this would be annoying, except that the fine folk at the National Gallery have published recordings from years of lectures and programming, meaning that you get a sense of history along with the art lecture. There is a great lecture in the Elson Lecture Series, featuring husband and wife artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009), recorded on October 12, 1995, about their groundbreaking large-scale public art. The site also features a lecture by Anna Ottani Cavina, professor of art history at the Università di Bologna, called “Modernity is Old: The Landscape of Italy as Seen by the Painters of the Early 19th Century.” In this November 5, 2006, lecture, she traces the development of Italian landscapes as painters left the studio and started painting outdoors, in addition to offering other information about Italian landscape painting, all in a delightful Italian (but easy to understand!) accent.
The audio podcasts tend to be much longer than the video podcasts, but they are much more in depth and specialized. So if you are looking to delve in a little deeper, get comfortable—most of these run about an hour.