Welcome to Accession.
If you can, I want you to remember the last time you went to an art museum, or if you've never been to an art museum, perhaps you've seen one in movies or tv. I think what most people imagine when they visit an art museum are rooms full of paintings, roughly grouped by some combination of geographic location, time period, or aesthetic quality, often with guards in suits walking around, making sure you don't get too close to the pieces, the art is often surrounded by giant, white or cream colored walls, with only a small card next to the piece to give you a hint at what you are allegedly supposed to know.
This setup is, of course, a delicate ecosystem created to help you appreciate the art in a fairly pure form. But often times I'm afraid that this presentation of art does more to isolate people than it does to help them get a greater understanding of the art, and I think understanding is a better step towards appreciation than isolation.
To be fair, not all museums do this. Some are much better than others. And I'm not proposing that museums necessarily need to change their format. Rather, I see the white walls surrounding a painting, and I see an opportunity. An opportunity to contextualize, to learn, to better understand art and in turn, better understand ourselves. Ever since I first went to an art museum, I loved to fill the galleries with sounds and words and conversations, asking questions about the art, and using my background in art history and art appreciation to guide my friends and family from piece to piece.
So I've attempted to capture those ideas here, in audio form. These pieces will best be enjoyed if you can get to the museums where they take place, but links to the art talked about in every episode will be included in the show notes at accession.com, so you can always listen and enjoy. We'll learn about history, biography, aesthetic, production and technique, provenance, reception, reaction, social ethics and more as we approach these pieces from every different angle. While at least one episode a month will be a heavily research focused piece, I want to work in lots of different genres, with lots of different kinds of story telling, some guided viewings, others maybe works of fiction to accompany a piece, and still other formats that I haven't even began to think of. Anything to help build a bridge between the viewer and the art, to help us get closer to the piece and in turn help the piece get closer to us.
For those of you who may be worried about your knowledge of art history or lack there of getting in the way of you enjoying this show, I'll be posting substantial notes on the website to accompany each piece, that can help to further contextualize the audio stories, and the notes on the episodes will include definitions of art terms that we use throughout the show. A running glossary of terms will also be on the website if you want to look through that as well.
If you're already sick of my voice, don't worry, we have many guests who will be joining us along the way, either in interviews, or as voice actors, or as producers of stories that they themselves wrote. My goal is to introduce you to as many types of art as I can, and if i am going to be successful at that, it is going to require lots of types of people as well.
Now if you could, go back to that art museum in your head, and look at the card on the white wall by the painting. On that card, you may notice a number, generally with 4 digits, a period, and a few more digits beyond that. The first four are the year that the piece entered the museums collection, the second set tell you the number of the collection acquired that year. So Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was 472 object to enter the collection in 1941. Thus, it's accession number is 1941.472. Now this number is a powerful tool. It can help you access information in a museums library, or request the curatorial files, the research the museum itself has done on the piece, or even tell you something in of itself, about what the museum was trying to acquire when they were trying to acquire it. But for the art in this show, I've already done that digging for you. And I'm here to share with you what I've found, to help you have better experiences in art museums, and to maybe even to touch upon some deeper truths.
There is a lot to be learned from a little number.
Welcome to Accession.