The Best Art Videos for the Age of Quarantine

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Right now pretty much everything throughout Europe and North America, including art museums, is closed due to quarantine. This means that art lovers will have to find new ways to engage with art for the moment. Watching art videos is a great way to do this. Through them you can learn new things, discover artworks, enjoy different perspectives, and much more. Here are enough recommendations to keep art fans satisfied until the museums open again.

Learning by Heart by Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench; best art videos
Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench, Learning by Heart, 1898. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

If you want to learn about art history

SmartHistory – This nonprofit has over 800 well-produced art videos on art history topics, from ancient to modern, and from China to Peru. The calming voices of SmartHistory founders Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker narrate. Most videos feature a single artwork which the narrators analyze in detail while standing in front of the work in a museum. To help you sort through all these videos, SmartHistory has playlists for all the major periods. There are also three thematic series: the Expanded Renaissance Initiative, Seeing America, and At Risk Cultural Heritage Education Series (ARCHES). You can access these videos on YouTube or through the SmartHistory website, which also includes excellent videos and images.

The Art Assignment – I don’t have a lot of experience with this channel, but after watching its videos about the 2018 self-destructing Banksy and 2019 $150,000 banana, I’m an admirer. Sarah Urist Green’s lucid and comprehensive explanations of these wild occurrences are concise and approachable. Green also tackles topics like “How to Sound like You Understand Art” and “Why You Don’t Like Art History” alongside more videos about various styles and fun stuff, like a series about food in art.

If you want to hear art lectures

The Frick Collection – The Frick has a video archive of its in-person lectures, symposia, and other events. Many of these videos are specialized, but others are of more general interest. My favorite is Dr. Lindsay Cook’s “Restoring Notre-Dame: A Look at the Digital Scans That Could Help”. There are also shorter videos about the Frick’s collections and exhibitions.

If you enjoy these in-depth talks, many other museums publish their lecture videos online, too. In particular, the Yale University Art Gallery has some great ones.

If you want interesting perspectives on artworks

The Artist Project – A video series from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Artist Project‘s short episodes record contemporary artists’ reactions to works in the Met’s collection. We rarely get to hear artists talk about the works of other artists, so this series is something special. Many of the featured artists discuss how the works they’ve chosen relate to their own art in some really thought-provoking ways. My favorite videos include Joan Snyder about Florine Stettheimer, Kehinde Wiley about John Singer Sargent, and Y. Z. Kami about Faiyum mummy portraits. There’s also a book version of The Artist Project.

If you like The Artist Project, the Met also has several other online series to enjoy. Brief videos in the 82nd and Fifth series feature different works in the collection from prints to porcelain, with narrators from the museum’s staff. I love the episode about William the Hippopotamus. You can find all of the Met’s videos on its website, not on YouTube.

The Muse of Painting by John La Farge; best art videos
John La Farge, The Muse of Painting, 1870. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

If you want something fun and informative

National Gallery – The National Gallery (London) has a great YouTube channel with diverse offerings. Many of the videos, which range from a minute to over an hour in length, relate to current exhibitions, events, and acquisitions. I recently watched “Artemisia Gentileschi in 8 Paintings”, about the upcoming Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition. In honor of Women’s History Month, the museum has a playlist dedicated to women in the arts.

The British Museum – The British Museum is omnivorous, and so is its YouTube channel. It has something for every interest, from manga tutorials to Stonehenge. Many of the best videos come from the Curator’s Corner series, where curators from different departments share objects and ideas from their fields of study. It is so much fun to listen to these scholars talk about the topics they are so passionate about! My favorites are “Irving Finkel and the Chamber of Lewis Chessmen“, which I discovered while writing my Lewis Chessmen article last year, and “How to Make a Celtic Torc“, in which a curator tries her hand at ancient Celtic metalworking skills.

Victoria and Albert Museum – The V&A’s YouTube channel strongly leans towards the art of the present day. Many of the videos feature contemporary art, including fashion, photo shoots, a cars exhibition, and more. This video about Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre installation, based on James Abbott McNeill Whistler‘s Peacock Room, is a great example. The channel also includes a series called “How Was It Made”, which shows cool things like the painstaking process of micromosaic.

If you want to explore human creativity

Artrageous with Nate – According to his introductory video, Nate is an artist who travels around the world exploring creativity wherever he finds it. His videos talk about many forms of contemporary creative pursuits, including art, architecture, technology, theatrical design, and more. He includes different perspectives in his videos through many interviews. I enjoyed “How to Spot a Fake Painting“, in which two conservators conduct tests to suggest that a medieval religious painting is actually a forgery. I also recommend watching his visit of Antonio Gaudi‘s Sagrada Famiglia in Barcelona, Spain.

An Afternoon's Amuseument by Frederick Arthur Bridgman; best art videos
Frederick Arthur Bridgman, An Afternoon’s Amusement, date unknown. Private collection. Photo via the-athenaeum.org.

If you want to relax

Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration – Julian Baumgartner is an expert painting restorer based in Chicago. His active YouTube channel demystifies the process of art restoration by showing and explaining how he treats all sorts of different paintings. It’s oddly satisfying and relaxing to watch old, yellowed varnish coming off a painting. I particularly enjoyed this video involving an early Renaissance Ave Maria panel painting, because it shows how he works with gold leaf.

Art restoration videos are all over YouTube, probably because they’re so addictive. Many museums have made videos on this subject. (This playlist compiles 96 of them.) Some I’ve enjoyed include The Met’s 14-minute video about the decades-long Burgos Tapestry conservation and the British Museum’s video about cleaning Albrecht Durer’s Triumphal Arch. Enjoy!

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The Best Art Videos for the Age of Quarantine was first posted on March 23, 2020 at 5:03 pm.
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