Brush up on art history, hone your skills as a critic and explore the lives of your favourite artists with these illuminating podcasts.

We are going crazy for podcasts right now. Recent research carried out by Ofcom found that around 7.1 million people in the UK listen to podcasts each week (which is one in eight of us and a 24 per cent increase over the last year).

Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence, Ian Macrae, says: ‘Podcasts are transforming the ways people listen to audio content, just as on-demand video is changing how people watch television.

‘It’s fantastic to see how UK radio broadcasters as well as newspapers and other media companies are embracing podcasting and offering more choice about what we listen to than we’ve ever had before.’

Indeed. And the number of brilliant podcasts springing forth about art, in particular, bears this out. It may never have occurred to you that it’s possible to appreciate art aurally as well as visually, but – trust us – it is.

Tune in to these podcasts and expand your world from wherever you are sitting.


You will probably know the English actor Russell Tovey for his roles on stage and screen. Did you know, however, that he is also a passionate collector of contemporary art? He bought his first piece – a Tracey Emin etching – with his cheque from The History Boys movie. His Margate flat is full of so many wonderful artworks that he hosts tours in it for art-world luminaries. In this chatty but informative podcast, he and the gallerist Robert Diament interview leading artists and curators in order to, in their words, ‘explore the magic of art and why it connects us all in such fantastic ways.’ Warning: you will quickly get hooked.


The Art History Babes are a gang of four sassy friends from the US, each of whom loves to drink wine and chat and has a degree in the history of art from the University of California, where they met. One night, while they were having a few drinks after a stressful day at college, one of them, Ginny, told an amazing story about the Italian sculptor, Bernini. Another of them, Corrie, had recently become obsessed by listening to podcasts and had the idea that the four of them should create one of their own. They say: ‘It started as a fun side project to help express our love for art in a non-academic setting. The response we got was overwhelmingly supportive and now it’s become our primary focus. Our goal is to make art accessible, promote curiosity and illuminate how relevant and fun the study of visual culture can be.’ The result is a cheerful podcast that explores art from every angle. We absolutely love their Halloween special, entitled ‘Art and Murder (and Wine)’, which delves into the points in history at which art and murder have intersected. Anyone fancy a gripping discussion of pictures created by serial killers, accompanied by a chilling soundtrack?


Brought to us by Art UK, the charity dedicated to the democratisation of art, this brilliant podcast explores the myriad ways in which art meets popular culture. Hosted by the art historian Ferren Gipson, Art Matters will make a confident critic of you in minutes. Content covers everything from the black presence in European painting to forgotten women artists and the history of emoji. Check it out.


For the third series of its excellent podcast, the British fashion and lifestyle brand TOAST has hooked up with the National Portrait Gallery to explore the lives of pioneering women from history and the present day. Presented by the thoughtful writer and broadcaster, Laura Barton, the podcast’s subjects (all of whom have a portrait on display at the National Portrait Gallery) include Shami Chakrabati, Pauline Boty, Mary Wollstonecraft, Emily Bronte, Germaine Greer and Vanessa Bell. Half an hour spent listening to one of these gentle nuggets will be time extraordinarily well spent.


Fans of this wide-ranging podcast, now in its third year, are constantly inspired. In each episode, critics, creatives and curators examine countless aspects of art, art history and art theory. Episodes are called things like ‘Dolly Alderton on Monet and the Thames’ and ‘Is there more to life modelling than posing nude?’ and ‘The Art of Slow Looking’. It is as thought-provoking and polished as you would expect a podcast from the august Tate family to be.


The brainchild of the Art Fund, the charity that has been helping museums and galleries buy great works of art since 1903, this podcast sees actors, comedians and other personalities take somebody of their choice out for an afternoon at a museum. The producers say: ‘As well as getting a peek behind the scenes, seeing what makes a museum tick, it’s also the starting point for some great conversations about life, the universe and everything.’ It is a brilliant construct, and every episode will teach you something. Our favourite, however, is the one in which Lemn Sissay, poet, author and chancellor of Manchester University, takes his friend Asif Khan to the Foundling Museum, which – it turns out – was the UK’s first children’s home and the first public art gallery.

If you liked reading this, then you might like:

10 Of The Best Museum-Shop Websites
Five Sites & Apps for Art Collectors
8 Websites Championing Ancient Crafts

By Becky Ladenburg

November 2019