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The Object Podcast
Exploring the strange and wonderful true stories behind museum objects. Produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and hosted by Tim Gihring, this series of short, surprising, true stories offers an object’s view of us—our ambitions, our creativity, our humanity. Touching on race, class, immigration, gender, and other issues that continue to shape the world today, it’s the museum as you’ve never heard it before. Season two is underway on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and wherever podcasts are available. New episodes added every month.
Monsters and Marvels, Part III: The Mermaid's Tale
Mermaids had been surfacing in art for thousands of years when, in the 1880s, Edward Burne-Jones began painting them as avatars of a radical new female identity in the corseted Victorian era. A story of desire and danger as legendary as the creatures themselves.
You can see one of Burne-Jones’ early mermaid paintings, A Sea-Nymph, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. His best-known mermaid work, The Depths of the Sea, is at the Fogg Museum at Harvard University.
Miracles in Stone: The Curious Celebrity of God's Sculptor
William Edmondson is a middle-aged laborer in Nashville, Tennessee, at the height of the Great Depression, when God tells him to carve a tombstone. Soon, he’s the first African-American artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art. But his short-lived celebrity reveals the art world’s problematic relationship with race.
Young, Gifted, and Gone: The Woman Who Never Came Back
A tale of resilience, romance, and solidarity: The new episode of Mia’s hit podcast “The Object” marks Women’s History Month with the story of Elizabeth Catlett. The granddaughter of enslaved African-Americans is a struggling artist at the height of Jim Crow. But when she leaves for Mexico City in 1946, she finds love, inspiration, and eventually fame. There’s just one catch: she can’t come home.
Spirited Away: The Incredible Ghosts of Yoshitoshi
If you’re an anime enthusiast, a fan of old Japan, or just into beguiling beauty wherever you find it, you’re going to love the latest episode of Mia’s hit podcast, The Object, exploring the life and times of Yoshitoshi, the last great artist of Japan’s Floating World. A fascinating show of his work was on view at Mia until we closed temporarily. Now you can see and read about it online. Then listen to the podcast, as we take you back to the end of the Floating World, that semi-invented era of sex and style, when Japan opened to the West and the ghosts conjured by Yoshitoshi became symbols of a culture on its way out.
Bohemian Rhapsody: The Myth of the Starving Artist
Long before Vincent van Gogh died young, poor, and under-appreciated, artists had gotten the message: you have to suffer for your art. But where did this template of the starving artist come from? And is there any truth to it or is it a myth, a romantic misreading of how great art is made?
Here’s Vincent van Gogh’s Olive Trees, from 1889, a year before his death, when he was in treatment in St-Rémy in southern France.
Unspeakable Love: The Rebel Who Went Too Far
Simeon Solomon is a young gay art star in the Victorian era. But when scandal threatens his career, offering a cautionary tale to aesthetes like Oscar Wilde, he must choose between his livelihood and his identity.
Incredibly, Mia has two works by Solomon in its collection, acquired in the 1960s when Solomon had been all but erased from art history. Click here to see them.
Romancing the Stone: The Secret of the Chac Mool
A mysterious stone sculpture, supposedly found in Mexico, is hailed as a Chac Mool, the iconic Mayan vessel of human sacrifice. It tours Europe as a masterpiece of ancient Mesoamerican art. It’s featured in magazines and books. But a surprising discovery suddenly begs the question: What is it really?
See Mia’s Chac Mool for yourself here.
The Animalier: Rosa Bonheur's Wild Kingdom
The animaliers love lions and tigers and bears — anything with teeth and no business being in Paris in the 1800s. No one more than Rosa Bonheur, the smoking, joking, pants-wearing painter who becomes a celebrity, the most famous female artist of her time, by embracing men’s primal fears.
You can see one of her lion prints here.
And her painter’s palette, charmingly adorned with a deer, here.
Monsters and Marvels Part I: The Magic Shell
From narwhals to nautilus shells, dragon eggs to mermaid hands, the obsession with oddities in the Age of Discovery may seem, well, odd. But did the study of outliers, in the early version of museums, help make us the rational creatures we are today?
Monsters and Marvels Part II: Finding Unicorns
Artists have captured unicorns for thousands of years, and for most of that time people thought they were both magical and real. What can an imaginary creature tell us about ourselves? What did we lose when we stopped believing? And why do we still love them anyway?
You can see unicorns in art through the ages in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, including this tapestry from the late Middle Ages.
Thanks to Natalie Lawrence and Marguerite Ragnow for sharing their expertise on this episode.
The Case of the Missing Rembrandt
In 1666, Rembrandt painted a masterpiece that disappeared almost as soon as he finished it. Where it went, and what it meant to its various owners, is as fascinating as the question it begs: how can people be so tender and also so cruel?
The Truth About "White" Classical Art
He was the ideal man. Handsome, strapping, with unreal proportions. But ancient statues like the Doryphoros originally looked much different, a revelation that is slowly upending long-held assumptions about race and art in the classical world. And not a moment too soon to confront the dangerous claims of white supremacists. You can read more about the Doryphoros statue here. And read more here about the scholars cited in this episode, who are confronting the abuse of antiquity by hate groups: bit.ly/2YRG5GZ
Flying Too Close to the Sun
Kehinde Wiley, long before he painted President Obama’s official portrait, went to Brazil. There, he was inspired by a monument to the great aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, whose incredible, tragic life is as forgotten in the United States as it is celebrated almost everywhere else. He created the mesmerizing painting Santos Dumont – The Father of Aviation II, now in Mia’s collection, based a curiously anguished aspect of the monument.
The Car That Killed Nazis
How to Stop an Assassin
Long ago, when everyone but your dog was a potential assassin, you needed to protect yourself by any means necessary. Starting with poison-proof silverware. A surprising story of art, myth, and the dangerous world that was. You can read more about the coral-topped silverware in Mia’s collection.
X-ray Man and the Great Mummy Mystery
An assistant curator decides to x-ray a 3,000-year-old mummy case, to learn if anything’s in there, and sees more than he bargained for. The international mystery would change his life — and the fate of the mummy.
The Indian Artist Who Wasn't
When the frontier closed, the fate of Native Americans seemed sealed. But George Morrison, born into poverty near a reservation on Lake Superior, was as determined to be an artist as he was to avoid stereotypes.
The Woman Who Knew Everything
Miriam McHugh Taney was well-educated, well-traveled, and well-known among museum-goers, lecturing on everything from the Italian Renaissance to American furniture—a rare authority for a woman in the 1930s. But the real purpose of her popular museum talks was even more interesting.
The Fellowship of Good Things
There were wolves and caribou on the Minnesota frontier when John Scott Bradstreet arrived with his white suits and Far East fantasies of furniture, determined to elevate this outpost with fine interior design. A globalist mission on a collision course with history.
After founding General Mills, the food and flour giant, James Ford Bell turned to preserving the America he knew and loved. A vision that was fast disappearing in the stampede of mass immigration — and may never have existed at all.
She was wealthy, single, and always in the right place at the right time. But when Lily Place was in Egypt during the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, her art collecting suddenly put her at the epicenter of a curious and powerful trend that was about to shape world history one last time. You can see the objects from Lily still in Mia’s collection here.