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Better than Netflix

Lockdown number two: Across Europe, culture cannot be experienced “first-hand” right now, or only to a very limited extent. But of course during the holiday season we have plenty of time to deepen and go on a voyage of discovery. So ArtMag’s editorial team thought it only appropriate to recommend the best art links for the end of 2020. You can go to a museum in your pajamas, watch experimental films while ironing, or listen to the hottest podcasts while taking a walk.
In 2020, the Julia Stoschek Collection was in the media primarily because of the impending departure of its Berlin exhibition hall. Yet this year, as one of the world's largest private collections of time-based media art, it embarked on a rather radical experiment. Not only pictures or trailers of art videos can be seen online, but the entire works, permanently and free of charge. The goal is to make the entire collection accessible online in the long run. This has really never been done before. So far, 179 films, videos, and audio works by 52 artists can be accessed. So you can nibble your Christmas cookies while viewing works by artists such as John Bock, Keren Cytter, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg, Cao Fei, Barbara Hammer, and Wolfgang Tillmans, many of whom are also represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Ever heard of Esther Bubley? No? No wonder. Women are still underrepresented in photography and exhibited far too infrequently. Bubley, who was born in 1921 and died in the 1990s, was one of the first female photographers in the U.S. to shoot covers for Life Magazine, to do reportages on Greyhound bus travel and mental illness, and make a living from this trade in the golden age of documentary photography. The British organization Hundred Heroines wants to bring photographers like her to the attention of a wider public. It all started in 2018 with the selection of 100 heroines, contemporary women photographers who have made history with their work and broken new ground. The response was so great that since then the organization has honored heroines of photography annually, presented their works and biographies on its website, and organized online film festivals and exhibitions featuring their work. An overdue voyage of discovery for any art photography aficionado.

The Family of Man was the title of the milestone exhibition that the American photographer Edward Steichen put together for New York’s MoMA in 1955. Pictures by 273 photographers from 68 countries, including artists such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, and August Sander, were intended to describe the state of humanity, and the exhibition was a manifesto for peace and the fundamental equality of all people. Now, with the grandiose online exhibition Me, Family, Mudam is presenting a new version inspired by this project for the digitized 21st century. Here, too, artists show their perspective on humanity, but under the auspices of digital networking and surveillance. Stars such as Doug Aitken, Cindy Sherman, and Jordan Wolfson are among the artists. The interactive platform invites visitors to wander through the exhibition as a real-time avatar. Apropos isolation, you can even meet people in the virtual museum!

Another museum show that makes imaginative and entertaining use of the digital format is We=Link: Sideways by Chronus Art Center in Shanghai. Curated by Zhang Ga, this global group exhibition tells the story of Internet art from the 1990s to the present day. The site’s design is splendidly retro, 1990s-style, with glowing green matrix codes, large folder symbols, and Windows 95 windows leading to the artworks. Great fun!

The inspiration for Finite Rants, the current online project of Milan’s Fondazione Prada, came from Chris Marker’s legendary science fiction short film La Jetée (1962), a dystopian essay on time travel and World War III, whose sequences were edited exclusively from photographs and which redefined experimental film. Finite Rants follows this essayistic tradition, negotiating themes such as terrorism, censorship, and non-human life forms in short films. Among the participants are German filmmaker and author Alexander Kluge and American director and actor Brady Corbet. Definitely not meant for switching off and relaxing, but for waking up.

If you’re looking for relaxation and a bit of encouragement, the New Museum’s digital program has set new standards. For the Bed Time Stories series, celebrities such as Tacita Dean and Iggy Pop tell stories against isolation. Additionally, there are discussions with Judith Butler, films by artists (including Hiwa K), and, of course, virtual tours. This innovative program of superlatives can easily compete with Netflix in terms of entertainment value.

And with the little ones you can take a trip to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where an app was specially developed with special kids’ and teens’ offers that are also fun for parents. When they’ve had enough of taking tours on topics such as love and magic, slipping into the role of a superhero or a queen, or creating monsters, a reward awaits them. For the Museum der Träume (Museum of Dreams) writers wrote texts for paintings which are read by stars from the Viennese theater scene.

Haven’t played enough yet? Then send yourself and your family to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. Next year, the Victoria & Albert Museum will be celebrating Alice along with the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat. But you can already follow Alice down the rabbit hole in Curious Alice, a VR game developed expressly for the museum. Download it for 5 euros at viveport.com and your family will be playing cricket with cranes in no time.

If all of this is too exhausting for you, then simply take a look at the TikTok account of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It's quite a sight to behold! The Renaissance version of Aretha Franklin’s version of I say a little prayer is particularly exquisite. Who would have thought that this venerable institution, of all places, would one day be declared a "class clown" by the media?

But back to the serious side of life: even on holidays you can learn something! Café Deutschland, likely one of the most ambitious online museum offerings in Europe, is truly riveting. The project launched by Frankfurt’s Städel Museum includes more than 70 conversations held with prominent artists, gallery owners, art historians, critics, and collectors about postwar German art. Everyone from Georg Baselitz and Hans Haacke to Gerhard Richter and Rudolf Zwirner is included. It tells the story of the generation of war children, many of whom grew up in the ruins of German cities, were shaped by poverty and loss, and embraced art in search of intellectual engagement. Also for listening together with grandparents, parents, uncles or aunts, who still experienced this time and certainly have their own stories to tell.

Lockdown time is podcast time, and almost every museum and art magazine has one. And more and more galleries are joining in. David Zwirner has been particularly successful with his highly acclaimed podcast Dialogues, which is now entering its fourth season. Moderated by his son Lucas Zwirner, the podcast features two personalities from the art world. Recently, for example, Sophia Coppola and Rainer Judd talked about the onus of having famous fathers. The guest list is always iconic, whether it’s underground comic god Robert Crumb, Jeff Koons, or New York designer Thom Browne.

The London podcast Talk Art, which has experienced a meteoric rise since the first lockdown, is also star-studded. Russell Tovey, an actor and collector, and Robert Diament, a musician turned gallery owner, talk to visual artists like Sunil Gupta, Grayson Perry, and Tracey Emin, and pop culture stars like Lena Dunham, Michael Stipe, and designer Paul Smith. No major edits are made. Everyone gossips and chats away, like at a coffee klatsch to which one would otherwise never be invited.

If you want something more focused, you should listen to A brush with..., the new podcast from The Art Newspaper. The guests talk about the books, paintings, records, and cultural experiences that have informed their work. The latest artist featured was Christina Quarles, a shooting star who is becoming one of the most sought-after painters on the U.S. West Coast.

For those who want art but not only art, the London Review of Books’ brilliant podcast explores myriad subjects, including the love lives of giraffes, the letters of Edgar Degas, and the latest biography of Simone de Beauvoir. It’s very British and very mind-expanding, as is the podcast Talking Politics co-hosted by the LRB, in which Cambridge professors David Runciman and Helen Thompson and their guests explain everything about politics, from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan to Black Lives Matter to Brexit. Balm for the soul in post-factual times. Happy Holidays!