Written by DLX contributor, Julia Marzovilla.
If art history isn’t your specialty, Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson is here to help. She is the host of the newly-released podcast titled “A Piece of Work” brought to us by the Museum of Modern Art and WNYC, the producers behind 2 Dope Queens and Radiolab. In the podcast, Jacobson walks listeners through the Museum of Modern Art and explains the significance, importance, and meaning behind some of the most famous pieces in the museum’s collection. Each of the episodes features a celebrity guest – think everyone from RuPaul to QuestLove – as well as top curators and art-world mainstays, and focuses on a different era of art from impressionism to pop-art. A recent episode details the experience of comedian Hannibal Buress as he examines Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel and immediately goes to play with it. Finally, questions likes “What does this mean?” and “Why is this still important?” are being answered. In fact, the podcast was inspired by the most frequently-asked questions at the MoMA, so listeners are in good hands.
Each of the episodes in the series lasts roughly fifteen minutes, just enough time for straight-forward explaining from Jacobson. Her ease in explaining comes from her degree from Maryland Institute College of Art, and the fact that she released a book of illustrations such as 2016’s Carry this Book and 2013’s Color This Book: New York and Color This Book: San Francisco. But, it is the wit that made her famous on Broad City that keeps “A Piece of Work” from sounding like a college seminar.
A recent promo posted to MoMA’s Instagram page features the actress dancing in front of a classic Jackson Pollock painting — shattering the image of a stiff, snobby, art fanatic that has become so common. Later, she stands in front of Vincent Van Goh’s “Starry Night” and quips: “We should really get this piece some publicity (sic), it’s all about publicity.” Jacobson is approachable, she’s funny, and she’s making art history great again, one museum visit at a time.
In a recent episode with pint-size fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson focusing on abstract pieces, Jacobson acutely defines the genre as “any piece of art that doesn’t represent some recognizable thing in the world.” Easy.
But, for as much as she does understand, Jacobson isn’t embarrassed to reveal that there is still more for her to learn. “Until I started this project, I didn’t realize how many questions I had, and how much I missed looking at and talking about art,” Jacobson said in an interview with Paste Magazine. “Museums can be intimidating spaces, and I hope this podcast makes them more accessible.” The podcast is ingenious in a time of instant-gratification and the unstoppable flow of information courtesy of social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Now, users can see their art and understand it too, no confusion needed.
The podcast is available on both the MoMA’s and WNYC’s websites, as well as Apple Podcasts. Episodes began on July 10th and run through August 9th.