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The Art World: What If...?!

What if we reimagined everything in culture, from painting to patronage? Tune in to The Art World: What If…?! to hear leading thinkers, creators and innovators in art rethink the system, exploring the consequences with wit, wisdom and humor. Join art journalist Charlotte Burns and world-renowned art advisor Allan Schwartzman as they exclusively interview museum leaders, collectors and artists including MoMA director Glenn Lowry, Guggenheim deputy director Naomi Beckwith, non-profit leader Kemi Ilesanmi, curator Cecilia Alemani and Sandra Jackson-Dumont, the director of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and many others over the course of the series. From the team behind In Other Words and Hope & Dread, The Art World: What If…?! is brought to you by Schwartzman& for Art& and produced by Studio Burns.
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The Art World: What If...?!
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May 23, 2024

What if you were embroiled in a public workplace controversy? And what happens on the other side of the headlines—would you walk away from your field, or would you reengage with it to try and improve upon it? This very special episode is a break from the norm. In it, we discuss museums and change—and what it takes to get to that change. We’re joined by three curators—Mia Locks, director and co-founder of Museums Moving Forward; Fatoş Üstek, curator and former director of the Liverpool Biennial; and Laura Raicovich, writer, curator, and former president and executive director of the Queens Museum. Each of them has been through a public furor. In those moments, they have found a lack of institutional support and, afterwards, each has shifted from their previous career paths. But each has reengaged with the field in more ambitious and ultimately hopeful ways. Museums can't be taken for granted. But what does it take to create change? Tune in now for more. 

May 9, 2024

This time, we’re joined by the artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, just before the opening of her major new exhibition 'Monuments of Solidarity' at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “This exhibition spiritually uplifts people,” she says. “It inspires people to be the change they need, but it also inspires them to be better human beings. To look beyond the self, to look beyond individualistic desires, to think about the fact that you are connected to an ecosystem and a world around you. People won't be the same. This is a transformative exhibition.” We delve into LaToya’s faith and the impact of art on our lives, its power not only to shine light into the darkness, but to move through people and communities and so to create profound, lasting change. Enjoy.

May 2, 2024

In this episode, we visit the Legacy Sites in Montgomery, Alabama, including the newly opened Freedom Monument Sculpture Park, a 17-acre site on the banks of the Alabama River. We interview their founder, the lawyer and civil rights hero, Bryan Stevenson, who says that a founding narrative of racial difference was created in America that “was like an infection. I believe the infection has spread. We've never treated that infection and the consequences of it are still with us today.” The US has never created cultural sites that have “motivated people to say, ‘never again can we tolerate racial bigotry, can we tolerate racial violence, can we tolerate the kind of indifference to these basic human rights’. So, that's what we're trying to achieve.” Hope and resilience inform the Legacy Sites. “I've always argued that hopelessness is the enemy of justice and that hope is an essential feature of what we do. I have to believe things I haven't seen,” Stevenson says. “I think we need an era of truth and justice, truth and reconciliation, truth and restoration, truth and repair,” Stevenson adds. “But we can't skip the truth-telling part.”

Apr 18, 2024

This time we welcome Karen Patterson, the Executive Director of the Ruth Foundation for the Arts. The organisation immediately became a major player when it launched in 2022, announcing plans to give away up to $20 million a year to arts organisations, thanks to a $440 million bequest from Ruth DeYoung Kohler. We delve into the what-ifs of philanthropy, the foundation's ethos, and its ambitious initiatives. Through a focus on generosity, experimentation, and consideration, Ruth Arts aims to transform the philanthropic landscape. “What if we made a big difference? What if people saw themselves as valuable?” Karen asks. “What if people saw themselves as cared for?”

Apr 11, 2024

“The market is poised for a big fall, so it's more ‘when’, than ‘what if’,” says Allan Schwartzman, founder of the podcast. He’s back on the show to talk all about the state of the art market and the broader implications of its changing dynamics for the artists and for the cultural landscape at large. "Greatness doesn't grow at the same rate as a population does," says Allan. "Greatness is extremely rare. And right now we're at a moment where I think there's greater confusion than ever about what actually is going on in art and what will be seen as significant 20 or 30 years from now."

 

Apr 4, 2024

We welcome back Kemi Ilesanmi, the former executive director of the Laundromat Project and one of the standout stars of our first season. In season one, Kemi was just about to head off on the trip of a lifetime around 13 countries, including ten in Africa. She promised to come back and tell us how the trip changed her ‘What Ifs.’ “I'm looking for freedom of movement, freedom of ideas, and freedom of manifestation of those ideas. Right now, it feels like I can only find that by working outside of any singular institution.” Kemi talks about creating a “beautiful, joyful, sustainable, cultural infrastructure for black and brown people across the globe” and asks, “What if that were possible? And what if I could help with that? And who else could help with that?”

Mar 28, 2024

For the second part of our interview with Koyo Kouoh, the chief curator and executive director of Zeitz MOCAA, we hear about how she has worked to overhaul the infrastructure of the institution internally as well as better connect the museum externally within Cape Town. Koyo talks about how “colonialism as an enterprise, as a model of global relating, has done a lot of harm that we are still mending and attending to.” She says: “That is a field of thinking, a space of emotion and knowledge that I am deeply passionate about. And that is why my investment in the space of Black geographies is so profound.”

Mar 21, 2024

Joining us from Cape Town in South Africa is Koyo Kouoh, the chief curator and executive director of Zeitz MOCAA for the first in a two-part special. Originally destined for a career in finance, Koyo talks about her journey into the art world, and from Basel in Switzerland to Dakar in Senegal, where she founded RAW Material Company in 2008. She tells us about her move to South Africa in 2019 to take over at Zeitz MOCAA, a new institution, but one in crisis. “We need to take the time to do the things that are urgent, that are essential, that are necessary,” Koyo says. “And, for me, building out institutions on the continent is a matter of urgency.” 

Mar 14, 2024

Legendary art dealer Barbara Gladstone joins us for a very rare interview from the studio in New York. What would she do differently if she started a gallery today? “I probably wouldn't do it,” she says. 

Barbara has been at the top of the business since the 1980s and now represents more than 70 artists and estates. She tells us how she started out with a small print business, and how things developed from there. We talk about art now, the future of the gallery, and what she would change about the art market, including the “idea that collecting is shopping, because I think that there is something that art adds to life,” she says. “What is really interesting is that it's not over,” she says. “It's not even over when the artist dies because there's constant evaluation and re-thinking going on. And when you put one work in proximity to another work 50 years later, something new can happen. I mean, I think that's why it's important.”

Mar 7, 2024

“West African culture is starting to become the future” says Phillip Ihenacho, the director of the newly established Museum of West African Art. What if you built a new museum in West Africa, where a glorious ancient history contrasts with a brutal colonial one? What if we really considered the full meaning of restitution and repair? Can a cultural organisation build a stable financial future by becoming its own landlord? Phillip and his team are building not just a new museum — but an entire neighbourhood set within the ancient walls of Benin City in Edo. Phillip talks to us about how talent and creativity are thriving in West Africa, where 70% of the population is under 30 and he talks frankly about the challenges of developing opportunities and infrastructure. This is an “incredibly important moment”, Phillip says. “We need to try and grab it with both hands, and take full advantage of it.”

Feb 29, 2024

In this episode, we welcome Jarl Mohn, the LA art collector and philanthropist who founded the E! Entertainment network in his professional life, among other impressive media and business ventures. Jarl became a DJ at a young age, partly in an attempt to escape the realities of life in a state foster home. Success in his professional career led him to the art world - which he initially distrusted as an industry “designed to take advantage of idiots like us”. Jarl talks to us about what changed his mind, and how he ended up building two distinct art collections. An ardent Angeleno, he tells us how LA is the future of art and reveals his secret dream of pulling off a very slow heist involving Walter de Maria’s ‘The Lightning Field’.

Feb 22, 2024

What if we write our own histories? What if we create the change we seek?  In this episode, we talk to the President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation, Hoor Al Qasimi, under whose watch, Sharjah has become one of the most influential centers for cultural creation and research in the Global South. From revamping art biennials to creating new universities, overseeing architectural triennials, running a fashion house, sitting on international museum boards, to curating large and small scale art projects around the world, Hoor Al Qasimi is perhaps one of the busiest people we have ever interviewed. At the heart of all of this is art, and Hoor’s profound belief in its essential ability to change us as people, and her insistence that this needs to be done by working together. Tune in for more! 

Feb 15, 2024

Described as the “next generation of leadership”, in this episode we welcome Salome Asega, the director of NEW INC in New York and an accomplished artist, whose work is at the cutting edge of creativity and technology. Salome’s ability to look towards—and build—the future shines through in this conversation with host Charlotte Burns. Part of her work at NEW INC, she says, is about creating chance encounters for creative people that feel like “choosing your own adventure.” What if we focused on new inventions, narratives and opportunities? Tune in for more. 

Feb 8, 2024

In this episode host Charlotte Burns is joined by artist Alvaro Barrington, who brings as much generosity of spirit to this conversation as he does to his art practice. Fundamentally curious, Alvaro wants to connect with as many people as possible and to make art that is as relevant to people today as Hip Hop was to him as a kid growing up in New York in the 1990s. But, as the art world has expanded, he says, it’s also become narrower in terms of who gets in. Alvaro is interested in changing that, creating less hierarchy and more connections. What if art could be as beloved as music by Beyonce or Taylor Swift? “Art has to be more in people’s lives,” he says, “It just has to figure that out.”

Feb 1, 2024

We’re back! In this episode, host Charlotte Burns talks to Jessica Morgan, the director of the Dia Art Foundation. She has revitalized the institution, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, since arriving in 2015, bringing new energy and distinct vision to the museum and creating change behind-the-scenes as much as she has to the work on display. In this episode Jessica talks openly about the museum field, from funding structures to her future plans, from unions to boards. What if Jessica ran the art world? She tells us what she would do first. 

Jan 25, 2024

Welcome back to The Art World: What If…?! the podcast all about imagining new futures. To kick off the second season in style, host Charlotte Burns is joined by the phenomenally talented, Grammy-nominated, singer and songwriter, Alice Smith who is, she says, currently at work on her masterpiece. This is a frank, free — and very fun — conversation, with lots of surprises. Alice delves into what it really means to be creative, and why it matters. What if she could pick her dream role? You might be surprised. Tune in for more. 

Jan 18, 2024

Welcome back to The Art World: What If... ?! the podcast all about imagining new and better futures. There are some fantastic guests lined up for this second season, leading creative thinkers from all around the world, ready to talk to our hosts Allan Schwartzman and Charlotte Burns. Tune in! New episodes drop every Thursday starting 25 January.

Apr 13, 2023

This time hosts Charlotte Burns and Allan Schwartzman welcome their team of editorial advisors Deana Haggag, Mia Locks and Jay Sanders. They’re the brilliant trio who’ve helped steer this season’s conversations acting as an independent sounding board lending editorial advice and expertise - all essential in the creation of this podcast. This is (almost) the season finale - so time to reflect and look back at some of the surprises, delights and, of course, the many "What Ifs". Listen out in the next few weeks for some special bonus episodes!

Apr 6, 2023

What if we supported artists in taking moonshots?  This week we’re taking a tour around Glenstone museum in Potomac, Maryland - one of the largest and most ambitious private institutions in America, fusing art, architecture and nature. This wide-ranging conversation between Glenstone’s co-founder and director, Emily Rales and host Charlotte Burns covers the art inside the museum and how to create more meaningful visitor experiences, to the Glenstone foundation and future philanthropic plans. “Our values are immutable,” Emily says. “Art is essential to life. And sometimes when I say that to people, they're like, what does that even mean? But I really believe that art is essential to our civilization and to humanity.” She adds: “Long-term defines the way we think. We're not intending to go out guns a-blazing and then sun-setting the foundation within 20 years. We want this to continue to be sustained in perpetuity—and we really mean that.”

Mar 30, 2023
What if we made more mess? What if we could sit with discomfort?  This time Charlotte Burns talks to one of her heroes, the artist Pope.L. Probably best known for his public performance art including his legendary crawls, Pope.L has risked his own safety for his work — and he isn’t finished yet. An artist whose practice is as varied as it is profound, Pope.L makes art across media, time and space. He talks to Charlotte about his new work for a major exhibition involving confederacy monuments, about working with institutions and about his goal to make more mess. “Oh man, you know, like removing every wall in a space and just having no differentiated areas," he says. "That would be one way. The other one would probably be the use of outside and inside. Don't make that a differentiation and then have them agree that we'll do the show in winter. That would be fun!”
Mar 23, 2023

What if we trusted artists more? This episode Charlotte Burns is joined by Kathy Halbreich, the outgoing director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, who’s led some of the most dynamic institutions in the art world. They discuss freedom, finances and what the future holds for museums and those who work in them. “You could not pay me enough money to be a museum director at this point in my life,” says Kathy. “Maybe that's just because I really know what the job is and I think it is one of the most misunderstood and genuinely taxing jobs.”

Mar 16, 2023

Time to take stock this episode with hosts Charlotte Burns and Allan Schwartzman. We look back at some of the big ideas that have emerged throughout the series so far. From change and creativity, to finance and futures, we discuss what’s amazed, delighted—and even filled us with hope. "I think a lot more about excess than abundance," says Allan. "There is a generosity with which the word abundance has been used by a number of the people we've interviewed. I think that that sense of generosity and of abundance comes from an awareness of what the opposite is. And each of these people, in their own way, is either being given power or seizing power — and doing so to create a better world." Tune in for this very special episode.

Mar 9, 2023

We’re still in the city of angels for our second special episode asking ‘What if LA is the future?’ Join host, Charlotte Burns, as she drives from the East Side to Korea Town and out to Santa Monica. We visit the studio of artist and filmmaker, Cauleen Smith, whose life and work centers around building a better world. We also drop in on Kibum Kim, partner and co-founder at Commonwealth and Council - a gallery building a supportive community of artists - who wants to challenge the high-speed efficiency of the current art world model. Both embody what it means to live in the realm of possibility. “I guess what I'm doing is always looking to the relatively recent past of models where people really did do things differently quite successfully,” says Cauleen. Tune in, and subscribe, for more.

Mar 2, 2023

What if Los Angeles is the future? This episode Charlotte Burns visits the city for the first of two extra special episodes. We’re at the Hammer museum with its Chief curator, Connie Butler, before heading over to meet Sue Bell Yank who’s Executive director at Clockshop. Both are experimenting with how to do things differently and how to make LA a sustainable place to be and to create art. Nowhere encapsulates the need to imagine radical new possibilities more than Los Angeles. “LA is an amazing place to think about what our possible futures could look like,” says Sue Bell Yank. “It's a place that’s at the bleeding edge of a lot of crises, from wildfires to floods. How cultural organizations fit into that is really interesting.” Join us for more.

Feb 23, 2023

What if it were possible to dream up entirely new things? Join host Charlotte Burns as she interviews one of the most interesting artists working today. American Artist — who changed their name in 2013 — produces deeply thoughtful work that is as enmeshed in digitization and technology as it is history and alternate realities. American talks about how their art tackles police violence in the US. They also discuss a newer body of work centering on the life and writings of sci-fi novelist, Octavia E. Butler. American says their work is ultimately hopeful: “If I didn’t feel strongly that things could change I wouldn’t even bother. But I want everyone else to try as hard as I do.”

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