A Piece of Work: Conversations about Modern Art

by Nisan Igdem

Does understanding modern art have to be difficult? According to the podcast A Piece of Work, no. Abbi Jacobson, known for her role in the TV-series Broad City, explores the artwork in MoMA as she has conversations with her guests, including famous drag queen RuPaul, and minimalist artist Jo Baer. The podcast offers something that people often tend to forget: the importance of experiencing art.

Although she is a comedy writer, actor and producer, Jacobson initially studied Fine Art at the Maryland Institute of Art, and moved to New York to pursue illustration. As she explains in the first episode of the podcast, her love for MoMA was so great that she wanted a membership for Christmas. She eventually found her real passion in comedy and parted ways with MoMA, but she is delighted to be back. “The art world is something that I had to let go, but it's something I'm still interested in and really want to continue pursuing,” she says to Rolling Stone.

Ryan Muir, ‘Jacobson standing in front of Jo Baer’s  Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue ’, 2017. ( http://www.wnyc.org/story/minimalism-max-judd-flavin-jo-baer )

Ryan Muir, ‘Jacobson standing in front of Jo Baer’s Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue’, 2017. (http://www.wnyc.org/story/minimalism-max-judd-flavin-jo-baer)

The podcast is not interested in the historical study of paintings - although Jacobson does give some facts, or invites people to do so, like the museum’s curator Ann Temkin - instead, it focuses more on how art is perceived. Jacobson does not position herself as an art critic, rather as someone who wants to understand modern art, but does not know where to start. In between her commentary, there are the confused voices of the visitors. How many people have stood in front of a Jackson Pollock painting and thought, “Is this something that you have to be […] enlightened to understand?” The podcast relates to every art lover, whether they have the historical knowledge or not. The purpose of Jacobson’s visits to MoMA is to have fun and experience art. She underlines that one does not have to feel pressure to enjoy a museum. She constantly reminds her listeners that, “What you’re supposed to do is look at it, take it in and feel however it makes you feel. Because, whatever that is, is right.”

The podcast is a collaboration between MoMA and WNYC Studios, and can be listened to from their websites or on iTunes. Though Jacobson gives vivid descriptions of the artwork, pictures of them can be found for every episode in WNYC’s website. A Piece of Work is a podcast that will make the listeners laugh out loud, educate them, and remind us of how much fun going to a museum can be.



Battaglia, Andy. ‘‘Go Look at Art and See What Happens’: ‘Broad City’ Star Abbi Jacobson on Her New MoMA Podcast’, ARTNews, 2017. (http://www.artnews.com/2017/06/29/go-look-at-art-and-see-what-happens-broad-city-star-abbi-jacobson-on-her-new-moma-podcast/)

Verdier, Hannah. ‘A Piece of Work: Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson hosts a modern art podcast’, The Guardian, 2017. (https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2017/jul/13/a-piece-of-work-broad-citys-abbi-jacobson-hosts-a-modern-art-podcast)

Grimm, Beca.‘'A Piece of Work': Inside Abbi Jacobson's New Art Podcast’, Rolling Stone, 2017. (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-piece-of-work-inside-abbi-jacobsons-new-art-podcast-w494252)

‘A Piece of Work, Hosted by Abbi Jacobson’, Museum of Modern Art, 2017. (https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3860)

WNYC, A Piece of Work, 2017. (http://www.wnyc.org/shows/pieceofwork/episodes/1)