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Episode 36
Author Farah Nayeri "Takedown: Art and Power in the Digital Age"

  • 2 min read

Episode Description

Farah Nayeri discusses her new book "Takedown: Art and Power in the Digital Age". In the book, Nayeri (a long-time culture journalist for The New York Times) addresses some of the art world's most prickly topics. Issues such as gender bias, underrepresentation, censorship and cultural appropriation are examined in the context of a more-connected world that has become passionate about issues of equality.

Check out coverage of “Takedown” in the New York Times Book Review here.


Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with author Farah Nayeri about her new book Takedown Art Empower in the Digital Age. In the book, Neary, a long culture journalist for The New York Times, addresses some of the art world's most prickly topics. Issues such as gender bias, underrepresentation, censorship and cultural appropriation are examined in the context of a more connected world that has become passionate about issues of equality. Now my conversation about power in the art world with Farah Nayeri.

Craig: [00:01:01] Farah Nayeri, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast to talk about your new book, Takedown: Art and Power in the Digital Age. Farah, where do you even start to describe your book to folks when they ask about what? What did you write?

Farah: [00:01:18] Yeah. Craig, thank you very much for having me on your show. It's a great pleasure to be on. Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of topics touched upon in the book, but I suppose what one could say is that it's about power dynamics in the world of art museums and how those power dynamics have completely shifted across the ages. And in fact, they shifted really very recently. We went for centuries with a kind of like system whereby you had top-down censorship and top-down control of art. Artists had to be sort of careful because they were answerable to patrons who were either princes or popes or nobility or queens, or in the 20th century, you know, dictatorships. You had one party states like like Germany and like the Soviet Union, and so artists were really not free. Nowadays, artists are free, very free than free, as can be. However, there's a new kind of control or scrutiny that they've come under, and that is the control of the general public of people like you and me, people who have to vote, and people who also have access, free and open access to what's called social media. And so that I'm sort of basically describing that trajectory, but mainly focusing on contemporary and modern times. I mean, the the chapter is about art history and the, you know, distant past. You know, I've compressed it into one chapter. So just to reassure readers, this is all about now and it's all about today, and it's all about controversies that have broken out in recent years over art.

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Craig: [00:03:05] I feel like a certain amount of your book looks at comparative cultures between U.S., Britain, France. You know, I feel like you have a really unique perspective having grown up in your formative years in France, work for U.S. organizations for decades. Live in London. But tell me, you know. You know, based on what you were saying in terms of how that power structure is looking a little bit different. Can you tell me how you see the power dynamics a little different in museums in the U.S. versus the U.K. in regards to where the majority of funding comes from? Because I think part of things being capable of changing a certain degree of what we see in museums is related here in the U.S. to who's on the board, right? And who is giving the money. A lot of this comes down to where's the money coming from?

Farah: [00:04:01] Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, the difference here is that I live in the U.K., I live in London and I'm frequently in Paris. But the difference the fundamental difference is that taxpayers fund museums in this country in the U.K., and most of the funding in most institutions comes from the taxpayer. And then these institutions go out and fundraise and make money. So it's a sort of mixed model. But basically, I mean, if it weren't for taxpayers, a lot of these museums wouldn't be able to stay open. I mean, they get tens of millions of pounds or dollars a year, if not reaching into one hundred million. Maybe I'm not sure that any museum gets 100 million or more a year, but certainly tens of millions. You know, the Big National Museum, they receive that from the taxpayer. And in America, of course, that's not the case. So whereas here you really do also need private funding, you do need the sponsors and you do need the billionaires on boards to pay for your big expansions in your capital projects and put tens of millions on the table for you to be able to build that new wing. You're not kind of like beholden only to private money, whereas in America, you know, unfortunately that is the case.

Farah: [00:05:27] In other words, you really do need private money and private funding to stay afloat. And that, of course, changes the dynamics quite a bit because this is, you know, the UK is a democracy, is a western democracy, a thriving democracy. And so, you know, even though the taxpayer or the government funds these museums, they're not going to tell them what to do. The government is not going to step in and say, "Well, you should put on this exhibition and you should not put on that exhibition." Whereas, you know, and of course, that's also the case naturally in the United States of America. But if all of your funding is coming from private sources and those private sources may be uncomfortable about some exhibition you're going to put on, which not which is not going to kind of make them look good in some way, shape or form. There is the potentiality of that board member or that very well-endowed individual kind of breathing down the neck of the museum's management. So yeah, that's where the dynamics differ.

Craig: [00:06:31] You know, one of the things that I've read about with board members that I didn't see you talk about in the book, but I think it's an issue is, you know, boards influence on what art, you know, specific pieces getting exhibited, the board members exerting their power to increase the value of the works in their own portfolio, right? So the ability of a of a board member to say, you know, "hey, I think would be a great idea if you know my personal piece were part of this exhibit" because that adds gravitas to their resume, right?

Farah: [00:07:10] Let me stop you there. I mean, I have spoken obviously on constant touch with people who put on exhibitions. What they're very clear about is that you don't have board members actually saying, you know, I want my piece in your show. That's not the way it happens, because that would be really, that would be pretty bad. I mean, that that really would be conflict of interest. And that's something that I think I mean, really, I don't think it's it's something that happens like so broadly and openly as you, as you and I just described it. But what what can happen is that when you're sitting around the table and there are board members and they're all sitting around the table and there are pictures that come from museums, curators as to what exhibitions we should put on that you can have board members actually approve or encourage an exhibition in which that way in which they can show work some from their own collection or in which they they can show works by an artist that they own. Of course, as soon as an artist's work goes into a big museum, clearly the value and the worth of that artist goes up. So there is that kind of there is that situation which you don't have when when your museums government funded

Craig: [00:08:23] Well, the other side of this whole coin is not only work that these donors may not be comfortable with. We're now in a news cycle where we're talking about museums not being comfortable with who the donors are anymore. And maybe when we just knew a family for being wealthy and not necessarily knowing where that money came from, now we're talking about news cycles where, oh, your your wealth came from riot gear that's being used by oppressive police forces or, you know, you or your family is the one that actually is responsible for the opioid epidemic. The tables are turning a little bit there, and your Chapter Six "All Money is Dirty", you know, kind of illuminated that. Can you tell me a little bit about the story of Nan Goldin and your conversation with her? You also have a podcast, which is amazing. And what? Remind my listeners the name of your podcast.

Farah: [00:09:25] My podcast is called Cultureblast, all one word, and it's on all platforms.

Craig: [00:09:30] I listened to your conversation with Nan Goldin this week. Can you kind of tell Nan's story as it relates to trying to fight that power structure?

Farah: [00:09:40] Sure. I mean, Nan had the way she described it to me, and she's described it everywhere. She had, I believe, a wrist operation in Germany a number of years ago. And so, you know, after the first operation, she had extraordinary amounts of pain, and the doctor there gave her this painkiller and said, "Look, you can take this." But of course, it was prescribed in in small doses, and she took doses that were even smaller in the beginning. You know, she was just, you know, and then after a while, I believe, well, obviously, you know, she started wanting to take this drug more because of course, as we know it was OxyContin and it's addictive. And so she started asking the doctor in Germany for more and more prescriptions to get more of that drug. And then eventually moved to New York and found herself there again, needing to use this drug and not being able to get it easily. So it was just a matter of trying to get prescriptions through certain ways. And eventually she found herself addicted to it and went through a horrendous time. I think it was a very, very, very dark time. I think there was. She described it as being, you know, close to death, and it really was a very, very rough period in her life, and she had, as she describes to me on the podcast and in the book, because she also speaks to me in the book, you know, she had the money and the ability to go to rehab and work herself out of this, which she did. She went to rehab and she survived, thankfully. And we're all very happy to have Nan with us today because then what happened is that she picks up a copy of The New Yorker and sees this article by Patrick Radden Keefe describing, I mean, basically connecting OxyContin with the Sacklers, the Sackler family, whose name she's seen on museums everywhere. Everywhere you go, there's a Sackler wing, and so she decides to go after the Sacklers right there, and then she makes that decision. And she says, I'm going to go after these people and I'm going to basically shame them in exactly the place where they seek the most honor and recognition meaning in the museum world. And so she determines to basically get the name Sackler taken down from a number of museums. Her most spectacular action, as you know, was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she bursts into the Temple of Dendur. That Egyptian temple that was transported and brought all the way over into the Metropolitan Museum and paid for by Arthur Sackler.

Farah: [00:12:19] So she shows up with dozens of her cohorts in her group, which is called Pain Pain, and they start throwing, you know, pill bottles into this pool around the Temple of Dandora, and then they have a die in. They pretend to die and they collapse on the floor of the mat. And of course, so that got masses of media attention. And from there, she went and did the same sort of thing at the Guggenheim. And then she went to the Louvre and outside the pyramid. There was another action that was widely covered. And then she kind of put pressure on museums everywhere that had the Sackler name prominently featured on their walls. And so through that whole process, which she sort of described in my podcast and very eloquently. She reached the point where now we basically finally reached the point where the Metropolitan Museum is taking the Sackler name down. So is the Serpentine Gallery, which is around the corner from where I live here in London. They had a new wing called the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. It's now called the North Gallery. And so the name Sackler is basically tumbling off everywhere. And this extraordinary woman has, together with some very diligent journalists, managed to make a huge, huge difference.

Craig: [00:13:49] Absolutely. And you know, again, I would encourage my listeners to go check out your podcast Cultureblast. That interview with Nan Goldin, you know, it was so well done. I felt like I really changed my perception of who she was as an artist because I think I had always...I felt like I always kind of lumped her in as being someone who was really kind of focused on shock value. And you know, your questions, where the conversation led, really kind of gave her story a more human element than than I was anticipating.

Farah: [00:14:29] She's someone incredibly, incredibly humane and just incredibly sincere.

Craig: [00:14:34] I guess it was three years ago you wrote an article about Gauguin and it sounds like you woke up to learn that the headline writer at the Times had chosen the headline "Is it Time Gauguin Got Canceled?" Which it it seemed like folks wanted to cancel you in response to that headline? And so can you. Can you tell us about the the problematic nature with Gauguin and kind of how the world is, you know, trying to grapple with the issue of the man versus the art? And how do we deal with problematic people whose work we have historically respected? But now, when we put a microscope to their lives, it's really hard to appreciate the person.

Farah: [00:15:31] Yeah, I mean, first of all, to be fair to my editor, he was basically riffing off a line that was in the audio guide to that exhibition and in the audio guide there was a voice that said, "Is it time we stopped looking at Gauguin altogether?" And so, you know, my editor, his headline was sort of basically just taking that and rewording it really "Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled? And of course, that was a rhetorical question. But as you say, Craig, I kind of I kind of got a I don't know if I got canceled, but I got in trouble or I was criticized by certain...yeah, the French media. I mean, there was some French publications that didn't read the story. It really was very clear that they hadn't really read the story because they went on and on about how the New York Times was asking for Gauguin to get canceled when in fact, the story was just basically exploring the various new perspectives on this artist and how we should look at him today in the sort of post-Weinstein era. And you know, the reason, what the conclusion that I guess I came to having spoken to many, many museum directors, most of them female and art historians and curators who know the work of Gauguin very well and have shown him on numerous occasions is that we, you know, Gauguin, you know, he lived with on two occasions and he "married" according to the local Tahitian custom, two 13 or 14 year old girls.

Farah: [00:17:17] So these were on separate occasions, obviously. And well, this is, you know, late 19th century early 20th Gauguin was himself already married. He was married to a Danish woman, Mette Gauguin, and they have five. They had five children. So there are all kinds of problems with his behavior. Not only was he, you know, in, you know, technically committing an act of pedophilia. But also, he was also being polygamist. I mean, all kinds of problems with this, and over the years, you all of us have seen beautiful go guy exhibitions. And to this day, I love his paintings. I, you know, I'm mesmerized by them. I find them beautiful. And you know, my attraction for Gauguin's art has not diminished even after writing this book and talking to these various people. But what these people are saying and what these women say is, "no, we're not asking for Gauguin paintings to be torn down walls and for the Musee d'Orsay to be emptied of its Gauguins, for instance. We are just saying, let's show Gauguin. But let's also talk about this personal side of him, which has been completely shunned and sort of swept under the carpet and ignored. Let's stop ignoring the personal side of Gauguin, and let's talk about Gauguin the man. That's what people are saying.

Craig: [00:18:46] And, you know, I feel like there's again, sort of a comparative culture aspect to the discussion, which you know you have a unique perspective on giving, you know, growing up in France and being in the U.S. and you know, it kind of plays into this French view of cancel culture versus American's proclivity to that. And my wife teaches French. She lived in France for a while and you know, she she lived in France during the Clinton impeachment, and people would come to her and say, "What are you Americans, what are you even doing?  Why do you care who your president sleeps with? That's that's not his job." Right? So there seems, you know, culturally...can you kind of speak to just a different cultural perspective of how the French are able to separate who a person is versus what a person does?

Farah: [00:19:54] Okay. I mean, I think that that has changed a great deal and that the stereotypes about France all need revisiting because France is changing and changing very rapidly. When you listen to the political campaigns they talk constantly about, like the right wing parties will complain about how everybody is so woke and everyone's being politically correct, and there's even a term called "le wokeisme". You know, I mean, there's all these accusations flying that universities in France are just, you know, being too politically correct and we're paying too much attention to minorities and all of this sort of stuff. But when you actually look at what's happening, you see a great deal of shift and a great deal of changes and you see evolutions along the lines of what's happening in America. And here's some examples. I discovered recently that this town in Brittany, where Gauguin lived and where you know, there's a mural of him on the side of a building. That mural had been covered with slogans, angry slogans by feminist groups, and that when they, you know, wiped off the slogan, another slogan was put back on that there with complaints about his character, and they don't want him to be associated with that town.

Farah: [00:21:16] When you look at the heads of some of the French national museums, major museums in Paris, you are seeing people who are nonwhite taking over. And if you look at who France has chosen to represent it at this year's Venice Biennale, where every country is, we know and most countries have a pavilion and that pavilion is supposed to reflect the nation. Well, this year's artist is Zineb Sedira, who's French Algerian. So, I mean, this is official France choosing Zineb Sedira, who's of Algerian descent, to represent it. So this kind of the whole issue of and also the the issue of MeToo and women and and what we heard in the very beginning of the MeToo scandal, which were a few famous voices saying, you know, why shouldn't men have the right to flirt? I think all of that has been now revised and and you have very, very vocal young French actresses who have stood up and and basically spoken of sexual assault or experiences of rape. And they have protested very, very loudly against the filmmaker, Roman Polanski. And there are other examples. So I think France is changing or has changed quite a bit.

Craig: [00:22:44] In another part of the book. When we were talking about underrepresentation minorities in museum staff, you you reference this term I hadn't seen before, which was universality. And you know, I guess, which is the sense that since Égalité is a cornerstone of French culture, there's no need to actually track equality. But you know, that doesn't seem to actually reflect opportunities for those colonial immigrant minorities. Can you tell me more about that precept? Because that's the first time I'd seen reference to that.

Farah: [00:23:23] I mean, you know, as you know, the French Revolution, you know, generated this motto liberté, égalité, fraternité, as you all know. And so the principle behind that is everybody is equal and we were all born equal, and there's no difference between one French citizen and another. And there's also this very, very staunch tradition of secularity and secularism in France is a very, very, very stark separation of church and state, which means that therefore, if everybody's equal, we can't define people according to their ethnic origin or their ethnicity because everybody's equal and we certainly can't define them according to their religion. So France doesn't actually have official statistics breaking down the population, according to how many are of North African origin and how many are of this or that. There are, of course, those kinds of statistics, but they're more kind of informal. And so what that translates into, or what that has translated into over the decades is that in the museum world, people were just recruited and there was no attention paid to the fact that we also need to recruit people from categories of minorities or ethnicities that will make our museums more open minded and more alert to what's going on in the real world. And, you know, for a very long time, the French just, you know, they just didn't pay attention to that. And whenever it was brought up, people would say, "Oh, yeah, that's kind of American style political correctness. And oh yeah, that's just so PC." But as I was explaining to you earlier, in reality, all of that is happening quite a bit. I go to museums all the time and I see that the press office or this or that department actually is led by or has people from who have North African sounding names or who have names that don't sound like they are European, French, so. So this is actually a process that is now in place and that, you know, I think that even without kind of having quotas, even without counting people up, I think the French are really waking up to this necessity.

Craig: [00:25:52] The conversation about underrepresentation is probably a nice segue to talk about how the environment for opportunities for African-Americans is changing. I mean, I see it in terms of just seeing what museum programing looks like, what gallery programing looks like. I know that I have really struggled. I want a diverse group of guests on this podcast, and I'm having problems booking African-American artists because I get lots and lots of polite responses that, "I'm way too busy". Basically making hay while the sun is shining, right? And I guess, you know, there was a rhetorical question that you had in in the book, which is, "Are we witnessing a true revolution this time? An irreversible shift towards the representation of minorities in the art world." In other words, are we seeing a correction during a news cycle that when something dies down, it will go back to the old status quo? Are or are we seeing a lasting change? What is your impression based on the people you've been talking to?

Farah: [00:27:09] I mean, my impression, which I lay out in the epilogue, is that this is not a flash in the pan. It cannot be a flash in the pan. I mean, how could we after, you know, putting on exhibitions in major museums of major African-American, let's say, artists, how could we then go back to...and doing so over a number of years? This is now a process that has started and, you know, in the last three, four or five years to be very, very visible. And it is very, very visible. I mean, as you know, as you as you were just pointing out and how are we going to then suddenly shut the doors on African-American artists, let's say, and go back to only showing Cezanne, Jackson Pollock, Gauguin, Matisse? And you know what I'm saying? I mean, and David Hockney, it just for me, it's just inconceivable, especially since a museum such as MoMA, which is pretty much the three dimensional art history book, has decided to rehang its collection. And in that rehang has brought out a lot of artists who were overshadowed and overlooked for decades. Many of them women and many of them artists who are nonwhite and and they're now, you know, they're now in the MoMA rehang. And, you know, one of the most striking juxtapositions Picasso's the Marcel d'Avignon is hanging on a wall near Faith Ringgold's "American People #20: Die". That's pretty striking. That's a striking vision. And that's also pretty much a kind of harbinger of what lies ahead. I mean, I really don't see MoMA, which sets the tone in so many ways,then going back to putting Faith Ringgold somewhere where she's not visible and just sticking Picasso next to Cezanne again. You know, it's yeah, I mean, it's just things have gone too far, I think in a good way. Yeah. And so that's I mean, we're we're on this new trajectory.

Craig: [00:29:31] Well, you know, I heard a conversation this past week about American professional football that it seemed to to be parallel to to this conversation about museums and that in the National Football League, 80 percent of the players are African-American, but only three percent of the teams have an African-American head coach. And none of the teams have, you know, a top executive that's African-American and none of the owners are African-American. And it made me sort of think about the museums and how is part of the underrepresentation, you know, that we historically have seen in museums because we have a lack of African-American curators, African-American museum directors and boards that don't represent that diversity?

Farah: [00:30:25] Yeah, absolutely. No, that is absolutely correct. And I think that one of one of the curators I quote, she's an academic, curator and an artist is Coco Fusco. And she says it very clearly, she says, "until we see black men and women, individuals on boards, running museums and until we see, you know, works by black artists acquired en masse to enter the collections of the museum. This changes, you know what I mean? It's going to be kind of cosmetic." You know, she said. "It's all well and good to put exhibitions of African-American artists on, but for real change, you really do need to see", yeah, exactly what you said, Craig, which is, you know, the chief, the you know, the board members, museum directors, the curators, you just really do need to see change, you know, trickling through all of those categories.

Craig: [00:31:25] Sure, and you know, I wrote down this quote, and it may have been Coco Fusco who you quoted in your book, but I thought it was really interesting to quote said, "you're not changing things by being another room full of white people deciding what people of color want to get or experience."

Farah: [00:31:43] I think that was coming from one of the social media feeds where people complain, sort of. It's called "cancelartgalleries", I think, or accountable or "changethemuseum". I think it came from there. And it's an anonymous it's one of some of these anonymous comments that people put up on these Instagram feeds.

Craig: [00:32:03] Continuing down the path of underrepresentation, yeah, the underrepresentation of women directly in collections and just the washing away of female contributions over the history of the art canon is something else you talk about in the book. And I think you kind of phrase it this way in the book that consciously we know that women are underrepresented. But when you start looking at the data, it's kind of shocking just how underrepresented. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Farah: [00:32:31] Yeah, exactly. I mean, I have this art history book that everyone possibly was interested in. Art has a copy of. It's called "The Story of Art", and it's by Ernst Gombrich, the very famous British art historian. And I worshiped this book when I was, you know, in my teens and I want to find out about art. I would read it into the night and just look at the pictures and just the images and just be completely blown away. And then I when I started writing the book, I started flicking through the index looking for female artists. And there wasn't a single one, even though he actually updated the book in the 1980s. So he did have a chance, you know, to incorporate some female artists in the 1980s when he did the final edition and there was still not a single female artist anywhere. And this is just, I think, emblematic of the kind of erasure that women suffered all the way through the 20th century, by the way. And you know, I explain that in the book there is kind of reason for it, but it is shocking. And when you look at the stats, Charlotte Burns and Julia Halpern did this report where they went around to 30 major museums in America and they looked at the number, sort of ratio of art by women that they exhibited and acquired and it was like one in ten or less works were by women. I mean, the statistics are...they're pretty staggering. They're staggeringly low.

Craig: [00:34:12] You know, one of the things that just seems so paradoxical when when I think about that is when you look at, for example, when you look at the enrollment at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago has 3,200 students. 800 of them are male. 2,300 of them are female. And it's like, you know, it's three to one female to male. But you know, when you look at, you know, what's being represented on the walls of of the museums, it's, you know, just so far from that. And I think historically there's been a narrative that I think you titled that chapter "Just Not Good Enough". Which is really a false narrative.

Farah: [00:35:03] Right. These titles are in jest, as you know. I mean, I'm not saying that women are not good enough yet. These are kind of, yeah, funny.

Craig: [00:35:10] Yeah, yeah. But you know that that comes from something that a male patriarchy would have would have said, you know, within our lifetime, right?

Farah: [00:35:22] Absolutely

Craig: [00:35:22] Yeah. Well, you know, I think you even have an example where, you know, a museum director is like, Well, I think it may have been a biennial curator said, "Well, I would have included, you know, more females. But I just...

Farah: [00:35:39] I think you're referring to the the the gallerist who who said, "Why are there not any great women artists?" He was this gallerist, and he went up to Linda Nochlin at a graduation ceremony. And he said to Linda Nolan, Why are there not any great women artists? And Linda Nochlin turned that into the title of a very, very famous essay that she wrote, I think in 1970 or early 1970s, in which she said she said, yes, you know, it's true that there are no extraordinary, extraordinary prodigies like Picasso or Leonardo or Michelangelo who were women. But this here is why. And then she went into, you know, explaining the kind of status that women had and the circumstances that were forced upon them for millennia. Basically, that made it absolutely impossible to have an art practice and to focus and to be able to do your art and show your art and be recognized for it. Yeah, I mean, mainly circumstances that boil down to childbirth, child care, marriage, household care, all of these things. So although those domestic kind of duties that prevented. Women artists from, you know, actually being properly active.

Craig: [00:37:02] I don't know if you set out to do this, but this this conversation or what you've written in this book just really seems like a primer for people that are going into, you know, museum studies or even artists to understand, you know, in their twenties what they're walking into. Have you heard feedback that this might be used as an added text to some of those reading lists for graduate schools? Because it certainly seems to really boil down the landscape of the world we're looking at.

Farah: [00:37:37] Well, thank you, Craig. Yes, I have. Yesterday, I was addressing a group of students at the University of Tennessee via Zoom, obviously. And yeah, I mean, there are other sort of universities that are being, you know, university alumni clubs. I think the Columbia Alumni Club is looking to organize possible talk with me. So, yeah, it is something that will could serve that, that particular community, the community of students and of academia. And I'm very, very pleased about that. But I think this book has a lot of different possible readers. I've had people come up to me who read it, who were in their 20s and who are not connected to art or not experts, and they found it readable and not pretentious or whatever, which is a relief. And then there are people who are some of the world's greatest curators, and they read it and they they find something in it. So in other words, it's not I mean, I've tried not to make it too much of a niche product, too much of a of a niche publication that only certain people would want to read. I really did intend this as a mainstream publication, and I really do hope that it will have a kind of a broader readership if that's possible.

Craig: [00:38:57] So if folks wanted to to keep track of you, they obviously can buy the book, take down art and power in the digital age. There's also the podcast Cultureblast wherever you get your podcasts. 

Farah: [00:39:12] Everywhere. Right.

Craig: [00:39:12] You're website. Is it? Is it

Farah: [00:39:19] That's correct. Yeah, exactly.

Craig: [00:39:21] Oh great. We're three for three, and possibly they may even catch you playing a piano performance someplace. So you're you're a classically trained pianist. And how often do you do you perform?

Farah: [00:39:40] Not often at all, Craig. I perform a number of years ago and and I haven't performed since because I didn't want to make piano my professional. Although the question did come up when I was in my teens, I had an extraordinary professor and she asked me if I wanted to make this my profession, and I said I didn't, because by then I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I was very excited by journalism. You know, from the age of about 10 or 11. And yeah, and I and I do love writing and I love, you know, I loved writing this book and I and I'm happy to have chosen this particular trajectory. But music is a very, very important part of my life. And yeah, I'm definitely also a musician.

Craig: [00:40:29] So one last question is your job title gives you the opportunity to talk to all types of artists all over the world. What is your most memorable experience getting to to meet one of these creators?

Farah: [00:40:44] So, Craig, I mean, I don't know. The artists that I interview, they're a bit like my children in some way. These stories are like babies and I really adore. I mean, I sincerely have deep appreciation for all of the artists that I interview, and I'm not being polite. I really do have an incredible admiration for all of them and and affection also for some of them. But there is one who I'd like to bring up, and she was an artist as much as an architect because she's passed away and she's someone I was. I grew reasonably close to or grew to get to know Zaha Hadid, the late Iraqi born architect. She was an extraordinary woman. She was the world's most famous woman architect and still is, by the way, no one has really surpassed her. And she was also the first woman ever to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize. And, you know, I had a very memorable interview with her. She never really let people in, but maybe because I was from Iran, she felt that I wasn't maybe going to misrepresent her, and I had a memorable interview in her apartment in London, where we were sitting at  a curvy table that she had designed. And there were vases of her design and she was sitting under a skylight and in front of a painting of her that she had done. And yeah, that was which she kind of really told me the story of her life, starting in Baghdad and working her way all the way up to the present. Yeah, I will always remember that I took a picture of her that I treasure, and yeah, that will be definitely one of the memorable ones.

Craig: [00:42:36] Absolutely. Well, she was incomparable and it was a shock to learn of her passing. And it's a real loss for the art and architecture space, both. I mean, her her work was, you know, truly visionary. 

Farah: [00:42:51] Absolutely.

Craig: [00:42:55] Farah, I can't thank you enough for your time today.

Farah: [00:42:58] My pleasure.

Craig: [00:43:00] I feel like I could keep on talking about these things for another hour. But, you know, I really do appreciate your time. And hopefully, you know, our conversation has been informative enough that folks are encouraged to go out and read the book and buy an extra copy to give to a friend.. 

Farah: [00:43:25] I hope so. Thanks.

Craig: [00:43:32] That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to and click on the Podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Thanks for listening.

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