The Art Angle Podcast: New Yorker Art Scribe Calvin Tomkins on What Makes Great Artists Tick

In our latest episode, host Andrew Goldstein sits down with the indefatigable writer to discuss his decades-long career profiling some of the world's most influential artists.

Calvin Tomkins speaks to Andrew Goldstein on the Art Angle podcast. Photo by Sara Barrett, courtesy of Phaidon.

Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join host Andrew Goldstein every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.

Six decades ago, an editor at Newsweek magazine summoned a young journalist named Calvin Tomkins out of the foreign-news department to interview the legendary conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp, who had apparently left art-making to play chess and… simply breathe. Although it would be years before Tomkins discovered that Duchamp had in fact been hard at work on his magnum opus, Étant Donnés, for years before their first meeting, this chance encounter altered the trajectory of his career and life. Duchamp was the gateway to what would become a prolific collection of artists—many of them eccentric or otherwise challenging, all of them great (or at least noteworthy)—that Tomkins went on to profile in the pages of the New Yorker beginning in 1962.

Dozens of those profiles have now been compiled into a lavish new multi-volume set, titled The Lives of Artists, published by Phaidon. The collection joins 18 other books that Tomkins has published on artists and the art world, including an essential biography of the man who started it all for him: Marcel Duchamp. In the process, Tomkins has arguably become known as the world’s authority on not only many of the most consequential postwar and contemporary artists in the canon, but also the art of profiling itself. To celebrate the release of The Lives of Artists, Tomkins joined Artnet News editor-in-chief Andrew Goldstein in our studio to discuss his one-of-a-kind journey, what David Hammons and Duchamp have in common, and his take on Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian, the banana that took over the world.

Listen below and subscribe to The Art Angle on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud, or wherever you get your podcasts. (Or catch up on past episodes here on Artnet News.) And for even more of Tomkins’s wit and wisdom, read the extended two-part interview here and here.

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