The Artsy Podcast, No. 11: So What Is The Art Genome Project Anyway?

Artsy’s team of editors takes you behind the scenes of the best stories in art.

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This week we have something a little special for you: a deep dive into Artsy’s Art Genome Project, the system that is used to classify the artworks on Artsy. The project is centered on assigning different “genes” to various works based on their characteristics. These genes—of which there are over 1,000—connect artists, artworks, architecture, and design objects across history based on their relationship to art historical movements, their subject matter, and their formal qualities.

Art Genome Project coordinator Sarah Gottesman joins the podcast to give us an inside look at the team. After exploring the history of the project, we discuss some of the exciting and surprising trends in contemporary art that the Genome Project has unearthed, before expanding on our previous discussion centered around the pitfalls of labeling artists. Given that determining ways to categorize artists is the bread and butter of the Genome Project, the unexpected connections and challenges that come with grouping artists is something the team dealt with since its inception.  

A Brief History of Color in Art

Gottesman also gives some expanded insight on her piece that explored the underappreciated history of the pigments used to create art through the ages. Looking at a painting on a museum wall, we usually think about the work’s subject, not colors used to depict the image. But often pigments we take for granted were signs of extreme wealth or refined from toxic chemicals. We discuss the hidden importance of pigments, along with why ignoring the history of color produced by poisonous substances is a choice we make at our own peril.


This podcast is hosted by Artsy Editorial Associate Isaac Kaplan, joined for this edition by Content Coordinator, The Art Genome Project and Marketplace Sarah Gottesman and Senior Editor Tess Thackara. It was produced by Joe Sykes with assistance from Editorial Associate Abigail Cain.

Intro music: “Something Elated” by Broke For Free

Cover image: Piet Mondrian, Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Grey and Blue, 1921. © 2014 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA. Courtesy of Turner Contemporary.