playlist

Objects of desire

An iconic painting. An ancient manuscript. A cylinder with 2600 years of history. Learn about artifacts and images that have intrigued humans for centuries, and why we find them so alluring.

  1. 15:00
    Amit Sood Every piece of art you've ever wanted to see — up close and searchable

    What does a cultural Big Bang look like? For Amit Sood, director of Google's Cultural Institute and Art Project, it's an online platform where anyone can explore the world's greatest collections of art and artifacts in vivid, lifelike detail. Join Sood and Google artist in residence Cyril Diagne in a mind-bending demo of experiments from the Cultural Institute and glimpse the exciting future of accessibility to arts and culture.

  2. 15:33
    Denis Dutton A Darwinian theory of beauty

    TED collaborates with animator Andrew Park to illustrate Denis Dutton's provocative theory on beauty — that art, music and other beautiful things, far from being simply "in the eye of the beholder," are a core part of human nature with deep evolutionary origins.

  3. 14:47
    Anjan Chatterjee How your brain decides what is beautiful

    Anjan Chatterjee uses tools from evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience to study one of nature's most captivating concepts: beauty. Learn more about the science behind why certain configurations of line, color and form excite us in this fascinating, deep look inside your brain.

  4. 17:33
    Elizabeth Lev The unheard story of the Sistine Chapel

    The Sistine Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings on earth — but there's a lot you probably don't know about it. In this tour-de-force talk, art historian Elizabeth Lev guides us across the famous building's ceiling and Michelangelo's vital depiction of traditional stories, showing how the painter reached beyond the religious iconography of the time to chart new artistic waters. Five hundred years after the artist painted it, says Lev, the Sistine Chapel forces us to look around as if it were a mirror and ask, "Who am I, and what role do I play in this great theater of life?"

  5. 14:53
    William Noel Revealing the lost codex of Archimedes

    How do you read a two-thousand-year-old manuscript that has been erased, cut up, written on and painted over? With a powerful particle accelerator, of course! Ancient books curator William Noel tells the fascinating story behind the Archimedes palimpsest, a Byzantine prayer book containing previously-unknown original writings from ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes and others.

  6. 12:34
    Maurizio Seracini The secret lives of paintings

    Art history is far from set in stone. Engineer Maurizio Seracini spent 30 years searching for Leonardo da Vinci's lost fresco "The Battle of Anghiari," and in the process discovered that many paintings have layers of history hidden underneath. Should they be part of the viewing experience too?

  7. 4:24
    Siegfried Woldhek The search for the true face of Leonardo

    Mona Lisa is one of the best-known faces on the planet. But would you recognize an image of Leonardo da Vinci? Illustrator Siegfried Woldhek uses some thoughtful image-analysis techniques to find what he believes is the true face of Leonardo.

  8. 18:17
    Paola Antonelli Treat design as art

    Paola Antonelli, design curator at New York's Museum of Modern Art, wants to spread her appreciation of design — in all shapes and forms — around the world.

  9. 14:21
    Tracy Chevalier Finding the story inside the painting

    When Tracy Chevalier looks at paintings, she imagines the stories behind them: How did the painter meet his model? What would explain that look in her eye? Why is that man ... blushing? She shares three stories inspired by portraits, including the one that led to her best-selling novel "Girl With a Pearl Earring."

  10. 19:37
    Neil MacGregor 2600 years of history in one object

    A clay cylinder covered in Akkadian cuneiform script, damaged and broken, the Cyrus Cylinder is a powerful symbol of religious tolerance and multi-culturalism. In this enthralling talk Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, traces 2600 years of Middle Eastern history through this single object.

  11. 15:57
    Ursus Wehrli Tidying up art

    Ursus Wehrli shares his vision for a cleaner, more organized, tidier form of art — by deconstructing the paintings of modern masters into their component pieces, sorted by color and size.

  12. 16:17
    Paul Bloom The origins of pleasure

    Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists — that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.

  13. 6:06
    Brian Dettmer Old books reborn as art

    What do you do with an outdated encyclopedia in the information age? With X-Acto knives and an eye for a good remix, artist Brian Dettmer makes beautiful, unexpected sculptures that breathe new life into old books.

  14. 13:11
    Luke Syson How I learned to stop worrying and love "useless" art

    Luke Syson was a curator of Renaissance art, of transcendent paintings of saints and solemn Italian ladies — Very Serious Art. And then he changed jobs, and inherited the Met's collection of ceramics — pretty, frilly, "useless" candlesticks and vases. He didn't like it. He didn't get it. Until one day ...

  15. 2:33
    Marisa Fick-Jordan The wonder of Zulu wire art

    In this short, image-packed talk, Marisa Fick-Jordan talks about how a village of traditional Zulu wire weavers built a worldwide market for their dazzling work.

  16. 18:09
    Eva Zeisel The playful search for beauty

    The ceramics designer Eva Zeisel looks back on a 75-year career. What keeps her work as fresh today (her latest line debuted in 2008) as in 1926? Her sense of play and beauty, and her drive for adventure. Listen for stories from a rich, colorful life.