The Honest Art Dictionary

By the Art History Babes

Available now!

SLATE is thrilled to announce the launch of The Honest Art Dictionary, just in time for the holidays. One of our own, Ginny, is part of a power-podcast quartet known as the Art History Babes, and this is their latest endeavor! This humble and witty reference book offers the art world to everyone, by redefining classic art terms using bite-sized and contemporary pop culture references without losing any of the potency.

“Art speak is infamously alienating, strange, and confusing as hell. Think stereotypical, stylish art dealers who describe art as ‘derivative’ and ‘dynamic’ – or stuffy auction houses filled with portraits of dead white people called ‘Old Masters’. What do these words mean? Where did they come from? And how can you actually use them?… After reading this book, you’ll be able to lay down that art jargon with the best of them.” -AHB

Click HERE to purchase The Honest Art Dictionary



Autumn Bailey: For those people who aren’t familiar, what is Art History Babes and how did you get started?

Ginny Van Dine: The Art History Babes is a podcast me and three friends from grad school started back in 2016. It originated as an outlet for four art nerds to get together and talk about whatever art/visual culture topics we wanted in a way that was fun and informal. We want to make art and art history – which many people historically have viewed as selective and pretentious – more accessible to more people. There is something to connect with and get excited about art for every single person; so we try to cover as many topics as we can. Since 2016, our listenership has grown and we are happily still producing podcasts and are thrilled about our book.

AB: The title The Honest Art Dictionary suggests that other art reference books may not tell the whole story. What was the inspiration for writing this book?

GVD: The goal here was to write a dictionary that had some oomph and opinion to it. Typically, dictionaries and even art textbooks can be dry and lack personality. We wanted to write something that was informative but had energy and our perceptions  woven throughout. It’s “honest” because we don’t shy away from calling out problematic trends in art history like western museums with collections largely made of stolen art and artifacts from colonized countries. Or just stating opinions like we don’t like Jeff Koons [laughs].

AB: But why art?

GVD: What we’ve learned while making our podcast and writing this book, is that art is truly endless. There is always a new artist to discover, a story to be told, a style to be examined, and something you can personally connect with in art. It is constantly evolving, even art from hundreds of years ago as histories shift and are examined anew. Art can intersect with history, politics, religion, critical theory and so much more. It keeps me curious and learning all the time, which I’m forever grateful for.

AB: What I love about this book, is that it breaks down some of the more intellectual ideas in art into palatable bites that anyone, with or without an art background, can enjoy. Who is this book written for?

GVD: That was our goal! We want this book to be for everyone. Whether you have an art background, none at all, or somewhere in between. At its core, this book is meant to ignite curiosity and encourage people to further explore the topics that resonate with them, not to act as a strict “this is art, this is how it is, the end” text.

AB: What is next for the Art History Babes? Any new content on the horizon?

GVD: We had to pause our regular podcast content creation while we finished this book and then extended the pause through most of the summer given everything going on in the world. Currently, we’re happily back to creating more regular podcast episodes while we rest on our laurels a bit now that the book is out. We do want to write more books in the future and have a few ideas in the works including a possible graphic novel in partnership with an illustrator. Ideas abound, it’s just a matter of making them happen!