The Bug That Had the World Seeing Red

How a Mesoamerican Insect Created the Globe's Most Coveted Color

Once there was a color so valuable that emperors and conquistadors coveted it, and so did kings and cardinals. Artists went wild over it. Pirates ransacked ships for it. Poets from Donne to Dickinson sang its praises. Scientists vied with each other to probe its mysteries. Desperate men even risked their lives to obtain it. This highly prized commodity was the secret to the color of desire—a tiny dried insect that produced the perfect red.

How could a color be so valuable? In culture after culture, red …

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Even Godless Hipsters Love the Stigmata

From Medieval Manuscripts to Burning Man, We Use Art to Get Closer to the Sacred

The yearning for intimacy with the sacred remains as potent today as it was in medieval days, when art was preoccupied almost entirely with depicting the divine. Last night’s spirited …

The Art of the Golden State Warriors

Their Winning Games Are Moving Masterpieces That Can Be Revisited Again and Again

During an early round of the current NBA playoffs a couple weeks ago, my family’s favorite team, the Golden State Warriors, had an idle evening. Missing the excitement of seeing …

The Photography Collector Who Legitimized an Art Form

Robert Mapplethorpe’s Partner Samuel J. Wagstaff Amassed a Trove of Images That Changed Fine Art Photography Forever

If Robert Mapplethorpe popularized photography as a fine art form, his longtime partner Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. gave it legitimacy. The former curator of the Wadsworth Athenaeum and the Detroit …