First look at BBC’s epic new art history series Civilisations

The remake of Kenneth Clark’s 1969 landmark series will see Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga explore "humanity’s urge to create"

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 07/02/2018 - Programme Name: Civilisations - TX: n/a - Episode: Civilisations Launch  (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED TILL 00.01 7TH FEB 2018***
By kind permission of the Trustees and Director of the National Gallery
Titian, 'Bacchus and Ariadne' 1520-3
@ The National Gallery, London, Bought, 1826 David Olusoga, Mary Beard, Simon Schama - (C) BBC - Photographer: Pete Dadds

BBC, TL

Are you ready for art history? Really really dramatic art history? Well, you’re in luck: the BBC has just released its first trailer for epic documentary series Civilisations.

Advertisement

The six-minute (!) offers a first extended look at the show inspired by Kenneth Clark’s seminal 1969 series Civilisation, treating us to a montage of the most meaningful pieces of art through the ages. Just in case you didn’t get how important these pieces of art are, messages like “art is a measure of humanity” and “celebrating humanity’s urge to create” flash on screen.

Fortunately, all the dramatics might be justified: the nine-part BBC2 series has been three years in the making and will seek to explore almost the entire span of art history, from marks on cave walls made 40,000 years ago to present day masterpieces.

Rather than being fronted by one presenter, three TV historians will work on the new series: Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga.

According to the BBC, the trio will “travel far and wide across six continents to find answers to fundamental questions about human creativity. The series will examine what makes a civilisation.”

“We live in a time of raw power, the swagger of money, brutal poverty and hard reckonings; precisely the moment when it can’t be bad to contemplate again the most enthralling things that human creativity can achieve, because, for the most part, they are our common possession,” Schama says. “It’s taken three years of thinking, writing, filming and editing, every shoot, every encounter with great art, a daunting challenge and an immense satisfaction. We hope you enjoy the feast.”

To accompany Civilisations, the BBC will also be airing several spin-offs. BBC1 will present a series called Civilisations Stories, “exploring the stories emerging from the art of each region and what they say about the communities in which we live”.

BBC2 meanwhile will broadcast accompanying show Civilisations on your Doorstep, also featuring Mary Beard, who will look into “the stories and controversies behind extraordinary works of art from all over the world that are now displayed in museums across Britain”.

The BBC will also be launching The Civilisations Podcast, which promises to “extend, unpick and challenge the themes raised in the programme”.

In summary: there’s a lot of Civilisations heading your way. And it’s coming soon…

Advertisement

Civilisations (and its spin-off shows) will air in Spring 2018