Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, yesterday unveiled details of the highly anticipated landmark BBC Arts series, Civilisations. He also announced supporting programming across BBC TV and Radio and an accompanying Civilisations Festival, which will see the BBC partner with more than 250 museums, galleries, libraries and archives across the UK.
Inspired by Kenneth Clark’s ground-breaking BBC series from 1969, BBC Two’s nine-part series Civilisations introduces a new generation to great masterworks of beauty and ingenuity. From the first marks on cave walls made forty thousand years ago, to the art of the present, Civilisations will offer the perspectives of three presenters, Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga, on humanity’s desire to create.
They 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. It will look at paintings, sculptures and architecture that have enriched, challenged and unsettled human beings across the world and reveal the artists who made them and the cultures that produced them.
Alongside the nine-part BBC Two series, the BBC yesterday announced a range of additional supporting programming.
BBC One will present a collection of eleven programmes called Civilisations Stories, exploring the stories emerging from the art of each region and what they say about the communities in which we live.
In a special accompanying programme for BBC Two, Civilisations on your Doorstep, Mary Beard will explore the stories and controversies behind extraordinary works of art from all over the world that are now displayed in museums across Britain. She will open the doors to the UK’s national holdings, tracing British attitudes to civilisation through the story of collecting around the country.
Mary Beard says: “You don’t have to go to faraway places to enjoy show-stopping works of art. This programme explores the art and architecture we can see in the museums, galleries and streets of the UK. But it also raises big questions of what (British) civilisation is…and the sometimes fine line that separates civilisation from barbarity.”
Further programming on BBC Two will include two special Performance Live programmes in collaboration with Arts Council England, BBC Arts and Battersea Arts Centre, presenting new commissions from director and photographer Robin Friend and director and choreographer Wayne McGregor – Winged Bull in the Elephant Case and hip hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur Akala – The Ruins of Empires.
BBC Radio will also broadcast special programmes on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4, including a programme from Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival with David Olusoga, recorded in front of a live audience at Sage Gateshead, and a major new series on Radio 4, An Alternative History Art, looking at the marginalised cultural voices written out of 20th century visual art history. The series links closely to The Open University’s Art History syllabus, with academics from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences supporting the production of the series. The OU has produced a free, double-sided poster to accompany the series exploring the art of different civilisations around the world.
Also online, The Civilisations Podcast will extend, unpick and challenge the themes raised in the programme. This lively series will ask wider questions about the notion of civilisation, reflect on the global scale of Civilisations and explore how it was made and speak directly to those – from audiences to curators – who are making a contribution to the Civilisations Festival. The Civilisations Podcast will launch in early March.
About The Civilisations Festival
The Civilisations Festival is a collaboration between the BBC, museums, galleries, libraries and archives across the UK. More than 250 organisations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have signed up as partners.
The Festival will shine a spotlight on partners’ collections, as they host events to spark debate, broaden understanding and share ideas about what the term ‘civilisation’ means for their communities. The BBC will link up with partners to tell stories from these events, with coverage on every BBC local radio station and beyond. And there’ll be a wealth of fascinating content on Civilisations and the Festival on BBC Arts Digital
Festival events will be focused around 2 to 11 March 2018, with every organisation shaping their own event inspired by the series. People will be able to discover the Festival events in their area on Culture24’s Museum Crush website – museumcrush.org/civilisations – where they’ll be listed by museums, libraries, galleries and archives.
This dynamic project has been developed and delivered in partnership with organisations across the cultural sector including National Museum Directors’ Council, The Museums Association, Association of Independent Museums, Society of Chief Librarians, Scottish Library and Information Council and the British Library Living Knowledge Network.