Entertainment & Arts

Simon Schama and Mary Beard to present major BBC art series

David Olusoga, Mary Beard and Simon Schama
Image caption The trio will begin filming next year

Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga are to present a major 10-part BBC Two series on the story of art called Civilisations.

The series will cover art's journey on a global scale from prehistoric times to the present day.

It is nearly half a century since Kenneth Clark's groundbreaking series Civilisation, about Western art, which will inspire the new commission.

Civilisations will cover art from Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa.

Image caption Art historian and critic Clark fronted 1969's 13-part series Civilisation

Art historian Schama will present six programmes, while classicist Beard will present two, based on the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome and its Chinese, Iranian and Mexican influences.

Historian and writer David Olusoga, who is also making two programmes, will call upon his expertise in empire, military history and the relationships between global cultures.

Director general of the BBC Tony Hall said: "I remember the impact Civilisation had on me when I was in school: it was the start of a lifelong passion for the arts. Inspired by that great programme of the past, we want to excite a new generation."

Beard said: "I remember watching the original Civilisation with my Mum and Dad and it feels pretty humbling now to be on the other side of the camera. But for me it's also exciting that in Civilisations we will be seeing ancient Greece and Rome in the context of early art across the globe."

Olusoga said it was art on television that inspired him as a youngster: "When I was growing up on a council estate my family didn't have the money to visit galleries or museums but my mother was able to open up the worlds of art and culture to me through documentaries on the BBC, programmes that broadened my horizons and transformed my view of the world.

"Civilisations is the next chapter in that tradition of TV with the power to change lives."

Civilisations will be shot around the globe, filming in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Alongside the presenters it will also speak to local experts and artists.

Filming begins in 2016 and the series is expected to air on BBC Two towards the end of 2017.

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