PBS and BBC have teamed on Civilizations, a global nine-part series that tells the story of art from the beginning of human history to the present day, for premiere this spring on PBS. The series was announced as part of PBS’ presentation Sunday at the TCA summer press tour.
Inspired by Civilization, Kenneth Clark’s landmark 1969 series about Western art, the series is filmed on six continents: Africa, Asia, Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring islands in the South Pacific Ocean), Europe and North and South America. Using state-of-the-art drone and camera movement technology, as well as macro photography, the series explores cultural landmarks such as the great mosques of Istanbul, the ancient cities of Mesoamerica, the Buddhist caves of Ajanta in India, and the funeral site of China’s first emperor. It explores topics including the earliest human cultural artifacts and representation of body in art, what happens when different civilizations encounter each other, and the nature of “renaissances” around the world.
The principal contributors of the films are art historian and Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University New York, Simon Schama; Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge; and British-Nigerian historian and writer David Olusoga. Joining them will be international artists and experts including Jamal J. Elias, Religious Studies Professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Rebecca Gonzalez-Lauck, National Institute for Anthropology, Mexico; art critic and historian Jonathan Jones; Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo; Jay Xu, Director of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco; and Maya Jasanoff, Professor of History at Harvard University.
“This sweeping, visually stunning series follows the thread of creativity through centuries, weaving art and culture, history and humanity,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming and Development, PBS. “The cultural connections Civilizations makes reveal that artistic expression has been a powerful and enlightening force since the beginning of humankind. We’re thrilled to bring viewers this expansive global showcase of art history at its finest, as only PBS can.”
Jonty Claypole, the BBC’s Director of Arts, says: “The BBC is delighted to be partnering with PBS on a series with the scale, ambition and beauty of Civilizations. Questions about how we define civilization and how we make it better are as pertinent as ever in the 21st Century. Through art, we can hold a mirror up to the human condition, across time and geography – both to revel in our collective achievements and to better understand ourselves.”
“Nutopia is proud to produce this outstanding series which explores the cultures of many different civilizations from many different times and places. This is not just a set of films about the history of art; it is a series about what it means to be human, told through some of humanity’s greatest achievements,” says Jane Root, CEO, Nutopia.
Civilizations is a Nutopia production for PBS and BBC in association with the Open University. Executive producers are Jonty Claypole and Mark Bell for the BBC; and Jane Root, Michael Jackson and Denys Blakeway for Nutopia. Bill Gardner, VP of Programming and Development, oversees the project for PBS. The series producer is Melanie Fall.