Nine-Part Global Series Explores the Power of Art From Earliest Civilizations to the Present
– From Asia to Latin America, Africa to Europe, America to the Middle East, New Series Examines Human Creativity Across Cultures –
BEVERLY HILLS, CA, July 30, 2017 – Today at the Television Critics Association Press Tour, PBS announced CIVILIZATIONS, a new nine-part series presented in partnership with the BBC that tells the story of art from the dawn of human history to the present day —for the first time on a global scale. Inspired by Civilization, Kenneth Clark’s landmark 1969 acclaimed series about Western art, this bold new series will reveal the role art and the creative imagination have played in the forging of humanity itself, and introduce a new generation to works of beauty, ingenuity and illumination created across cultures and continents. From the landscape scrolls of classical China and the sculpture of the Olmecs to African bronzes, Japanese prints and French Impressionist paintings, CIVILIZATIONS will explore the wealth of treasures created by cultures around the globe. 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. CIVILIZATIONS will premiere in spring 2018 on PBS.
In nine episodes, CIVILIZATIONS travels across the globe, visiting such cultural landmarks 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. CIVILIZATIONS explores a sweeping range of topics, including the earliest human cultural artifacts and the representation of the body in art, what happens when different civilizations encounter each other, and the nature of “renaissances” around the world. Underlying the series will be an exploration of the premise that it is through the creative imagination that humanity expresses its most essential self and looks for the fundamental meaning of life.
“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.”
Using the latest film technology, CIVILIZATIONS 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. State-of-the-art drone and camera movement technology, as well as macro photography, will allow viewers to immerse themselves in the extraordinary locations and see the world’s treasures in new ways, bringing remote objects up close in order to celebrate detail, craftsmanship and artistry as never before.
From the stained glass windows of Chartres cathedral to Matisse’s cardboard cut-outs, from the great dome of the Suleymaniye mosque to the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, from Hokusai’s Wave to Monet’s Rouen cathedral series, CIVILIZATIONS goes inside some of the world’s greatest museums, historic locations, cathedrals and mosques to provide viewers special access to priceless works of art and architecture.
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. CIVILIZATIONS is distributed by BBC Worldwide North America.
Nutopia is a leading TV production company creating innovative, award-winning, premium content on a global scale. Founded in 2008 by Jane Root, former president of Discovery Channel US and controller of BBC2, the company is best known for creating the “mega doc,” huge scale series designed to stand out from the crowd and working with some of the most prominent global broadcasters including CNN, National Geographic, the BBC, PBS and A+E Networks. Critical successes include the landmark Emmy Award-winning series HOW WE GOT TO NOW; two series of the ratings smash FINDING JESUS. FAITH. FACT. FORGERY for CNN; Emmy Award-winning series AMERICA THE STORY OF US and MANKIND THE STORY OF ALL OF US, both for History. THE STORY OF US format has sold internationally with THE BRITISH for Sky Television, AUSTRALIA: THE STORY OF US for Network Seven and CANADA: THE STORY OF US for CBC.
Nutopia is currently in-production on two of the biggest documentary series in television history: National Geographic’s 10-hour flagship factual event ONE STRANGE ROCK, a collaboration with Academy Award-nominated Darren Aronofsky’s production company Protozoa Pictures; and landmark art-history series CIVILIZATIONS for BBC and PBS.
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