Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Andrew Graham Dixon: Making art history sexy again

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH and BBC art critic Andrew Graham Dixon is the doyen of arts broadcasters in Britain. Forget yer blokish, yet stealth-high brow Lawson, forget yer self regarding highbrow Sewell, forget even (stifle a gasp) yer populist, knowledgeable and wonderful Kermode (see side bar) - AGD is the guv'nor when it comes to accessible high brow arts programming.
His own CV says more than any crass repackaging that I could do here. It's an astoundingly ambitious body of work.
His current show The Art of Eternity, 'unravelling the mysteries of the art of the pre-perspective era', currently showing on BBC4, is a thoroughly engrossing examination of the role of religion in the development of art from Byzantium to the Renaissance. iPlayer the mutha here.
His genius, and it is really is worth such high praise, is in presenting the difficult historiography of modern art historianship in an accessible way. What shines through is a deep knowledge and love of art nurtured during his postgraduate studies in the Courthauld Institute in the early 1980s. C
He has an enthusiastic onscreen presence and a pleasantly plummy public school way which still fits the role of the modern on-screen intellectual.
But, beyond such simplistic Wolfy Smith-style class politics from me, he succeeds in portraying art history as an essential, interesting, vital and invigorating subject. You will never once think, 'Meh, well it's... just OK.' He makes great art interesting and brilliantly sets it in its historical context.
And, big claim alert, he is exactly the kind of exemplifier we need to use to justify the licence fee in the not-too-distant future debates we will be having with the free marketeers who want to break-up the Beeb.
Every single penny we have paid him was worth it. There, argue that Daily Mail.
Listen to the opening address of his landmark three part  series The Art of Spain below and I dare you not to be enthralled and begging to watch every minute of a work which moves from the Moors to Goya through Picasso, Dali and Miro to modern architecture.


  1. If you ain't been there already, Paddy, I highly recommend a booky wook I've just finished: Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece That Changed the World

    There's one for 2.35 quid at Amazon