I first watched historian Simon Schama’s Power of Art in 2008 with my father. I thought it a bit overdone, but liked it enough to buy it and share it with a few people. I recently watched it again, this time also reading the accompanying book, and was struck with just how good and how compelling it is.
Simon Schama’s politics and mine are often sharply at odds, but that is irrelevant as regards this series’ brilliance. Presented as a tour of eight famous artists - yes, all from the West - and their fascinating stories, I think it is first and foremost an intelligent, accessible and engaging argument for the central and powerful importance of art in our lives.
Whether considering monuments of power, designed to uphold and magnify the status quo or as daring acts of revolution, conceived to jolt us and make us rethink our world, this series itself grapples with the same thing that great art does: our humanity; our societies; our perceptions; ourselves.