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Great Artists in their Own Words

Wed May 22, 9-10pm, BBC4

Episode three
Piles of bricks. A gift-wrapped Reichstag. A shark in formaldehyde. A consensus seems to have been reached, more or less, on the question hanging over this concluding episode of repurposed BBC archive interviews and film: yes, they are art. And the raw material at the heart of the documentary covering 1966 to 1993 is compelling, even if the predominant words are those of Rebecca Front’s narration rather than the artists’.

The problem is one of compression: such is the frenetic pace that 11 artists, from Carl Andé to Damien Hirst, are profiled within the hour, leaving little room for context or the more in-depth analysis you may find yourself craving. The clips, meanwhile, merely leave you wondering why they don’t just repeat those in their entirety – who wouldn’t want to see more of a young Jonathan Ross put in his place by Gilbert and George?

But as the briefest of introductions to an era when art became something of a free-for-all, it’s a well-intentioned effort that may get a few viewers Googling.