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Civilizations

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Survey the history of art, from antiquity to the present, on a global scale. Civilizations reveals the role art and creative imagination have played in forging humanity, and introduce viewers to works of beauty, ingenuity and illumination across cultures. Liev Schreiber narrates.

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About the Show Civilizations

Civilizations 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 Civilisation, Kenneth Clark’s acclaimed landmark 1969 series about Western art, this bold series broadens the canvas to reveal the role art and the creative imagination have played across multiple cultures and civilizations, introducing a new generation to works of beauty, ingenuity and illumination created across continents.

From the landscape scrolls of classical China and the sculpture of the Olmecs to African bronzes, Japanese prints and French Impressionist paintings, Civilizations explores the wealth of treasures created through the entirety of the human experience.

Acclaimed film, theater and television actor Liev Schreiber narrates the series. The principal contributors to the films are Simon Schama, art historian and Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University New York; Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge; and British-Nigerian historian and writer David Olusoga.

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, the Aztecs’ Templo Mayor in modern Mexico City 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 is 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.

Artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Michal Rovner and Anselm Kiefer, Kara Walker, Richard Misrach, Antony Gormley, Bill Viola, Kira Perov, Cai Guo-Qiang and Damien Hirst add additional commentary and context to this creative exploration.

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.

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