Vivienne Westwood, Karl Ove Knausgård, and Other Stars Offer Irreverent Tours of Their Favorite Museums in a New TV Show

"The Art of Museums" features eight world-famous museums as seen through the eyes of culture-industry heavyweights.

Vivienne Westwood at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Still courtesy Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion.

What does novelist Karl Ove Knausgård think of Munch? This question—and others you didn’t know you had—are answered in a new TV series that aims to offer a lively look inside eight historic museums. The documentary series The Art of Museums debuts on November 25 both online on arte.tv and on the German channel ZDF.

The series does away with art-speak and instead invites creatives to browse Old Master-filled halls and share their frank and personal opinions on art. Art guides including artist Olafur Eliasson and German painter Katharina Grosse who either visit locations ranging from the Prado Museum in Madrid to the Musée D’Orsay in Paris or speak about what art means to them. Marina Abramović, perhaps unsurprisingly, takes a novel tack, inviting locals in Norway to stand on the site when Munch painted The Scream and release their own primal screams.

The series invites the viewer to have genuine, childlike encounters with masterpieces. “Michelangelo, how did you do that?” asks German fashion designer Wolfgang Joop at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Meanwhile, Vivienne Westwood reminisces about her childhood during a visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna while contemplating Diego Velázquez’s Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress (1659). Up north in Oslo, celebrated novelist Karl Ove Knausgård wonders how much of his own struggle he projects onto the painter Edvard Munch’s history.

The new series hopes not only to demystify the art viewing experience but also to shed light on the goings-on behind museums’ closed doors. (It’s not the only way institutions are trying to pull back the curtain these days: The Rijksmuseum recently announced the public can watch over the shoulder of restorers working on the conservation of Rembrandt’s celebrated painting, the Night Watch.)

At the press conference announcing the initiative at Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie on Monday (which is also one of the venues for the series), the documentary’s tattoo-laden narrator Matt Lodder, a professor of art history at the University of Essex, says that the goal is to change the public’s perception of museums as “temples of distance” to something much more approachable.

See the trailer for The Art of Museums below. The film will be distributed internationally by Autlook Films and will be be shown on the Austrian channel ORF beginning December 10.


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