This is not a series about things that hang on walls, it is not about decor or prettiness. It is a series about the force, the need, the passion of art... the power of art.
The power of the greatest art is the power to shake us into revelation and rip us from our default mode of seeing. After an encounter with that force, we don't look at a face, a colour, a sky, a body, in quite the same way again. We get fitted with new sight: in-sight. Visions of beauty or a rush of intense pleasure are part of that process, but so too may be shock, pain, desire, pity, even revulsion. That kind of art seems to have rewired our senses. We apprehend the world differently.
Presenter Simon Schama introduces his choice of artists and artworks and tells us why art matters. (Source: BBC)
New York, 1958. Rothko is commissioned to paint a series of large abstractions for what will be the Seagram Building restaurant - the Four Seasons, mid-town Manhattan. It is, says Rothko, "a place where the richest bastards in New York will come to feed and show off… I hope to ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who eats in that room". For Rothko, this will be the iron test of art's power in the relentless drone of the modern world. Can it interrupt and startle, or will it just be waved away like an annoying waiter? Is it just another consumer durable, or the saving of our souls?