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The Best Art Documentary Series 

Ranker TV
Updated June 8, 2020 107 votes 71 voters 5.5k views 22 items

List Rules Vote up the best documentary shows about art and art history that have aired on television.

The best documentaries about art are engaging even if most fine art information flies right over your head. The best art and art history documentary series ever shown on television remind the viewer that art - from the shape of buildings to aesthetic Tumblr mood boards - is all around us. If you’ve been looking for the best art documentaries to add some enjoyable education to your TV nights, this list of the best art and art history documentary series of all time will help you figure out what needs to go into your queue.

Two of the biggest art documentary series on television were Civilisation and Ways of Seeing, with the second made in response to the first. Both examine the integration of human culture and art (with a heavy emphasis on Western art) and how thoroughly art has woven its way into the daily world. Other documentary shows about art look at types of art many people forget use the same language as paintings and sculptures. Abstract: The Art of Design examines design, Dan Cruickshank's Adventures in Architecture looks at unusual and interesting buildings and Naked Hollywood exposes intimate views of the movie business.

Which shows do the best job sharing details and history on art and artists? Vote up the best art documentary shows and add any documentary series about art, art history, and artists that are missing.

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list ordered by
1
Simon Schama's Power of ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Simon Schama's Power of Art Simon Schama

Premiered: 2006

Power of Art is a BBC documentary series written and presented by Simon Schama. The series was broadcast in October and November 2006 on BBC2. It aired in Poland on TVP2 in February and March ...more
2
Fake or Fortune? is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Fake or Fortune?

Premiered: 2011

Fake or Fortune? is a BBC television series which examines the provenance or attribution of notable artworks. It is presented by journalist Fiona Bruce and art dealer and art historian Philip ...more
3
How Art Made The World ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
How Art Made The World

Premiered: 2006

How Art Made The World is a 2005 five-part BBC One documentary series, with each episode looking at the influence of art on the current day situation of our society. The essential premise of the ...more
4
Ways of Seeing is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Ways of Seeing
Ways of Seeing (BBC Two, 1972) is a documentary television program. The series was intended as a response to Kenneth Clark's Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of ...more
5
Britain's Lost Masterpie... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Britain's Lost Masterpieces Emma Dabiri, Bendor Grosvenor, Jacky Klein
6
The Shock of the New is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
The Shock of the New

Premiered: 1980

The Shock of the New (BBC, 1980) is a British documentary television series. The show addressed the development of modern art since the Impressionists and was accompanied by a book of the same
7
Civilisation is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Civilisation

Premiered: 1969

Civilisation—in full, Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark—is a television documentary series outlining the history of Western art, architecture and philosophy since the Dark Ages. The ...more
8
Hands is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Hands Benedict Kiely
9
American Masters is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney, William Hurt

Premiered: 1986

American Masters is a PBS television show which produces biographies on artists, actors and writers of the United States who have left a profound impact on the nation's popular culture. It is ...more
10
Britain's Best Buildings... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Britain's Best Buildings

Premiered: 2002

Britain's Best Buildings is a BBC documentary series in which the TV presenter and architectural historian Dan Cruickshank discusses his selection of the finest examples of British architecture. ...more
11
Dan Cruickshank's Advent... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Dan Cruickshank's Adventures in Architecture

Premiered: 2008

Dan Cruickshank's Adventures in Architecture is a BBC series first aired on BBC Two in April 2008 in which British architectural historian Dan Cruickshank travels around the world visiting what ...more
12
Dreamspaces is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Dreamspaces

Premiered: 2003

Dreamspaces was a BBC documentary TV series about architecture and interior design. The series ran for two seasons and had twelve episodes total. The show was broadcast on BBC Three from 2003 to ...more
13
The Private Life of a Ma... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
The Private Life of a Masterpiece Samuel West

Premiered: 2001

The Private Life of a Masterpiece was a BBC arts documentary series which told the stories behind great works of art; 29 episodes of the series were broadcast on BBC Two, commencing in 2001 and ...more
14
British Masters is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
British Masters James Fox

Premiered: 2011

Art historian James Fox argues that British painting from 1910 to 1975 was an extraordinary flowering of genius.
15
The Nude In Art with Tim... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
TVLover added The Nude In Art with Tim Marlow

Premiered: 2010

If there is one genre of art that seems to have played a greater role than any other, it is the nude. For at least 30,000 years, humans have represented the naked form in a variety of ways. From ...more
16
Naked Hollywood is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Naked Hollywood
Naked Hollywood (BBC, 1991) is a documentary television miniseries. The show takes a look at the movie business, speaking with many stars, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Caan, Barry ...more
17
Treasures of Ancient Rom... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Treasures of Ancient Rome

Premiered: 2012

Treasures of Ancient Rome is a 2012 three-part documentary written and presented by Alastair Sooke. The series was produced by the BBC, and originally aired in September 2012 on BBC Four. In the ...more
18
The Story of Women and A... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
The Story of Women and Art

Premiered: 2014

The Story of Women and Art (BBC Two, 2014) is a British television documentary series. The show focuses on the history of women artists in Europe from the Renaissance onwards,
19
Abstract: The Art of Des... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Christoph Niemann, Tinker Hatfield, Es Devlin
Abstract: The Art of Design (Netflix, 2017) is a documentary series created by Scott Dadich. A look beyond blueprints and computers into the art and science of design, showcasing great designers ...more
20
Home is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series

Premiered: 2020

Home (Apple TV+, 2020) is a documentary reality television series executive produced by Joe Poulin, Matthew Weaver, Bruce Gersh, Ian Orefice, Doug Pray, Collin Orcutt, Matt Tyrnauer, Corey ...more
21
Prop Culture is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Dan Lanigan, Andrew Adamson, Erin Andrews

Premiered: 2020

Prop Culture (Disney+, 2020) is a documentary television series created by Jason C. Henry and Dan Lanigan. The series takes viewers behind the scenes of their favorite Disney films.
22
Tales by Light is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Art Documentary Series
Tales by Light Jack Thompson, Sigrid Thornton