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The Best Art Documentary Series

Updated May 21, 2021 226 votes 121 voters 10.0k views27 items

List RulesVote 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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    27
    10

    Simon Schama's Power of Art

    Simon Schama

    Premiered2006

    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 2008,...  more
  • 2
    23
    8

    Britain's Lost Masterpieces

    Emma Dabiri, Bendor Grosvenor
  • 3
    15
    4

    Fake or Fortune?

    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 Mould,...  more
  • 4
    12
    5

    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 the...  more
  • 5
    10
    2

    How Art Made The World

    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
  • 6
    7
    0

    The Shock of the New

    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 name....  more
  • 7
    10
    3

    Hands

    Benedict Kiely
  • 8
    12
    7

    Civilisation

    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
  • 9
    6
    0

    The Story of Women and Art

    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,...  more
  • 10
    7
    5

    British Masters

    James Fox

    Premiered2011

    Art historian James Fox argues that British painting from 1910 to 1975 was an extraordinary flowering of genius....  more
  • 11
    5
    2

    The Private Life of a Masterpiece

    Samuel West

    Premiered2001

    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
  • 12
    3
    0

    American Masters

    Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney

    PremieredJune 23, 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
  • 13
    2
    5

    Britain's Best Buildings

    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. It...  more
  • 14
    1
    0

    Craft in America

    Craft in America (PBS, 2007) is an American documentary television program. Explore the vitality, history and significance of the craft movement in the United States and its impact on our nation's...  more
  • 15
    5
    1

    Dan Cruickshank's Adventures in Architecture

    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 he...  more
  • 16
    0
    0

    Dreamspaces

    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
  • 17
    1
    0

    The Nude In Art with Tim Marlow

    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 the...
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    4
    5

    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 Diller,...  more
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    2
    0

    Treasures of Ancient Rome

    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
  • 20
    4
    0

    Abstract: The Art of Design

    Christoph Niemann, Tinker Hatfield

    PremieredFebruary 10, 2017

    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 from...  more
  • 21
    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 Reeser and...  more
  • 22
    1
    0

    Prop Culture

    Dan Lanigan, Andrew Adamson

    PremieredMay 1, 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....  more
  • 23
    0
    1

    Hip Hop Uncovered

    Eugene Henley, Debra Antney

    Premiered2021

    Hip Hop Uncovered (FX, 2021) is an American documentary series. Set against 40 years of music history, this six-part documentary series takes a deep dive into the paradox of America’s criminalization...  more

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    1
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    PremieredApril 7, 2021

    This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist (Netflix, 2021) is an American true crime historical docuseries directed by Colin and Nick Barnicle. Set in 1990, the series takes a deep dive into...  more

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    #90 of 325 The Best New Shows That Have Premiered in the Last Few Years#173 of 815 The Best Original Streaming Shows of the Last Few Years

  • 25
    1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (Apple TV+, 2021) is an American historical documentary series. The docuseries features archival footage and interviews that explores the musicians and...  more

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    #40 of 155 The Best Shows Currently On The Air#104 of 185 The Best Miniseries in TV History