The story of Britain through its art and treasures. David Dimbleby looks at how the 20th century saw Britons upturn ancient power structures and class hierarchies.
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I'm getting ready to do something I've never done before.
I'm not sure I'm going to like this.
It's actually quite disgusting.
Outside, my collaborators are preparing for the big moment.
OK, if you lean forward a bit.
It's all rather uncomfortable and a bit baffling
but then I am entering the world of modern art.
Where am I?
Where am I?
Am I outside?
-Help me with the face, please, Cadmus.
Put the hammer down and go and get changed.
This is the beginning of the 20th century.
The 20th century, not the 1st.
We can control the modern age with this face.
Be careful with it, Cadmus.
Cadmus play with face.
Be careful with it, Cadmus!
-DAVID: Excuse me!
It's slipping. Help me keep it together.
Now, what shall we make it say?
MUFFLED: Would you mind not...?
Take your hand out of my mouth!
I'm part of a work of art by the contemporary artist, Nathaniel Mellors.
He's used film, sculpture, performance
to make a comment on the role of television in modern society.
Whatever you make of it, it shows how much art has changed
in the last 100 years from pictures hanging in the walls of galleries
The 20th century was an age of ambition,
when we turned our society upside down,
when people felt freed from the old traditions
to experiment as they chose with their lives.
And these changes were reflected, as always, in our art.
At the beginning of the 20th century,
Britain was intent on throwing off the shackles of the Victorian era.
We were an urbanised, industrialised nation,
where new forms of transport and communication
promised to change everyone's life for the better.
But the century had hardly started before we were knocked off course
by an event which changed the direction of our history.
Modern Britain was forged in the trenches of the First World War.
When it started in 1914, people thought it would only go on
for a few months, but it lasted over four years.
And in the slaughter of British forces alone,
nearly a million lost their lives.
The brilliant technology designed to improve the quality of life
was perverted to the service of death.
Man had made the machines.
Now he was destroyed by them.
As always, artists were sent to the front line to record the scene.
But what they saw there defied their imagination.
It was beyond anything they'd experienced before.
It soon became clear that traditional painting couldn't capture
the full horror of modern warfare.
One elderly painter, who'd made a career
of battle scenes, cavalry charges and the like
put it rather well, saying, "The gallant plumage,
"the glint of gold and silver had given way to universal grimness."
It took a new generation of painters to rise to the challenge.
They were known as modernists,
and, for them, modernism meant
having the courage to look at the harsh reality of the world,
however grim it was,
and then to paint not precisely what they saw, but what they felt.
And up here at this end is perhaps the grimmest painting of the First World War,
Paul Nash's Menin Road.
Nash had served as a soldier,
and this shows the battlefield of Flanders as it was
once war had passed over it.
The soft green fields obliterated
and, instead, a kind of horrific moonscape of mud,
pitted with shell holes full of fetid water
and strange bits of detritus in it.
The trees, their branches all gone, just standing,
forlorn trunks, robbed of life.
Even the colours are unreal.
This sort of pink box there floating in the water.
And then these shafts of blue and greeny-blue light
coming through the black clouds.
A burst of smoke
from a shell here and a shell there.
And there's nobody in this landscape
except for these four figures,
stumbling back to what they hope will be safety.
Nash said that with this painting, he wanted to rob warfare
of its last shred of glory and its last shine of glamour,
and he certainly succeeds.
The war had taken its toll on everyone in Britain -
men and women of all classes of society.
When it ended,
the plan was that everyone would share in the fruits of victory.
Britain would become "a land fit for heroes".
New homes were built.
Technology was harnessed to liberate families from domestic slavery,
able to enjoy new freedoms.
Of all the freedoms of the 20th century,
the most valued was the freedom of the open road.
Cars had been around since the end of the previous century,
but they were only for the rich.
And then along came this...
...the Austin Seven, one of the greatest cars ever made.
The Austin Seven was designed by Herbert Austin.
He'd been an armaments manufacturer in the war
and decided that after the war what was needed was a small family car
and nothing as small as this had ever been seen.
In 1922, when it came out, the Austin Seven sold for £165.
"Motoring for the million," it was called.
"So cheap to run, it makes walking foolish."
And the astonishing thing about it is
that though from the outside it looks so tiny,
actually, when you get inside,
it's really very comfortable.
Let's see how it goes.
The Austin Seven is a work of art in its own right - simple and beautiful.
Its admirers still club together to go on nostalgic trips into the past.
The first car I ever owned was an Austin Seven like this.
Mine didn't have a roof, so you were always out in the open.
You could hear the birds sing, you could smell the fields going past,
and when it rained, you got wet.
And when it snowed, you were well advised to give up.
If you got to a very steep hill, you had to go up in reverse,
because reverse gear was lower than first gear.
In the same year the Austin Seven was launched,
another miracle of technology appeared,
one that would open a window on the world about us.
'Hello, radio terminal. BBC here. Are you getting ready for our broadcast?'
A group of pioneering companies came together to form the BBC.
'This is the National Programme.
'The BBC Symphony Orchestra, conductor Adrian Boult,
'will play Beethoven's 5th Symphony.'
ORCHESTRA STRIKES UP
# LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 In C Minor
From the start, radio captured the public imagination.
Many more people subscribed for licences
than was expected. I don't know what it was.
Maybe it was the magic of voices coming over the airwaves,
perhaps it was regular news bulletins, weather forecasts,
maybe it was something as simple as everybody in the country
for the first time being able to set their clocks and watches by Big Ben.
Whatever it was, radio became the new religion,
a spirit reflected in the design of the BBC's first headquarters.
Broadcasting House, completed in 1931,
was a hymn to modernity.
It was designed in the fashionable Art Deco style,
often described as an ocean liner
anchored at the top of London's Regent Street.
The BBC called it "a temple to the arts",
and, like all temples, it wasn't just functional,
it had to have decoration to say what its purpose was.
Here, the sculptor Eric Gill was commissioned to make two figures
that stand over the doorway.
Some people looking at it think it's the figure of God and Christ,
but in reality it's from Shakespeare's Tempest,
the figure of Ariel and Prospero.
Ariel, the fairy spirit, carrying the radio waves around the world,
guided by Prospero, who presumably is the broadcaster.
This is where it all began.
This is the very first BBC radio transmitter.
BEEPING, DISTANT VOICES
-'I received that signal. It is OK.'
-'Will you go ahead five seconds from now?'
It started broadcasting on the evening of the 14th of November 1922
with the famous call sign "2LO calling, London calling."
'This is 2LO calling.'
'This is London calling.'
'This is the BBC Home And Forces Programme.'
'This is the BBC Home Service...'
Now, the way it was received to start with was not the radio set,
of course, but the crystal set.
This is a typical crystal set
that most people had at the beginning in the '20s.
I had one of these when I was at school.
They were very, very difficult to get to work.
You fiddled around with that till you got a signal.
You put the headphones on, you spun the dial
and if you were lucky, you could very faintly pick up music
or the sound of a voice.
Quite soon, that gave way to these impressive machines.
These are full-blown radios with valves inside.
The whole family could sit in the living room listening to the radio.
And that was the point - it became a family event.
And the design of them was important too,
because the design had to carry the message of what radio was about.
Radio is about light entering your world.
A sun with the rays of sunlight through the clouds.
Radio is about a beacon transmitting like a lighthouse does.
So here's the lighthouse and the rays of light.
But this perhaps is the most beautiful of all.
This is the circular radio,
designed by the architect Wells Coates in 1932.
He was obsessed with things being beautiful,
not just functional.
So, whether it was a house or a flat or the design of a radio,
it had to look good, it had to look exciting, it had to please the eye.
It's a kind of shrine to radio, this.
It's rather magical,
because you almost feel you could listen carefully
and hear all these voices of the past coming out of these sets.
-'A few hours ago,
'I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor...'
ADOLF HITLER SPEAKING ON RADIO
-'As long as war has not begun,
'there is always hope that it may be prevented.
Just think how many voices these radio sets must have transmitted.
-'I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister
'in a solemn hour for the life of our country and, above all,
'of the cause of freedom.'
Broadcasting was a revolutionary idea -
culture for the people.
The problem was very little was actually known about the people.
Who were they? What did they want?
an odd combination of a poet, a painter and an anthropologist
came together and agreed that not enough was known
about the real people of Britain.
And they decided to set up
what they called a "science of ourselves".
The idea was to record in detail
the minutest observations of ordinary life.
What people did, how they talked,
how they drank and ate, and where they went, and all the rest of it.
It was called Mass Observation.
Mass Observation chose for its base the industrial city of Bolton.
They gave it a code name - Worktown.
It stood as an example of the great cities of the North,
which supplied much of the nation's wealth,
but had a long history of being ignored by the South.
The founders of Mass Observation had an absolutely insatiable appetite for facts.
Every day, they sent out teams of volunteers with a question to be answered.
One time, it was how many people in the high street are wearing brown shoes
and how many are wearing black?
And another time, it was how many chips are there
in the average portion of takeaway?
The answer was 25 and one sixth.
You see, nothing was too trivial for them to note it down.
The spies employed by Mass Observation eavesdropped
and recorded what they heard.
They wanted to know what people talked about.
Armed with concealed cameras, photographers took pictures of
people going about their business, unaware they were being watched.
'This is a film about the way people spend their spare time.'
The pioneering use of documentary film also served the cause,
this one by one of the founders of Mass Observation -
'Between work and sleep comes the time we call our own.
'What do we do with it?'
'As things are, spare time
'is a time when we have a chance to do what we like,
'a chance to be most ourselves.'
One of Mass Observation's obsessions was with public houses.
They worked out that more time and more money was spent in pubs
than was spent in churches, dancehalls, meeting places,
politics...all put together.
And they published a book, The Pub And The People,
which analysed the way people behaved in pubs.
They wrote down the statistics of how many people got drunk,
how many people smoked in the pub.
They talked about the way people spat in pubs.
They even talked about people flirting with the barmaids.
It was a complete record of human life as seen through the public bar.
Does this happen in your pub?
"Man, aged about 40, says, 'I drink beer, cos I think it does me more good
"'than doctor's medicine. It keeps my bowels in good working order.' "
I'm sure it will!
Mass Observation's very interesting. It began as a kind of curiosity
of artists wanting to know what other people were like,
an element of sort of slightly nosy curtain-twitching about it.
It ended rather impressively as something that got the attention
of governments and made not just artists, but politicians,
realise you couldn't just tell people what to do.
You actually had to listen to what they were saying.
Halfway through the 20th century,
progress was once again halted by war.
It lasted from 1939 to 1945.
For the first time in 1,000 years,
British people were under foreign attack in their own homes.
They faced the mass bombing raids called the Blitz.
People were desperate to escape the death raining down on them from the skies.
If you had a back garden, you could build a shelter.
But most people didn't - they lived in blocks of flats.
The government came in with a scheme
to build public shelters in the street which families could go to.
But they were overcrowded, they were unsanitary.
Above all, though, they were unsafe.
They'd been so badly built that some people died while taking shelter in them.
As public anger grew,
people decided to take matters into their own hands.
For those who lived in London, the obvious solution
was to take cover in the network of tunnels that made up the Underground.
The government had originally forbidden the use of
the underground as a shelter, but people got round it.
They simply came to the station, bought a ticket,
went down to the platform and refused to leave.
Realising they couldn't win, the government gave way.
At the height of the Blitz, nearly 200,000 people
would cram into tube stations for a night's sleep.
One evening in late 1940, at the very height of the Blitz,
the artist Henry Moore got trapped down in the tubes by an air raid.
He spent an hour down here and he was transfixed by what he saw.
He described it later as like seeing a whole city
in the bowels of the Earth.
He said the rows and rows of people reminded him of slaves
being transported from Africa to America, with no control over their own lives.
He was so moved by the sight that time and again
he returned underground and filled books of drawings with what he saw.
Moore's pictures reveal a subterranean world.
Ghostly figures huddled together for comfort.
People sleeping in long lines along the tunnels.
Henry Moore's pictures were put on show at the National Gallery at the time
and they were immensely popular.
They might have shown a kind of dismal scene underground,
but they had a warmth and humanity about them.
And they embodied what people thought of as a kind of Blitz spirit.
They might spend the night here under attack,
but in the morning, they'd rise again and not be defeated.
-See you tonight.
Come on, Betty.
The wartime mood of shared suffering,
of making do, inspired the radical notion of a welfare state,
where every citizen would be looked after from cradle to grave.
At the very height of the Blitz, the economist William Beveridge
was asked to work out how this might be delivered.
The famous Beveridge Report of 1942 came up with a whole host of ideas
about how Britain might emerge from the war
into the sunlit uplands of a better society.
Among the many recommendations it made was a key one,
that there should be free medical support for everybody,
one of the jewels in the crown - the National Health Service.
After the war, the dream became a reality.
The National Health Service Act of 1946 led to the creation
of state-funded hospitals where anyone could be treated.
One artist who was particularly passionate about the NHS was Barbara Hepworth.
It wasn't just because she supported it politically, which she did,
but she was grateful to doctors
who'd operated on her own daughter, who had a dangerous bone disease.
And so, in 1947, when the NHS was being set up,
she sought and was given permission to shadow surgeons at their work.
In just two years,
Hepworth produced over 100 pictures of operating teams.
She celebrates surgeons and nurses
as though they were saints in an Italian Renaissance painting.
She focuses on the eyes and hands of the surgeons and nurses,
rather than the blood and guts on the operating table.
Barbara Hepworth wrote,
"From the moment I entered the operating theatre,
"I became completely absorbed by the beauty of purpose
"and co-ordination between human beings dedicated to the saving of life."
And she captured with almost religious intensity
the power and the mystery of healing
and, of course, her thrill at the setting-up of the NHS.
Reserve segments five and eight.
Pick up six and seven.
Can I ask what you're doing or is it not a good moment?
No, it is, you're very welcome to ask.
I'm marking the line of division of the liver now.
-This is where you're going to cut?
-Where I'm going to divide the liver.
When Hepworth was doing her studies of surgery,
she talked about the co-ordination,
how beautiful the co-ordination was between the team.
Is that at the heart of it, co-ordination?
Yes, I think it is. It's a team effort. Everyone has a role.
You rely on everybody else to do their bit.
Very much so.
I couldn't do this job without the people I work with.
And is she, to you, just a body or have you met her?
No, no, no, I've seen her and counselled her in great detail
about what we're going to do.
-So you know whose liver this is?
-Oh, yes, very much so.
I think the day you start working as a factory worker,
you should go and be a factory worker. It's not that kind of job.
-I think I'd better leave you to it.
-Thank you very much indeed.
-You're very welcome.
By the end of the 1940s, a kind of socialist idea of art
was widely accepted, that the artist should be at the service of society.
Then came along a new generation who said that was all claptrap.
They had no intention of serving society -
they wanted to be artists in their own right, doing what they wanted to do.
And their stamping ground was right here, in Soho.
We take self-expression for granted now, but in the '40s and '50s,
Soho was one of the few places where you could be and do what you liked.
Here, there was a mix of cultures and people...
..nightclubs, dancing till dawn.
A magnet for free spirits.
No, I'm filming, actually,
so I can't come and see your naked ladies.
Very nice offer, all the same.
There's your Sex on the Beach, David.
Thank you, Trisha.
Drinking clubs were at the very heart of Soho's culture.
Back in the '40s, the licensing laws meant
pubs couldn't stay open in the afternoon,
to stop excessive drinking,
and so a whole host of private drinking clubs opened up -
down a flight of stairs, into a dark room,
and it stayed open all afternoon, a kind of vampire's lair.
And it was in clubs like this
that dissatisfied artists of that generation started to meet.
The king of Soho's drinking clubs was Francis Bacon,
a troubled and rebellious genius who became recognised as
one of the greatest painters of the 20th century.
In a warehouse, one of Bacon's works
is waiting to be rehung by the Tate, after returning from a show abroad.
It was first exhibited at the end of the war in 1945, just as Britain
was discovering the grim reality of Nazi concentration camps.
This is possibly Francis Bacon's greatest work.
It's certainly the work that made his name.
It's called Three Studies For Figures At The Base Of A Crucifixion.
He used the idea of the crucifixion
to talk about man's inhumanity to man,
and these horrendous, repulsive figures show what man is capable of.
You can't at first glance tell what they are, they're so grotesque.
Here's a strange figure with hair over its face, I suppose,
and a bit of nose there, on a sort of platform.
And here, these teeth bared out at you and the blindfold,
so whatever this creature is, it can't see what it's pursuing,
but just baring its teeth.
And here, one letting out a terrible, almost primeval scream or yowl.
Bacon was obsessed with the mouth.
He wanted to paint mouths, he said once, like Monet painted sunsets.
All art reflects in some way or other the world as it is,
it doesn't just come from nowhere, and these paintings by Bacon
do reflect a particular attitude to the world,
a kind of mixture of despair
at the horror of what man does to man, a fear about the future.
And it chimes not just with the mood after the Second World War,
but of course with our mood today, when we look at the world as it is.
And that's why Bacon still has a hold over our imagination.
With his horrific but exciting work,
Bacon was an artist ahead of his time.
For the most part, though, the '50s were a dull,
where to be young was already to be middle-aged,
and I was no exception.
I was a teenager in the 1950s,
and in a way it was rather a dreary time to be growing up.
Britain was rather impoverished after the war, still posing as a great power,
and the result was a kind of conformity, a staid way of living.
You were expected to toe the line.
It couldn't last, of course, because as the economy picked up,
the young rebelled.
They had more money in their pockets
and they used it in an explosion of energy.
# You know you make me wanna shout
# Look, my hand's jumping
-Look, my heart's pumping
-Throw my head back
-Come on now... #
The result was the so-called Swinging Sixties,
a social revolution led by the young that touched every walk of life.
At the heart of it was a craving to cut free from the past.
It would change fashion...
..a popular culture which gave its name to a new style of art.
Artists like David Hockney
sought to reflect the values of the world around them,
however shallow they might seem.
-Well, I feel all-ll right! #
And things could only get weirder.
We have no taste.
We are artists.
For 40 years,
Gilbert and George have described themselves as "living sculpture",
insisting they themselves are works of art.
In their pictures, they relish confronting taboos.
With their resolutely conventional dress but outlandish behaviour,
they look like two bank clerks in the grip of a nervous breakdown.
# Bend it, bend it, just a little bit
# And take it easy, show you like it... #
KEYS RATTLE IN LOCK
How do you do?
-This is a very exciting moment for me.
-It's thrilling that you're here.
To meet living sculpture.
-It's wonderful. Come through, please.
Do you see your work in the same tradition as artists, painters,
sculptors of the 19th century?
In the visual tradition, visual art, yes.
It's figuration, it's pictures.
For years and years, the artists were the slaves
of the Church and then of the toffs,
and then suddenly artists would go into their studio
and say, "What do I want to say to the world today?" And we're part of that.
Who do you work for?
We believe an artist should be working as a service,
providing thoughts and feelings for anyone, wherever they lived in the world.
We want to confront ordinary people with our work,
to say yes or no, and that's why
we are doing all this very big... what are called museum shows
that are totally confrontational.
We do believe that we're dealing with all of the basic elements
that lie inside everybody, wherever they live,
-whatever their educational background.
-What kind of elements?
-Death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, race, religion.
That's all we deal with.
Beautifully said in unison, because you've thought this out.
-No, we know it, because it's what we do.
-That's what we always do.
Are people very shocked by your works, still?
Because a lot of it is quite shocking.
But you look...as if butter wouldn't melt in your mouth, so sweet...
You're right about that.
.so elegantly dressed, so polite, and yet you do pictures of people defecating,
of yourselves defecating, of things that many people would think
were disgusting and quite against your nature.
It's very human. That's it. That's why we want to use it.
We want to make it more de-shocking and making it normal.
We had a lovely letter from a lady last week, saying that she was 82 years of age,
she admired our work and she particularly wanted to congratulate us
on her favourite pictures, The Naked Shit Pictures,
"Because they make me sit up and think more openly," she said.
-Isn't that extraordinary?
-It is extraordinary.
Wonderful. "Think more openly" - that's the whole secret to the whole thing,
that people can be more open.
So people come to terms with what they are, you mean,
so people accept that anything they do or think or feel is normal,
because it's what they are like.
Just before we go, can I become part of living sculpture
with your famous dance? Would that be possible?
-You may try, of course.
-Only if you want to.
-I want to!
-In that case, you must.
Show me what to do.
# Bend it, bend it, just a little bit And take it easy... #
Am I doing it all right?
I don't remember how to do it, but I do it!
# DAVE DEE, DOZY, BEAKY, MICK & TICH: Bend It!
You can make it up as you go along.
Thank you very much.
Where beauty and craftsmanship were what counted to artists in the past,
shock and outrage
seem to be as important to the ambitious artist of today.
Hello. It's David Dimbleby. I've come to see Tracey Emin.
DOOR ENTRY SYSTEM BUZZES Thank you.
Tracey Emin is famous for the way her work confronts sex.
Most notorious was her tent with the names of every person
she'd slept with sewn on the inside...
..and her unmade bed, with its deliberate portrayal
of a dissolute life.
Do you think, 50 years ago,
you'd have been as successful as you are today?
Because 50 years ago,
the education system was radically different from what it is now,
I mean, from when I was at school.
Number one, there wasn't so much equal rights.
Obviously, there was no equal rights for women around that time.
Was it something about attitudes to women
that changed or that have changed in your lifetime?
What actually changed is that in the '70s,
there were a group of women called feminists that worked really hard
for women like me to be legacies... as we could then do what we wanted.
And there was these women
that were just really pissed off with the situation that decided
to drive a great big stake into the heart of art and change things.
So your idea is that men have a different approach to art
and, I suppose, a different approach to life from women?
Yes. They have a different approach towards sex, as well,
so it's a kind of primal thing.
Women, they want more.
Women will want to keep coming and keep coming
and keep coming, and that's what a female artist is like.
You know, she's not happy with the one big...
Like me, I made my tent, I made my bed.
I'm quite happy
with all the little ones in-between, and it kind of keeps me going.
I'm quite happy to diversify with my life and with my art.
I'm not always looking for the big kill, you know, the big come.
But I tell you what, I should turn the lights out, as well.
I'll turn the lights out.
-When did you make this?
-Oh, this summer.
Emin's latest work continues to provoke a shocked reaction.
It's a woman masturbating.
So it seems.
DAVID: But rather ferociously.
The reason why she's doing it so fast and so ferociously
is because the animation is actually quite crude, and I wanted it to be
super-crude, because I want you to be able to see each drawing.
Or not each drawing, it just moves fast. And I'd made two different
kind of versions of it, filmed it in different ways, one that was much
more smoother, and it actually didn't look how I wanted it to.
I liked the crudeness of it, I liked the jerky...cos it jerks,
which then, for me, makes it more mesmerising,
like a kind of spider thing.
You kind of forget the image that you're actually looking at.
Because if you did it slower, it'd be pornographic, wouldn't it?
Whereas this is a series of fierce...
It reminds me of those drawings
you used to do as a child on the corner of a book,
you know, where you did lots of drawings and then you riffled through the pages.
Yeah, like a flick book.
Yes, like a flick book. But I don't think we drew this kind of thing.
We drew people jumping over hurdles, which maybe is much the same!
Many people find modern art too obscure, too exclusive,
to be worth bothering with.
One artist who has managed to be distinctly modern
but to produce works that attract a wide audience is Anish Kapoor.
-Nice to see you.
-Good to see you.
I've watched people going round this exhibition
-with smiles on their faces...
-That's always good.
-..and a look of astonishment.
-That's even better!
Anish Kapoor's recent show was one of his most ambitious and most popular.
His work bombards us with size,
and optical illusion.
This is an astonishing room. Can't make out these shapes.
Well, they're made by a machine -
a highly sophisticated, computerised machine -
that oozes this cement paste.
-They look like piles of turds.
-Indeed they do!
Well, that's this part of that process,
and there's a different way of using it and a different way over there and so on.
So it's as if they could have been made by an animal.
This is astonishing. So this goes up and down all day long.
What I did was cast a block of wax that's bigger than the doors.
There's about 40 tonnes of wax there.
And of course, in there is a motor, an engine,
that drives the whole wagon through the doorways very, very slowly.
And as it does so, it sort of skims itself, it sorts of flays itself
and pushes itself through the building.
Now, the idea is that that's one way to make sculpture,
is to push something through something else.
But the curious thing is,
as an artist, you couldn't sell this, could you?
I mean, nobody can buy this and put it in their house.
You make it for public display and...poof!
Yeah, but not everything has value because of its economic value,
especially in an art world or in a world - never mind the art world -
which measures all things by economic value.
I think it's rather good that there are things
that step outside that and might have other values.
The highlight of the exhibition was a great cannon that fired cylinders
of red wax against the gallery wall.
Whoa! God! That was a good one.
That was a very good one.
It's loathsome, the way it slides down the wall.
Yeah. So it's, again, a kind of horrible, fleshy skinning.
What gave you the idea for this? Nightmares in your head?
It's a terrible nightmare, isn't it?
Blood and guts and gore and...
..placenta and anything you care to say, really.
Exactly. Sometimes one makes works
that take you to places that you don't expect to go,
and I think one has to have the courage to go there fully and truly.
I began this series looking at what art tells us about ourselves
and our past.
Today's art, like our modern world, can be confusing and troubling.
But one thing's clear - the prize for a successful artist
has never been greater.
-Very nice to meet you.
-Good to meet you.
-This is a fantastic space.
What are you working on?
I thought I might do a cabinet of flies,
because there's that great joke of the way the guy walks into the pet shop
and says, "Can I buy a fly?" And he says, "We don't sell flies.
"This is a pet shop." He says, "You've got one in the window."
Damien Hirst's success lies in using entertainment and humour
to set against the inevitability of death.
he reportedly sold a skull studded with diamonds for £50 million,
which would make it the most expensive
work of art by a living artist.
Things like that were made by kings and emperors, you know?
It's nice to think that an artist can do that in
the world we live in today, and I think that'll be...
if nothing else, that'll seem important.
Did you pay for all the diamonds, then?
I mean, we lived in a really good time over the last ten years,
we were making so much money.
As an artist, you always make work from what's around you,
and money was around me. And then I thought, well, what could I do
while this money is here that I wouldn't be able to do...?
It's like you think, "I could do something really amazing."
How much did you spend on the diamonds before you finished?
It was about 12 million in the end.
But there was a lot of fluctuating prices as we went,
and the big one in the middle was three or four.
So what's this?
Spin machine. Spin art.
Yeah. When I was at school, we had summer fetes where you used to
be able to go in and pay, like, 20p, 50p or something, and make a spin painting.
-Do you want to make one?
-I'd love to.
Come on, then.
-So, what do you want?
-I like the skull.
The skull's good.
So...first of all, we have to pin it on.
How does it go?
We're just going to spin it, and just have no fear -
the machine does the work.
Is this a Damien Hirst or is it a David Dimbleby?
How much do I have to pay you to sign it?
If it's good, I take the credit. If it's crap, you get the blame.
Do you want to try a butterfly?
I want it yellow with black spots.
-Is that OK?
I'm meant to be doing this, not you.
I'm sorry! I just can't help it - it's like a disease!
-So if I put black there...
Yeah, that's what I'll do.
Cool, I like that!
OK, now spin it.
Not too much.
-One black wing, one yellow wing.
That's what I wanted.
-Then put some more yellow on here.
OK, spin it again. That's got to work.
-What do you think of that?
-It's destroyed it!
-Oh, it's come off the side!
-You've ruined it!
"You've ruined it!" I love that!
That's what my kids say. They won't let me touch 'em.
What are they worth?
You've got to put them on eBay to find out.
And what do they say about modern Britain?
They say we're here for a good time, not a long time.
They certainly had a good time.
In the last episode, David Dimbleby looks at how the 20th century saw ordinary Britons upturning ancient power structures and class hierarchies. The catalyst was the First World War, which embroiled the whole nation and called traditional values into question. The result was an ever-growing 'democratization' of culture, with art coming off gallery walls, becoming an instrument of self-expression at the service of the individual.
Dimbleby looks at some of the great masterworks of modern British art (Paul Nash's 'Menin Road', Francis Bacon's 'Crucifixion'), but also champions lesser appreciated art forms like broadcasting and domestic design. Finally, he meets some of the personalities who are shaping modern British art today: Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor and Gilbert and George.