Classicist and broadcaster Professor Mary Beard explores a broad range of thought-provoking and sometimes controversial works of art that tackle unsettling subjects – works that have been fought over, removed from view, or simply ‘forbidden’.
With her usual wit, warmth and forthright attitude, Mary delves into some tricky territory to ask what, why and how art gets forbidden, who gets to decide, and how that has changed over time.
In the first programme of this two-part series, Mary explores some of the challenging ways that artists have shown the human body. She begins with the Romans, heading to the British Museum to discuss a statue of the god Pan having sex with a she-goat, and from there moves through art from the Renaissance to the present day portraying sex, death, violence and beyond.
Mary meets renowned portraitist Daphne Todd as well as contemporary artists Tracey Emin and Martin Creed, to discuss works they’ve produced which feature usually private bodily acts or experiences that for some have seemed to “go too far”. She asks why art which depicts some of those actions common to us all can be so disturbing – and what confronting these works might tell us about being human.
Mary Beard’s Forbidden Art is a Lion TV production for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer. The series director and producer is Deborah Lee, the executive producers are Denys Blakeway and Richard Bradley. It was commissioned for BBC Two and BBC Arts by Jonty Claypole, Lamia Dabboussy and Mark Bell.