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Duration: 1 hour

Has beauty disappeared from modern art? Several influential modern thinkers insist that it has. And this belief has inspired them to publish a clutch of recent books which claim that modern art is no longer capable of capturing true beauty: that beauty has gone from art.

Art critic Waldemar Januszczak fiercely disagrees, believing that great art is as interested in beauty as ever.

Art's search for beauty has manifested itself in depictions of the idealised female form, glorious landscapes, lovely flower studies and perfectly arranged renaissance altar pieces - but where does this search continue today?

We know so much about the atomical make-up of our universe that the search for beauty can seem old-fashioned or unscientific. And because so much horror and darkness have passed through modern times, the quest for 'beauty' can even be dismissed as escapist and irrelevant.

But of course, it isn't. Waldemar Januszczak would argue that the need for transcendent beauty in art is greater than it has ever been. And - most importantly - art knows this. Beauty is out there. You just have to know where to find it.

However, beauty today can be electronic or scientific; subtle and elusive. It can be found in the LCD sculptures of Tatsuo Miyajima or the subtle light installations of James Turrell. Carl Andre discovers a stern modern beauty in squares of industrial materials dropped around a goods yard. The cancer paintings of Damien Hirst find a terrible modern beauty in the deformed human anatomy. These and other great searchers after beauty are the subject of this film.

The world today needs beauty more than it has ever needed it - and modern art is one of its few suppliers.

Last on

Sat 9 Jan 2010 02:15 BBC One except Scotland

  • Photo: Waldemar Januszczak reflects on modern art

    Photo: Waldemar Januszczak reflects on modern art

    Waldemar Januszczak at the Anish Kapoor retrospective at the Royal Academy in London.

  • Modern Beauty

    Modern Beauty

    This programme was part of Modern Beauty - a BBC Two and Four season which examined the perception of beauty both in modern and classical art forms.

    Find out what else was shown in Modern Beauty


Waldemar Januszczak


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