The Art of Museums

  • IDF
  • Remi
  • gulf of Naples
  • Master of Art

In the halls of eight world-famous museums, powerful encounters are taking place. Stars of the creative industry take on some of the world’s most iconic paintings. New ways of seeing emerge, the raw potency of art is articulated in fresh, unexpected ways.




8 x 52 min


Sylvie Kürsten, Julie Kirchhoff, Ralf Pleger, Kurt Mayer



In this eight-part documentary series we dig deep into the souls of eight museums and discover their unique spirits, turbulent histories and the challenges they face in a fast-changing digitized world.

We do this through the eyes and hearts of renowned creatives. Celebrities like Vivienne Westwood, Marina Abramovic and Karl Ove Knausgaard explore artists from Caravaggio to Kandinsky, from Gentileschi to Goya, showing us how just how relevant and important their artworks continue to be, both to themselves and within the public imagination.  Each episode is dedicated to a particular museum:

• Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York
• Musée d‘Orsay | Paris
• Uffizi Gallery | Florence
• Museo del Prado | Madrid
• Rijksmuseum | Amsterdam
• Alte Nationalgalerie | Berlin
• Kunsthistorisches Museum | Vienna
• Munch Museum | Oslo

Each museum has its own character. It has a spirit, a biography, a challenge, a mission for the future. Some are rebellious, others are conservative, a few are even brash. Each will be introduced by an internationally renowned guest, be it an artist, fashion designer, best-selling author or opera singer.

In Vienna, for example, activist and fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood guides us through the Kunsthistorisches Museum, encountering artworks that resonate with her own outspoken career, exploring poignant themes like social justice and female empowerment. Over in New York, artist Julie Mehretu brings us into her studio to document the creation of a new painting, before we accompany her to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, a gallery space just as radical as the artist herself. Back in Berlin, we explore the unique life of the Alte Nationalgalerie, a space within which the cultural heritage of both East and West meet. The Rijksmuseum embodies the pride of the Dutch nation, and comes with a modern perspective. The institution is pushing the boundaries of traditional museum curation by exploring the potential of digital art collections. Acclaimed Vogue photographer Erwin Olaf discusses his lifelong relationship with the Rijksmuseum, and reflects on its ongoing influence in his own work.

To respond to the burgeoning demand for online art, we have created purpose built digital art laboratory—a space with dozens of screens that support large-scale projections and allow us to enlarge high-resolution copies of the paintings. Here, our expert at historian Dr. Matt Lodder will contexualize the artworks, whilst interviews with famous creatives such as Marina Abramovic, Ólafur Elíasson, Norman Foster and many more add depth and emotion to our detailed analysis of the artworks.

Every painting is a window into our hosts’ own creative practice, and every episode expresses a particular museum’s unique spirit in an intimate yet cinematic style. Enhanced by our multi-perspective approach to storytelling, THE ART OF MUSEUMS creates a unique experience of some of the world’s most famous pieces of art and the museums that house them.


Sylvie Kürsten, Julie Kirchhoff, Ralf Pleger, Kurt Mayer

Tuan Lam

Junior Producer
Alice Popplewell

Director of Photography
Jakob Stark, Christoph Valentien

Line Producer
Kathrin Isberner

Production Manager
Anique Roelfsema

Technical Supervisor
Xavier Agudo

Cross Media Department
Hannah Kappes

Produced by
Christian Beetz

Commissioning editors
Dieter Schneider (ZDF/arte), Martin Traxl (ORF), Sharon Nuni (ORF)

Janne Gärtner

A gebrueder beetz film production
In co-production with Navigator Film and ZDF
In association with arte and ORF
Madrid episode in co-production with the Museo del Prado. Paris episode in co-production with the Musée d’Orsay. Berlin episode in cooperation with the National Gallery.
Development supported by Creative Europe – MEDIA Program of the European Union.
Production supported by Fernsehfonds Austria, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Filmfonds Wien.

Sales & distribution
  • So that’s a museum! So exciting, so inviting, so empathetic.
    Österreichische Nachrichten
    11 Dec 2018
  • Westwood almost crawls into the pictures… and sets off the alarm.
    26 Nov 2018
  • You have to see great art with your own eyes (...) it is even better if you can share that moment with another person. This Sunday, ARTE is launching a new TV series about these kinds of encounters.
    24 Nov 2018
  • Fast edits, scene-making and dramatic lighting: with this series about museums ARTE demonstrates how exciting the transmission of knowledge can be.
    Der Tagesspiegel
    23 Nov 2018
  • The creators of the series know that art is important and expensive and really smart. But they have also learned that museums can be pretty boring places. They approach this idea on the offensive.
    Süddeutsche Zeitung
    22 Nov 2018
  • Many of the certainties about European museums are questioned, for example, how and why collections are collected, and where objects come from. A museum is a constantly changing space.
    22 Nov 2018

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