An ART LOVERS' GUIDE
Art historians Dr Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke take us on series of entertaining and revealing cultural city breaks.
With sumptuous palaces, exquisite artworks and stunning architecture, every great city offers a dizzying multitude of artistic highlights. In this series, art historians Dr Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke take us on cultural city breaks, hunting for off-the-beaten-track artistic treats - and finding new ways of enjoying some very famous sights.
In this opening episode, they head to Amsterdam, a city that pioneered so much of modern life, from multinational trade to the way we design our homes. To find out how, Alastair and Janina take us on a fast paced tour of the city's cultural hotspots. Picking their way through the crowds queuing to see Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum, they also introduce us to the paintings of Jan Steen, a Dutch legend whose paintings capture the city's freewheeling lifestyle.
They take us on an entertaining tour of the canals that helped build Amsterdam and explore the city's reputation for tolerance in the oldest surviving Jewish library in the world. Along the way, Alastair and Janina discover how art and culture reflect the liberal attitudes, appetite for global trade and love of home comforts that helped shape the character of this trailblazing city.
In the second episode, Janina Ramirez and Alastair are on a mission to get to know one of the most popular cities in the world through its art and architecture. Although Barcelona is famous for its exuberant modernista buildings, the Gothic Quarter and artistic superstars such as Picasso, Janina and Alastair are determined to discover some less well-known cultural treats. Escaping the crowds on the Ramblas, they seek out the designs of an engineer who arguably put more of a stamp on the city than its star architect, Antoni Gaudi. Alastair marvels at the Romanesque frescoes that inspired a young Miro, whilst Janina discovers a surprising collection of vintage fans in the Mares, one of the city's most remarkable but rarely visited museums.
With a behind-the-scenes visit to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, a session of impromptu Catalan dance and Alastair adding the finishing touches to some Barcelona street art, it is a fast-paced and colourful tour of the city's art and artists, revealing how Barcelona developed its distinctive cultural identity and how the long-running fight for independence has shaped the artistic life of the city.
3. St Petersburg
In the final episode of their entertaining series of cultural city breaks, Dr Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke explore St Petersburg through its dazzling art and architecture. They want to see how art has been used to enhance prestige and power in this city, ever since it was founded by Tsar Peter the Great.
Surrounded by vast palaces, gilded domes and imposing Soviet monuments, Janina and Alastair make a flying visit to their personal selection of imperial, communist and modern-day sights. They discover a city where art has always taken centre stage: From the intoxicating beauty of the state rooms at the Winter Palace to the bejewelled confections of Faberge; from the dark tunnels where curators guarded precious artefacts during the deadly siege of the city in the Second World War, to the apartment piled high with protest art painted by the outspoken 'dissident babushka'.