Presented by Alan Yentob, BBC One’s flagship arts strand returns this summer with an impressive lineup, profiling a fascinating and diverse array of creative talent: from leading contemporary artist Jeff Koons and world-renowned architect Frank Gehry to legendary drummer Ginger Baker and prize-winning novelists Richard Flanagan and Toni Morrison.
Alan Yentob, the BBC’s Creative Director and presenter of Imagine, says: “For those of us on the imagine… team who’ve had the privilege of bringing you these stories, this series has been a great adventure. If inspiration and revelation are what you are looking for, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.”
imagine… Frank Gehry: The Architect Says, Why Can’t I?
imagine… explores the colourful career of architect Frank Gehry as he embarks on an ambitious new project in Australia. One of the world’s most celebrated yet controversial creative forces, Gehry has fundamentally reinvented what architecture can be. From Bilbao’s iconic Guggenheim Museum to LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall he’s known for his supple, shimmering metal designs, which defy logic and appear alive. But there’s so much more to Frank.
A relentless boundary-pusher inspired by art-world heavyweights like Picasso, Donald Judd and Robert Rauschenberg, Gehry’s experimental approach to architecture has always been about breaking the rules and defying expectations in a quest for true originality.
Alan Yentob reveals a tantalising array of Gehry’s creations across the globe and visits him in his vast LA studio – an impressive hive of architectural adventure and endeavour, made all the more remarkable by the fact that Gehry is now well into his 80s. imagine… also charts the uniquely challenging process of actually building a Gehry design with regular site visits to Australia, where Sydney’s bemused craftsmen try to get to grips with the impossibly curved brick walls and giant abstract glass panels that Frank’s imagination demands.
The Gehry we discover is a playful, witty and deeply driven individual who shows no sign of slowing down or running out of audacious new ideas.
imagine… Jeff Koons: Diary Of A Seducer
Gigantic balloon dogs, rows of vacuum cleaners, the colourful, the commonplace, the shiny and ephemeral – American artist Jeff Koons (pictured right, with Alan Yentob) makes ‘poor’ objects into something rich people desire. As his retrospective travels from the Whitney Museum in New York to the Pompidou in Paris, and now the Guggenheim in Bilbao, imagine… examines the controversial artist.
Raised by his furniture-maker father and seamstress mother, and spending his childhood selling wrapping paper and sweets door-to-door for pocket money, Koons took up an apprenticeship at the cutting edge Arts Institute in Chicago and embarked on a career chalking up the highest prices ever recorded for modern art.
This film looks at just who Jeff Koons is, and what it is that makes his work so different? Will his balloons float above the art market bubble and hold their place in the history of art?
imagine… Beware Of Mr. Baker
Ginger Baker has been described as the most talented drummer there ever was, a legendary jazz percussionist and an occasional hell-raiser. Best known as the drummer in Cream, he first took to the stage in the London jazz clubs of the 1950s playing with some of the most renowned instrumentalists of the period. Since then his exceptional talent and influence on popular music has seen his career reach epic heights.
In its UK television premiere, Beware of Mr Baker finds Ginger Baker living out his twilight years in South Africa living on the proceeds from a Cream reunion tour used to finance a ranch for polo horses. From his gated compound, Ginger Baker recounts his time in bands like Blind Faith, to making music with Fela Kuti in Lagos and homelessness in rural Tuscany.
However with soaring highs came crushing lows. Baker’s 60 year career has witnessed ongoing battles with drink and drugs and a temper that has made him notorious, as the explosive encounter which kicks off Jay Bulger’s award winning film reveals.
imagine… presents a revealing exploration of Baker’s fascinating life as told through the people who know him, from his estranged son, to fellow Cream member Eric Clapton. Mining a rich archive of film and photographs, this is a unique story of life threatening excess and ferocious talent.
imagine… Toni Morrison Remembers
Toni Morrison does not dwell in the past – the past dwells in her. Her novels, for which she has won the Nobel Prize, encompass the whole of black American history. She is America’s First Lady of Literature. Her books imagine the past but live and breathe in the present, musical, rich in dialogue, full of vivid, vibrant characters, haunted by ghosts.
Born poor in a steel town in Ohio in 1931, Morrison now lives between a spacious New York apartment and a beautiful boathouse on the Hudson River. She tells imagine… about her childhood, how she was brought up on Tolstoy and Jane Austen alongside African tales and ghost stories, went to an all-black university and became the editor of major black political figures like Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali. Her masterpiece, Beloved shows the horrors of slavery and its continuing legacy, perhaps more profoundly and poetically than any other artwork has ever done.
Morrison talks as she writes – with warmth and wit, combining intellect with great humanity. Contributors include Angela Davis, Pulitzer-prize winning poet Paul Muldoon (her colleague at Princeton University), and her friend the singer Jessye Norman.
imagine… Richard Flanagan (title TBC)
imagine… chronicles the life and work of the remarkable writer Richard Flanagan. The grandson of illiterates, a school drop-out, a river guide, builder’s labourer, and campaigner on conservation issues, the Tasmanian writer does not fit comfortably into the elite group of Man Booker Prize winners he joined last year. More than just his home, Tasmania and its troubled, often violent past is a place that fuels Flanagan’s writing.
Last year’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel was The Narrow Road To The Deep North, a love story set during World War Two, amidst the horror of the Thai-Burma Death Railway. It is perhaps the most personal of all Flanagan’s novels, dedicated to his father, Arch, whose own experiences in a Japanese POW camp informs much of it. In a poignant twist of fate, Arch Flanagan died on the very day his son finished the manuscript, and the book is both a touching tribute to him, and a heart-rending study of man’s capacity for hope.
In this emotional and lyrical film, Alan Yentob journeys with Flanagan through Tasmania, visiting the places that have inspired his novels, and on to Thailand to see first-hand the site of Arch’s incarceration and miraculous survival. Offering compelling insights into the working life of a formidable writer, imagine… digs deep into the rich store of Flanagan’s writing, and reveals a man who has used the written word to give voice to the great themes in all our lives: loss, longing, and love.