My name is Will Gore and I’m an addict. My addiction is one that it’s hard for me to admit in public, but here goes. I can’t stop watching Andrew Graham-Dixon art documentaries.
Perhaps my embarrassment is misplaced, but I’ve always assumed that serious art lovers must scoff at Graham-Dixon, with his David Ginola hair and rakish suits, complementing a breezy, unstuffy approach to deconstructing great works of art for our viewing pleasure. But if culture snobs do scorn him, that would be mightily unfair because explaining art on the telly is not easy, and as Graham-Dixon has shown on numerous occasions in the last month, he’s got it nailed.
AG-D groupies have been treated to a double bill of Italy Unpacked on BBC Two, the art and food show he presents with Giorgio Locatelli, the perennially cheerful chef, plus a BBC Four three-parter exploring the history of the Royal Collection. The undoubted star of this Graham-Dixon fest, however, was Stealing Van Gogh (still available on iPlayer), a one-off documentary about the theft of two early works by the Dutch master from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in December 2002.
Graham-Dixon sceptics will surely be won over by this hour-long programme, which tells a pacey, illuminating story, laced with CCTV footage of the burglary, interviews with stony-faced Italian cops and tales of Camorra machinations. In piecing the case together, clues are traced from as far afield as Ukraine and Dubai, and answers the vexing question of why criminals steal paintings that are impossible to sell on the open market.
Getting to play private eye was something Graham-Dixon clearly relished, and he hammed up the mafia stuff gleefully. He also did a fine job discussing the paintings themselves, one of a church, the other of a windswept beach. Neither are considered masterpieces, yet he made a passionate, energetic case for their importance in our understanding of Van Gogh’s development as an artist.
Graham-Dixon’s enthusiasm for art is infectious. I surely can’t be the only addict out there.