Was there more to Egyptian surrealism than suggestive mosques and rotten meat?

By Jonathan Jones

The Tate wants to wrestle surrealism away from the clutches of the west. But this show's dream visions and bodily contortions can't change the fact that everyone cringed before the might of Paris

The BBC's Civilisations will be the most ambitious cultural television series since the run of classics that began in 1969 with Civilisation and climaxed with The Shock of the New in 1980. It will also be the most truly global history of art ever told. As a consultant on this epic project, I've wrestled with what the concept actually means. How do you tell a story of art that encompasses the entire planet without either producing an incoherent Babel of unconnected images, or a false and fictitious history full of glib relativism?

To see how Civilisations achieves this, you'll have to wait. But as I watch it come together, I get the feeling this is going to open eyes and minds in a way that does for world art what the new generation of nature documentaries has done for bioluminescence.

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