Kate Chisholm

Missing the picture

And the Academy Award Goes To... (BBC Radio 4); Art Made in China (BBC Radio 4); Between the Ears (BBC Radio 3); A Good Read (BBC Radio 4)

Why would anyone want to listen to a programme about the Oscars? Surely the whole point is to see those ghastly frocks and gimcrack smiles, effortfully put on for-the-camera-only? And yet Paul Gambaccini was sent over to Hollywood to recreate the ‘magic’ of the Oscars for a new Radio Four series (Saturday), And the Academy Award Goes To…He took us inside the tiny room, in the Roosevelt Hotel, where the very first Oscars were awarded on 16 May 1929; from such small things do Versace glamfests grow. Fascinating enough. But it was just so irritating to hear the sweeping score of Lawrence of Arabia (winner of Best Picture in 1962) without being able to see those stunning images of the desert. There are times when only TV will do.

Later in the week, another new series left its audience, i.e., me, begging for some pictures — a panning shot across the city taken from a helicopter, or a scene-setting photo-montage, blending documentary footage with images from now. (I know, I know, such techniques have become a cliché, and yet sometimes it is jolly useful to be able to see what everyone is talking about.) Roger Law (co-creator of Spitting Image) took a sound-recording team to China to investigate the astonishing boom in the art market there. Art Made in China (Radio Four, Monday to Friday) told an extraordinary story.

After decades, if not centuries, of the state banning creative freedom and only allowing government-supervised ‘art’, there are now estimated to be one million ‘artists’ living and working freely in Beijing. To prove it, Law took us to the construction site of a whole village that is being built solely for these artists, complete with concrete studios and glass-walled houses. (The state, weirdly, now seems to be encouraging what it formerly tried to repress as a way of tempting the West to come visit and spend, spend, spend.)

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