Alastair Sooke is a British journalist and broadcaster, Art critic of The Daily Telegraph and columnist for BBC.com, the BBC’s international website. He also writes and presents documentaries on television and radio for the BBC and, is the author of two books about art published by Penguin.
Modern Masters, his widely praised series about modern art, was broadcast on BBC One in 2010. The World’s Most Expensive Paintings went out on the same channel the following summer, before BBC Two aired The World’s Most Expensive Stolen Paintings at the end of 2013. After the success of Treasures of Ancient Rome, a three-part series on BBC Four in 2012, a follow-up series, Treasures of Ancient Egypt, was shown at the beginning of 2014. He has also presented Romancing the Stone, a three-part history of British sculpture for BBC Four, and Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball, a 90-minute BBC Two film marking the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novel in 1813. Other television documentaries include Unfinished (BBC Two), The Perfect Suit (BBC Four), Whaam! Roy Lichtenstein at Tate Modern (BBC Four), and How the Devil Got His Horns: A Diabolical Tale (BBC Four), which was shortlisted for a 2013 Broadcast Digital Award. He is currently working on Constable: A Country Rebel, a BBC Four documentary about the British painter John Constable.
Since 2009, he has reported regularly for The Culture Show, the BBC’s flagship topical arts television series. As well as contributing more than 40 reports to the series, he has also presented a number of full-length Culture Show programmes about various topics and artists including the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the Venice Biennale, art during the Second World War, Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, the Orbit sculpture and observation tower in the Olympic Park, the 150th anniversary of London Underground, the portraitist Jonathan Yeo, and the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse. His most recent Culture Show Specials, about women Pop artists and Stonehenge, were broadcast on BBC Two in 2014. Several of his programmes have been repeated on BBC World News, which attracts an international audience of 80 million viewers.
As an art critic, Sooke writes extensively but not exclusively about modern and contemporary art. He has reviewed exhibitions at most of Britain’s major museums and galleries, and has covered international festivals such as the Venice Biennale. He has interviewed dozens of artists and photographers, including Marina Abramovic, Anthony Caro, Gilbert & George, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Yoko Ono, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, and Rachel Whiteread.
Since joining the Telegraph as a trainee in 2003, Sooke has also written widely about theatre and film. He has given talks and chaired events at institutions including the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A, as well as literary and arts festivals around the UK, and has contributed to live programmes on both television and radio. He has written catalogue essays for artists including Jonathan Monk, Rob and Nick Carter, and the late Anthony Caro. In 2013, to accompany a major exhibition at Tate Modern, he wrote a short book about Roy Lichtenstein, which was published by Penguin. Penguin also published his next book, Henri Matisse: A Second Life, in 2014.
Born in 1981, Sooke was educated at Westminster School, where he was a Queen’s Scholar, and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read English language and literature, and won the university’s Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize. After graduating with a First, he was awarded an MA with distinction by the Courtauld Institute of Art, where he specialised in ancient Greek and Roman art. He currently sits on the Courtauld Association Committee. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.