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 three 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, before a third series, Treasures of Ancient Greece, was commissioned for 2015. Sooke 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), Constable: A Country Rebel (BBC Four), and How the Devil Got His Horns: A Diabolical Tale (BBC Four), which was shortlisted for a 2013 Broadcast Digital Award. His most recent documentary, Soup Cans and Superstars: How Pop Art Changed the World, a new, 90-minute history of the movement, was shown on BBC Four in 2015.
Between 2009 and 2014, Sooke also 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 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.
As an art critic, Sooke writes extensively but not exclusively about modern and contemporary art. He reviews exhibitions at Britain’s major museums and galleries, and covers international festivals such as the Venice Biennale. He has interviewed and profiled dozens of artists and photographers, including Marina Abramovic, Ai Weiwei, 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 Ashmolean Museum, 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 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. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books, released his most recent publication, Pop Art: A Colourful History, in 2015.
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.