Jimmy Carr Destroys Art: Channel 4 release date and how to watch - which artists and paintings feature?

A live studio audience will decide if Jimmy Carr should destroy works of art from Hitler, Picasso, and Rolf Harris in a new show to celebrate Channel 4’s 40th anniversary

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Jimmy Carr Destroys Art, a new show that sees a studio audience vote on whether or not Jimmy Carr should destroy works of art by controversial makers, will air on Channel 4 on Tuesday 25 October.

The show will feature pieces by Picasso, Hitler, and Rolf Harris, and is ostensibly going to offer a discussion on ideas of censorship, cancel culture, and whether or not you can ever truly separate the art from the artist.

Here’s everything you need to know about Jimmy Carr Destroys Art.

What’s it about?

So, Jimmy Carr is joined by some experts, a studio audience, and a piece of art by someone controversial. The experts – academics, artists themselves, so on – will debate the merits of the piece of art, arguing whether or not it should be preserved or destroyed. The audience, having listened to that and made up their minds, will vote on the fate of the art – and then Jimmy Carr will take a hammer to it.

The idea is to prompt a discussion about whether or not a piece of art can ever actually be separated from the artist that made it, albeit of course in quite a deliberately provocative and ostentatious way. It’s airing as part of Channel 4’s Truth or Dare season, celebrating its 40th anniversary this November.

Which artists are featured?

Jimmy Carr, holding a hammer aloft, illuminated on an orange background (Credit: Channel 4)Jimmy Carr, holding a hammer aloft, illuminated on an orange background (Credit: Channel 4)
Jimmy Carr, holding a hammer aloft, illuminated on an orange background (Credit: Channel 4)

Jimmy Carr Destroys Art is using quite a loose definition of “artist”. The headline grabbing name has, unsurprisingly, been Hitler – his paintings not exactly being the thing he’s most known for, to say the least. Alongside a painting by Hitler and a Picasso vase, Carr’s audience will also decide the fate of works by convicted paedophile Rolf Harris and sexual abuser Eric Gill, which raises the question of whether the starting point was “problematic artists” or “who has committed sexual violence and also done paintings”.

It stands to reason incidentally that the show might’ve been able to claim a little more substance – and been less overtly posturing – if it had committed to either more traditional art, or simply more interesting choices. Nevermind a Hitler painting, why not a George W Bush painting? How about a Harry Potter novel – or a Jimmy Carr DVD?

Isn’t this all a little overly literal?

Well, yes, a bit. There’s a world of difference between “we don’t think this artist should be actively celebrated anymore, or prioritised in the canon ahead of works by other, perhaps marginalised creators” and “let’s take a hammer to this”.

Again, you do have to wonder whether anyone would be debating the artistic merits of a Rolf Harris painting if it wasn’t in the specific context of “what’s a shocking name we can get for this show”. It’s an entirely false premise – as demonstrated, actually, by the fact that Channel 4 have said they’ll dispose of the Hitler painting anyway even if the audience choose to save it. No one wants it! It doesn’t have any value to debate.

Are these paintings actually real?

As far as they’re able to verify, apparently yes. Obviously, it’s a little hard to establish whether something is actually a Hitler painting, and Channel 4 have gone for the cheapest possible Picasso they could find (a vase rather than one of his paintings), but, yes, that’s the line. Whether you want to trust that is down to you though.

Didn’t Jimmy Carr tell some holocaust jokes recently?

Yes, he did. At the end of 2021, Carr’s standup special His Dark Material was released on Netflix; it attracted some renewed attention in February 2022 when a clip of one of his jokes went viral online. Discussing the holocaust, Carr suggested there’s never any focus on “the positives”, like the deaths of “the thousands of G–”.

Fans of Carr argued that the clip decontextualised the routine – Carr frames the joke as deliberately shocking before making it anyway – though critics argued that it’s a fairly weak defence of an essentially unsophisticated punchline. It was also pointed out that over 500 000 Roma people were killed during the holocaust, and understating the death count as Carr did is typically understood as a form of soft holocaust denial (in the same way that if someone said “only a thousand Jews were killed in the Holocaust”, it has a diminishing effect).

Will they throw soup on the paintings?

Yes, very funny. But no – Jimmy Carr Destroys Art was taped on Wednesday 12 October, prior to the whole Van Gogh soup throwing protest, so it’s unlikely to have any specific reference to it.

What else is airing as part of Channel 4’s Truth or Dare season?

There’s a number of other such provocative programming planned for Channel 4’s 40th anniversary Truth or Dare season, but the highlights are the return of Ben Elton’s Friday Night Live, a Frankie Boyle special about the monarchy, and a Prince Andrew musical.

When is Jimmy Carr Destroys Art on TV?

Oh, yes, sorry, the main reason you came onto the article. The 75-minute special is set to air on Channel 4 on Tuesday 25 October at 9pm.