ikono in the Financial Times!

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Vision on
By Alex Newman

A new television channel shows nothing but works of visual art, from Leonardo to highlights of this year’s Venice Biennale

From Leonardo to the Pharaohs, ikonoTV gives a detailed but silent guide to a range of art works.

Last year, slumped on a hotel bed after an arduous journey from Damascus to Amman, I stared at the television, idly flicking through a bewildering selection of cable channels. Preening Iraqi boy bands, a soap opera in Urdu, BBC Persian and CNN all jostled for attention, all determined to overwhelm the viewer with fast cuts and rolling scheduling updates. Amid the cacophony, I found myself oddly drawn to a weather channel. With no voice-over and the barest of meteorological information, the screen glided gently over the face of the earth to a faint muzak accompaniment. While everything else continued on overdrive, the simplicity and stillness of this programme’s focus stood out.
I thought about this moment when I spoke to Elizabeth Markevitch, the director of ikonoTV, whose flagship channel, ikono Menasa, has for the past year been broadcasting across the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia on Arabsat. IkonoTV, which on December 1 expands into mainland Europe (and soon, Markevitch hopes, the UK), is not unlike that weather channel. It broadcasts an uninterrupted, constantly updated playlist of works of art, ranging from a detailed examination of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine” to highlights of this year’s Venice Biennale. There is no narration and no captions, save for the work’s title and its artist.

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