Life and career
He began his career working at Artscribe first in the production department in 1979 and later taking over as editor, filling that role from 1983-7, bringing international relevance to the magazine. In 1987 he received a Turner Prize commendation for his work on Artscribe. Collings later moved into television working as a producer and presenter on the BBC The Late Show from 1989-95. In the early 1990s he brought Martin Kippenberger into the BBC studios to create an installation, and he interviewed Georg Herold while this Cologne-based conceptual artist painted a large canvas with beluga caviar. He gave Jeff Koons his first sympathetic exposure on British TV, and Damien Hirst was also introduced for the first time to the UK TV audience by Collings.
He wrote and presented documentary films for the BBC on individual artists, such as Donald Judd, Georgia O'Keeffe and Willem de Kooning, as well as broader historical subjects such as Hitler's "Degenerate art" exhibition, art looted in the Second World War by Germany and Russia, Situationism, Spain's post-Franco art world and the rise of the Cologne art scene.
After leaving the BBC, Collings wrote 'Blimey! From Bohemia to Britpop: The London Artworld from Francis Bacon to Damien Hirst,' which humorously chronicled the rise of the Young British Art (YBA) movement. Published in 1997 by 21, a new company founded by David Bowie, among a group of others, 'Blimey!'was described by Artforum magazine as “…one of the best-selling contemporary-art books ever." (Kate Bush on the YBA Sensation, Artforum, 2004) The article went on to say that Collings "invented the perfect voice to complement YBA: He makes an impact without (crucially) ever appearing to try too hard." The following year, Collings wrote and presented the Channel 4 TV series This is Modern Art, which won him a Bafta (2000) among other awards.
Collings wrote and presented a Channel 4 series in 2003 about the "painterly" stream of Old Master painting, called Matt's Old Masters. A book by the same title accompanied the series. Further Channel 4 series by Collings included Impressionism: Revenge of the Nice (2004) and The Me Generations: Self Portraits, (2005). Between 1997 and 2005, Collings presented the Channel 4 TV programme on the Turner Prize.
In 2007 he wrote and presented the Channel 4 TV series This is Civilisation. In 2009 he appeared on the BBC2 programme "School of Saatchi" a reality TV show for newly trained UK artists.
In October 2010, he wrote and presented a BBC2 series called Renaissance Revolution, in which he discussed three Renaissance paintings: Raphael's Madonna del Prato; Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights; and Piero della Francesca's The Baptism of Christ. In 2014 he wrote and presented a 90-minute documentary for BBC4 on abstract art: The Rules of Abstraction considered early modernist beginnings by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Hilma af Klint, and others, as well as contemporary continuities, ranging from Fiona Rae to El Anatsui. In the same year, Collings appeared in Frederick Wiseman's documentary, National Gallery composing and rehearsing a piece-to-camera on Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, for the documentary Turner's Thames, (2012), which Collings wrote and presented for BBC4.
Suspension from Labour Party
In 2019 Collings was picked as Parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party for the South West Norfolk constituency, but was suspended by the party a day later.
With Emma Biggs
In October 2007, with his wife, Emma Biggs, Collings has curated many art exhibitions. These include an exhibition of Picasso's late works at the HN Gallery in London. The paintings were from the 1960s series of Painter and Model and Déjeuner sur l’herbe reworkings. According to the catalogue essay, written by Collings, the exhibition aimed to draw attention to Picasso's achievement as a manipulator of form rather than the popular myth of Picasso as a showman or lover or sensationalist genius.
Together Biggs and Collings create paintings based on intricate patterns. They have exhibited their work in London and abroad.
- Blimey! - From Bohemia to Britpop: London Art World from Francis Bacon to Damien Hirst, 21 Publishing, 1997
- It Hurts - New York Art from Warhol to Now, 21 Publishing, 2000
- This is Modern Art, Weidenfeld & Nicolson and Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000
- Art Crazy Nation, 21 Publishing, 2001
- Sarah Lucas, Tate Publishing, 2002
- Matt's Old Masters: Titian, Rubens, Velázquez, Hogarth, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003
- Criticism (with Matthew Arnatt), Rachmaninoff's, 2004
- Ron Arad interviewed by Matthew Collings, Phaidon, 2004
- This is Civilisation, 21 Publishing, 2008
Video and television
- Omnibus: Willem de Kooning (BBC TV documentary) Narrator 1995
- This Is Modern Art (Channel 4 TV series documentary) 1998
- Hello Culture - (Channel 4 TV series documentary) 2001
- 2003 Matt's Old Masters (Channel 4 TV series documentary) Hogarth, Velázquez, Rubens, Titian
- Impressionism: Revenge of the Nice (Channel 4 TV series documentary) 2004
- Self Portraits (Channel 4 TV series documentary) 2005
- This Is Civilisation (BBC TV series documentary) 2007
- What is Beauty? (BBC TV documentary) 2009
- Renaissance Revolution: Raphael, Piero, Bosch (BBC TV series documentary) 2010
- Beautiful Equations (BBC4 TV one-hour documentary) 2010
- Turner's Thames (BBC2 1-hour documentary)
- The Rules of Abstraction with Matthew Collings (BBC4 TV documentary) 2014
- Williamson, Caroline (2 August 2012). "Emma Biggs & Matthew Collings". design-milk.com. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- This is Civilisation
- Presenter & Writer: Matthew Collings (October 2010). "Renaissance Revolution". BBC. BBC Two. Missing or empty
- "Biggs & Collings: What our work is about". emmabiggsandmatthewcollings.net. 10 March 2013. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.