Growing up, watching documentaries on the TV would be my favourite thing to do and that has not changed since. With streaming services abound during the Pandemic, I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of art documentaries that I have binge watched over the past 3 years.
If you think about it, the merge of documentary filmmaking and art is absolute perfection because of how visually stimulating both the subjects are. I believe, the ability of documentaries to transport you to a particular time period with the help of archival footage and images or even highly produced re-enactments is crucial in helping foster greater appreciation for artists and Great art. This will also help one develop a more multifaceted perception of art and the history behind it.
Therefore, if you are not the one who likes to cosy up with a hot cup of tea and a copy of The Art Book, I would highly recommend cosying up with an art documentary instead. It has not been easy shortlisting these documentaries, but I have managed to find the right ones to get you started:
- Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present
Having already been familiar with Marina Abramovic’s impressive body of work, this documentary did an incredible job in showing us the gifted artist and complex person that she is. For those unfamiliar with performance art or the significant emotional and mental investment that one makes to their artistic practice, this documentary would be a revelation.
- Exit Through the Gift Shop
Directed by the legendary street artist, Banksy, this documentary charts the meteoric rise of Thierry Guetta in the art world and how he manages to achieve that. This documentary is not only an informative watch on how the art market operates, but it also is a fascinating exploration of what categorizes as art. Bordering on being almost unbelievable, this documentary is equal parts entertaining, informative and shocking in what it reveals about the economics of art.
- Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Ai Weiwei is an artist and an activist, who serves as a prime example of how politically significant artists can be and how they can be crucial in changing the cultural landscape of an entire nation. In this documentary, we follow Ai Weiwei’s journey from the very beginning as a budding artist to a political art juggernaut who is going against the Chinese government by creating artworks critiquing its laws and policies. The documentary is quite impactful in showing the authenticity and bravery required to create art which demands for change.
- Finding Vivian Maier
Written, directed and produced by documentarian John Maloof and his partner, Charlie Siskel, Finding Vivian Maier documents how Maloof discovers the work of Vivian Maier, a photographer whose extensive body of work will only find recognition after her death and release of the documentary. Vivian Maier took over 150,000 photographs during her lifetime capturing the evolution of cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Working primarily as a nanny throughout her life, Vivian continued to pursue photography as a hobby never considering the unintentional legacy, she was creating for herself. This documentary provides an intimate insight into what true passion for art looks like and how it transcends the commercial framework that art is sometimes relegated to.
- Becoming Beeple
Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_8Q7irfOvQ&ab_channel=ONE37pm
Well, we all know about Beeple. The artist who put NFTs on the map and changed the entire landscape of the global art market. This documentary short is a succinct yet intimate portrait of the artist himself and takes us behind-the-scenes as his historic $69.3 million NFT auction at Christie’s takes place. Available for free streaming on Youtube, the duration of this documentary is perfect for those looking for a quick view while also managing to effectively cover the career and legacy of a digital art icon.
With that, your art documentary playlist is ready for binge viewing! These documentaries will help you discover different facets of the art world and inspire you to perhaps take a deeper dive into the vast history and commentary that art provides.
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