In mid-March, a pandemic forced most of the United States into isolation. Many were forced to stay at home for long periods of time.
Below are the top 10 art documentaries released for streaming this year. While they were unable to visit their favorite museums and galleries, art connoisseurs could rejoice at the fact that a number of documentaries are worth seeing this year.
‘Banksy & the Rise of Outlaw Art’
Elio Espana’s Banksy and the Criminal Art Rise is a look at contemporary street art /graffiti culture that Banksy has erected. Banksy, the most notorious street artist in the world, whose political art, crime stunts, and daring invasions angered the establishment and created a new revolutionary movement while his identity remained shrouded in mystery.
The Banksy documentary reveals his story, from his roots in the criminal subculture to his ascent as the leader of the artistic revolution. Don’t expect Banksy’s personality to really reveal itself. Not only was Banksy documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), but a few years ago we had Banksy’s Does New York do.
As the most notorious street artist in the world, Banksy’s political art, criminal antics, and daring incursions have resented the establishment for over two decades, but despite being one of the most important figures of our time, Banksy remained a mystery little known about him. The circumstances of his life and work, its rise coincided with the emergence of street art, a form of illegal public art that evolved from the graffiti scene to reshape cities around the world.
Banksy is a leading figure in this revolutionary new movement. He has built a multi-million dollar empire and changed the way we think about art. Despite all this, however, his identity remained shrouded in mystery. Banksy & The Rise of Outlaw Art is directed by a documentary producer and director Elio Espana.
Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire
Art documentaries are extremely difficult to get right – filmmakers must find a balance between studying the artist’s biography (with enough interesting points for those already familiar with their work) and meaningful discussion of the artist’s practice and his contribution to art history.
It is impossible to fulfill either of these requirements, but Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire, directed by Elsa Flores Almaraz and Richard J. Montoya and released by Netflix, does both. It is impossible to fulfill either of these requirements, but Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire, directed by Elsa Flores Almaraz and Richard J. Montoya and released by Netflix, does both.
Most importantly, Playing with Fire includes a frank discussion of Almaraz’s bisexuality and his death from AIDS-related complications, a fact that was not publicly discussed until recently. This honesty ensures that Playing with Fire will be a key element of any future research into Almaraz.
Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint
The reasons why Hilma Af Klint’s art continues to fascinate hardly needs an explanation.
Her paintings, filled with mysterious images of animals and cosmological patterns, became for the artist of the 20th century a way of communicating with invisible spirits; they may well have been the first abstractions in Europe. However, her work has rarely been brought to life. Many were able to catch a glimpse of Af Klint’s tantalizing work in retrospective exhibitions at the Moderna Museet in Sweden and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
However, her work has rarely been brought to life. Many were able to catch a glimpse of Af Klint’s tantalizing work in retrospective exhibitions at the Moderna Museet in Sweden and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
However, these shows were relatively short-lived. Fortunately, this documentary will last forever.
Marcel Duchamp: The Art of the Possible
Marcel Duchamp is a prominent figure in 20th-century art, along with Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Matthew Taylor, in The Art of the Possible, boldly tries to tell the whole story of his life – from his family past to pioneering experiments in Cubism and the creation of a readymade, which shocked the art world and forever changed the course of art history providing exceptional analysis of the complex scientific theories underlying the work.
For Duchamp, anything and everything can be art, and this clever documentary makes you think of the limitless possibilities of artistic expression.
Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art
Two documentaries were released this year about the infamous Knoedler document forgery scandal that rocked the art world nearly 10 years ago. The best of the two, Barry Avrich’s Make You Stare is the best of the two, masterfully retelling the complex story of how fake art, attributed to some of the greatest artists of the post-war era, destroyed one of the country’s oldest and most respected galleries.
But perhaps the art documentary`s greatest triumph is that the director gets Anne Friedman, the fake director of Knoedler, to get straight into the situation. The Knoedler scandal led to numerous lawsuits, one even went to trial.
On the day that Friedman was supposed to take the position, the parties agreed on an undisclosed amount and the art world never heard the version of Friedman’s story that she finally offers here.
MASS MoCA, a giant museum in North Adams, Massachusetts, is undergoing a period of change: its founding director Joe Thompson is stepping down after more than three decades at the helm. It makes right now the perfect moment for a documentary about the revered museum, and of course, directed by Jennifer Trainer, the former director of development and public affairs there.
This short documentary shows the unlikely success of the MASS MoCA and its difficult path to existence and provides insight into some of its most famous presentations, including the notoriously unsuccessful exhibition by Christoph Büchel. Basically, it offers a case study of how a museum outside of a major city can become a destination in the art world. As one curator of MASS MoCA said in the film: There can never be a MASS MoCA in a big city.
Even a pandemic could not prevent Ai Weiwei from remaining fertile. In 2020, he directed three art documentaries: Vivos, an investigation into violence in Mexico, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; Coronation, a spectacular image of the coronavirus quarantine in Wuhan, China; and Cockroach, a study of the democratic movement that swept Hong Kong in 2019.
The Cockroach does not delve deeply into the specific factors that preceded the ongoing uprising, but it does provide inspiring images of protests, with Ai’s nimble filmmakers in a crowd of events, at times forced to dodge tear gas canisters to capture the frames. As activist movements sweep the world, Cockroach provides a valuable picture of what resistance looks like.
Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own
The joy of art documentaries about a living artist is that you can often see him at work, creating his masterpieces. In Daniel Traub’s Into Your Own Ursula von Riedingsward, this is precisely what gives viewers a glimpse into the sculptor’s workshop as she creates tall cuboid-shaped wooden sculptures that protrude outward.
The works in their final form often seem effortless, but Traub’s documentary shows that von Riedingsward’s art is truly a work of love.
There are few patrons in the world who are as beloved of the arts as Agnes Gund, the former president of the Museum of Modern Art, who made headlines in 2017 when she sells Roy Lichtenstein’s expensive pop art masterpiece to found the Art of Justice Foundation.
The sale gave the foundation $ 100 million in seed capital to be distributed to organizations and artists helping to end the prison complex. Aggie, directed by her daughter Katherine Gund, gives us access in a way few art documentaries do.
The documentary is a touching portrait of one of the world’s most generous collectors, who made her life mission to be a bearer of change – the first in the art world to advocate for MoMA to support the work of color artists, and now worldwide with the Art for justice”.
Pat Steir: Artist
Pat Steir, now in her 80s, remains one of the most creative abstract painters working today. Her presence is vibrant, and her mind is wide open, she is ready to absorb almost anything from Buddhist philosophy to new theories of conceptual art – all of which make her a valuable subject for one of the art documentaries.
The memorable cinematic portrait of artist Veronica Gonzalez Peña is a dignified portrait full of hilarious moments about art and the feminist movement of the 1970s. But most of all, he is remembered for the scenes in which Steyr at work, with an eighty-year-old generation splashing paint on giant canvases. “I was born strong,” Steir once told Gonzalez Peña. Based on these sequences, who can argue with that?