From Henri Neuendorf's 2015 post for Artnet here are ten films he thinks are the best documentaries that art lovers can’t miss out on. Watch Pablo Picasso or Gerhard Richter at work or get up close and personal with camera-shy photographer Cindy Sherman. On this list, there’s something for everyone.
Documentaries Every Art Lover Should Watch
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
1. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
A fantastic documentary that explores the life and art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Directed by the artist’s close friend Tamra Davis, this movie features rare footage and interviews with Basquiat’s contemporaries of 1980s downtown New York.
The Art of the Steal (2009)
2. The Art of the Steal (2009)
The documentary tells the story of the struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, one of the world’s best collections of modern and impressionist art, valued at an estimated $25 billion. Politicians controversially moved the collection from Merion, Pennsylvania to downtown Philadelphia, contravening the will and testament of its founder, Albert C. Barnes.
Le Mystère Picasso (1956)
3. Le mystère Picasso (1956)
This sensational film documents Pablo Picasso’s creative process. Using specially designed transparent canvas, the camera traces the master’s every move, giving viewers insight into the painting technique of one of the most renowned artists of the 20th century.
Eames: The Architect And The Painter (2011)
4. Eames: The Architect & The Painter (2011)
Architect and designer Charles Eames and his wife Ray, an artist, were two of America’s most influential tastemakers. The couple made hugely significant contributions to modern architecture, furniture and art. Using archival material and new interviews with friends, collaborators, and experts, this superb film tells their story.
The Cool School (2008)
5. The Cool School (2008)
Narrated by Jeff bridges, the film examines the rise of the Los Angeles art scene which developed as a counterculture rebelling against the Abstract Expressionist art movement championed in New York. It profiles the influential Ferus Gallery and its owners Walter Hopps and Irving Blum and tells the story of how a small group of artists such as Ed Kienholz, Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, John Altoon, and Billy Al Bengston transformed American art.
Gerhard Richter – Painting (2012)
6. Gerhard Richter: Painting (2012)
Providing a behind-the-scenes view of the studio of one of the world’s best (-selling) living painters, this film documents Gerhard Richter’s creative process, showing the artist at work. A series of interviews with Richter, as well as some of his critics and contemporaries adds context to the artist’s oeuvre.
Tim’s Vermeer (2014)
7. Tim’s Vermeer (2014)
American inventor Tim Jenison analyzes the revolutionary painting technique of the 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Jenison sets out to find out how the painter was able to create photo-realistic works over a century before the invention of the camera.
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present
8. Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012)
The documentary follows the renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic as she prepares for her retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The film explores how the Serbian national redefined the understanding of what art is.
Guest Of Cindy Sherman (2008)
9. Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008)
Filmmaker Paul Hasegawa-Overacker, known for his Gallery Beat reviews of New York art shows in the 1990s, was invited to interview the reclusive photographer Cindy Sherman in her studio. After several interviews the filmmaker and the photographer fall in love and embark on a romantic relationship. This film offers viewers remarkably intimate, one-of-a-kind insight into the life of a notoriously camera-shy artist from the perspective of Hasegawa-Overacker, who struggles to come to terms with Sherman’s celebrity.
National Gallery (2014)
10. National Gallery (2014)
A fly-on-the-wall account of the National Gallery, London, one of the world’s most renowned museums with a stunning collection of canvasses by Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Turner and others. Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman explores the inner workings of modern cultural institutions, documenting the National Gallery’s administrative meetings, conservation, restoration and educational functions.
How many of these films have you seen?
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