10 Must-Watch Art Documentaries
Entertaining, thought-provoking, historical, inspiring—this list has something all art lovers can enjoy. On this list, there’s something for everyone.
1) Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY is the inside story of a dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics. First-time director Alison Klayman gained unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China. Her detailed portrait provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.
2) Art and Craft (2014)
Mark Landis has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in US history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering a wide range of painting styles and periods that includes 15th Century Icons, Picasso, and even Walt Disney. And while the copies could fetch impressive sums on the open market, Landis isn’t in it for money. Posing as a philanthropic donor, a grieving executor of a family member’s will, and most recently as a Jesuit priest, Landis has given away hundreds of works over the years to a staggering list of institutions across the United States. But after duping Matthew Leininger, a tenacious registrar who ultimately discovers the decades-long ruse and sets out to expose his philanthropic escapades to the art world, Landis must confront his own legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop.
ART AND CRAFT starts out as a cat-and-mouse art caper, rooted in questions of authorship and authenticity—but what emerges is an intimate story of obsession and the universal need for community, appreciation, and purpose.
3) The Art of the Steal (2009)
Director Don Argott's documentary about the controversial move of the Barnes art collection to downtown Philadelphia, The Art of the Steal, is so adamantly against the relocation that it feels as if the viewer is watching evidence presented in a murder trial.
4) Art Bastard (2016)
ART BASTARD is the mischievous tale of a rebel who never fit into today’s art world… yet has become one of its most provocative, rabble-rousing characters nevertheless. At once a portrait of the artist as a young troublemaker, an alternate history of modern art and a quintessential New York story, ART BASTARD is as energetic, humorous and unapologetically honest as the uncompromising man at its center: Robert Cenedella.
5) Banksy Does New York (2014)
Documentary chronicling the famed street artist's "31 works of art in 31 days" in New York city.
6) National Gallery (2014)
A documentary that goes inside one of the great museums of the world: The National Gallery in London.
7) Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012)
A documentary that follows the Serbian performance artist as she prepares for a retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
8) Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while minimalist, conceptual art was the fad; as a successful black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions. Much can be gleaned from insider interviews and archival footage, but it is Basquiat's own words and work that powerfully convey the mystique and allure of both the artist and the man.
9) Gerhard Richter Painting (2011)
A documentary on the German artist that includes glimpses at his studio, which has not been seen in decades.
10) Beautiful Losers (2008)
This documentary follows the lives and careers of a collective group of Do-it-yourself artists and designers who inadvertently affected the art world.