Good films about art and artists

I am always looking for good films and documentaries about artists and art. Today, I thought I’d mention a few you might also find worth viewing, educational and inspiring:

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. This biopic was filmed by his best friend, Tamra Davis, over many years. I liked it because Tamra with her daily, unfettered access shows the intensity and frequency with which Basquiat painted.
  • Julian Schnabel’s biopic Basquiat. I also suggest three other films directed by painter, filmmaker, interior designer Schnabel: Before Night Falls, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Miral.
  • The Art of the Steal is a true story about the multi-billion dollar heist of the Barnes Collection.
  • The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a griping documentary about American and British army men who retrieved art stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
  • Gerhard Richter Painting.  Recently shown at the Modern Art Museum Fort Worth, this is a documentary any artist interested in the repetitive, slow process of applying paint to the canvas would find riveting. Really!
  • My Architect: A Son’s Journey is a film about modernist architect Louis Kahn’s life, work and personality.
  • The Woodmans. Documentary about photographer Francesca Woodsman, a talent who died too young, and her complicated family.
  • Pollack starring Ed Harris.
  • How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? documents the British architect’s rise to prominence. On your next trip to Dallas’ Winspear Opera House, stop and study the building design, materials and engineering by Norman Foster’s firm, Foster + Partners.

Knowing I would cover art flicks this week, I sent an e-mail to three friends who are fellow movie buffs and artists. They kindly responded with their film recommendations which I now pass long to you, starting with Karen Weiner.

Karen Weiner, arts advocate and owner of Dallas gallery The Reading Room in Deep Ellum, Dallas sent these:

  • Her “top” pick is Pina by Wim Wenders, a documentary about German choreographer Pina Bausch.
  • Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry. WeWei is today’s most famous Chinese artist because he uses social media and art to very publicly criticize the country’s political system and suffers brutal consequences.

Anita Horton, arts educator, artist, blogger and world traveler

Anita teaches a 12-week class on Architecture and Design at her school. Her objective is to expand her students’ definition of architecture to include interior design, urban planning and landscape design, and consider these as a potential careers. She recommends these films on architects as “must sees.”

  • Sketches of Frank Gehry was directed by Sydney Pollack who was an avid fan and used this documentary as a way to get to know his friend the architect, Frank Gehry, even better.
  • A Strong Clear Vision about Maya Lin. How her Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC almost got derailed has edge-of-the-seat suspense.
  • Louis Kahn, My Architect: A Son’s Journey. Again, I loved it too.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright, a PBS film directed by Ken Burns.
  • Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio. I’ve seen the documentary too, about found this inspiring man. Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee (1944 – 2001) dedicated his life, as a teacher and as an architect, to creating architecture that elevated the living standards of the rural poor and also provided “shelter for the soul.”

Here are a few more from Anita:

  • Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time. I also like this documentary and sculptor. So much so that I purchased the DVD for my permanent home library.
  • Brothers Quay, Street of Crocodiles (Note: an exhibition featuring the work of the Brothers Quay, “On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets” is showing at MoMA  from August 12, 2012 to January 7, 2013.

Designer, website master, photographer and networker among the creative set, Elle Schuster of Elle Studio suggests:

  • A recent film Untitled captures the art gallery business side. Set in Chelsea area of NYC.
  • Fanny and Alexander is Ingmar Bergman’s four-time academy awarding story “about a theatrical family and MUCH more.”
  • Baroque female painter Artemisia Gentileschi is the subject of Artemisia, a beautifully filmed, loosely-based biopic which I also vividly remember.
  • Camille Claudel recounts the troubled life of this 19th century French sculptress.
  • Of course, the biography of British painter, Francis Bacon seen in BBC’s Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon.

Please share your favorite films with me and others by posting them in the Comments Section. How to post? Either Look for the bubble on upper right corner. Click to access the comments sections and fire away. Or, find the “Reply” box at the end of the post and fire away.

Thanks so much for posting comments. Until next week,


10 thoughts on “Good films about art and artists

  1. The Art of the Steal so inspired me when I saw it last winter that I’m going to see the Barnes Collection, in its new stolen home, in September. I have mixed feelings about doing this but am at least relieved to hear that the new space was done well, and in a similar way, to the original Barnes layout.
    Thanks for the many excellent art and architecture movie and documentary recommendations! Stephanie

  2. Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. a magnificent retrospective of Abramović’s work culminating in her one-woman show and installation at the MOMA.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, James. I have not seen this film, although I did see her MoMa show which was like nothing I had ever experienced before in a museum. Premiere Video, here I come.

  3. Loved, loved, loved the art/artists/architects favorite films suggestions! Thank you for a wonderful
    subject today – and for the terrific recommendations. I will keep this list handy for the snowy evenings here in Colorado this winter. There was a hint of yellow in the aspen leaves this week end……

    Thank you, Meg!!!!

      • You’ve named some of my favorite movies– My Architect about famous architect Louis Kahn being found dead in a stall at New York’s Penn Station and not being claimed for several days covering his son’s exploration of his life and work (obviously the Kimbell Museum is a masterpiece of his) is inspired. It brings up the meaning of life. Basquiat by Julian Schnabel is a beautiful movie that shows the whirlwind of celebrityhood and the arts in 1980’s New York. I wonder why nobody has ever done a film on Keith Herring? However, that has aired on Sundance channel is THE ART OF THE STEAL about the relentless quest by the Philadelphia elite to acquire and control the Barnes Collection over the last few decades. It is a storied tale of power and the use of it. I would add Woody Allan’s new movie To Rome with Love, one of his best in years, where he explores art, celebrity, modern culture and of course the meaning of life. Great list.

      • While I watched (and enjoyed) Woody Allen’s newest movie, To Rome with Love, I realized the lighting changed noticeably from scene to scene – more than his previous love fests to a particular city. An article in The New York Times explains. The cinematographer Darius Khondji, who is part of Woody’s inner circle of talents, was deliberate in his lighting choices to evoke ancient Rome. Link to article:

  4. Please share your favorite films with me and others by posting them in my blog.
    How to post?
    Either, look for the bubble on upper right corner or hyperlink at bottom of post. Click to access the comments sections and fire away. Or, find the “Reply” box at the end of the post and fire away.

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