From gallery openings to major retrospectives, the art aficionado is always keen to learn about emerging artists and past masters, alike. But there are other ways to discover and develop knowledge about art – through cinema, for instance. At the movie theatre or viewed via the TV in your own home, there are plenty of films that will offer fresh perspectives on an artist or an art movement. We have selected a handful of art movies that cover the style spectrum, from graffiti to pop art.
In the 1980s, a new movement was happening in New York; this documentary tells the story of how it unfolded. Images from the archives show the origins of graffiti and explore the main figures in this underground subculture. Although the movement has had international influence, Style Wars focuses on the city of New York, where a group of young people began painting characters and letters in the streets and on trains. Some famous artists from the scene – like Dondi, Case, and Skeme – are featured in the film. The documentary is considered to be the most important audio-visual production in the graffiti movement.
Gerhard Richter – Painting
Although the German artist hasn’t given many interviews during the course of his career, he reveals more about himself – and his art – in this fascinating documentary. The camera takes the audience into the studio of Gerhard Richter to show the artist and illuminate his creative process from beginning to end. He showcases his painting techniques and also offers insights about his childhood and his parents.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Famous for his controversial works and actions, street-artist Banksy certainly knows how to stimulate debate and galvanise the art market. In 2010, he won unexpected success as a filmmaker with Exit through the Gift Shop. If you’re expecting a retrospective of his own career, you’re in for a surprise; instead he chooses to depict the very interesting life of Thierry Guetta, also known as Brainwash. Bansky acts as narrator, showcasing a movie about the street-art movement and friendship, but also presenting a stinging critique of the art world.
Ai Weiwei – Never Sorry
Engaging in activism through art, Ai Weiwei is a central figure in the contemporary art scene. From the destruction of his workshop to the physical abuses he has received, the Chinese artist has often been oppressed by the authorities of his native country. This documentary narrates the story of Weiwei’s advocacy through art, social and political actions. Exploring the boundaries between art and activism, it shows an artist committed to his fight against political injustice, no matter what. The movie received an award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Radiant Child
Maybe one of the most rebellious and famous artists of all, Jean-Michel Basquiat lived an intense but short life. Today, his paintings are among the most expensive sold at Sotheby’s, but it’s perhaps even more interesting to examine something beyond price: his life. From the streets of Brooklyn, where he populated the phrase ‘SAMO’, to exhibiting his work in the high-end galleries of Manhattan, Basquiat gained a rapid success at a very young age. A Radiant Child brilliantly retraces his story.