10 Binge Worthy Modern Art Movies
Miss our Modernism + Film series? Looking for something a step up from Tiger King? (No judgement. We’ve watched it too!) Our staff has rounded up a list of our favorite modern art movies. Grab the popcorn, dim the lights, and enjoy!
1. The Art of the Steal (2009)
This film looks at the controversy surrounding the art collection of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a millionaire who amassed a remarkable selection of significant works during the early 20th century. Barnes sought to keep his priceless pieces together as part of his foundation even after his death, but the involvement of numerous parties led to the scattering of his collection. This documentary sheds light on how his wishes were violated by a handful of opportunistic individuals.
2. Gerhard Richter Painting (2012)
One of the world’s greatest living painters, the German artist Gerhard Richter has spent over half a century experimenting with a tremendous range of techniques and ideas, addressing historical crises and mass media representation alongside explorations of chance procedures. Infamously media-shy, he agreed to appear on camera for the first time in 15 years for a 2007 short by filmmaker Corinna Belz called Gerhard Richter’s Window.
Her follow-up, Gerhard Richter Painting, is exactly that: a thrilling document of Richter’s creative process, juxtaposed with intimate conversations (with his critics, his collaborators, and his American gallerist Marian Goodman) and rare archive material. From our fly-on-the-wall perspective, we watch the 79-year-old create a series of large-scale abstract canvasses, using fat brushes and a massive squeegee to apply (and then scrape off) layer after layer of brightly colored paint. This mesmerizing footage, of a highly charged process of creation and destruction, turns Belz’s portrait of an artist into a work of art itself.
Available on: Amazon Prime
3. Jean Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child (2010)
A thoughtful portrait of a renowned artist, this documentary shines the spotlight on New York City painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Featuring extensive interviews conducted by Basquiat's friend, filmmaker Tamra Davis, the production reveals how he dealt with being a black artist in a predominantly white field. The film also explores Basquiat's rise in the art world, which led to a close relationship with Andy Warhol, and looks at how the young painter coped with acclaim, scrutiny and fame.
4. Le mystère Picasso (1956)
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot peers into the imagination of Pablo Picasso's studio and emerges with a quiet documentary that captures the revolutionary painter's creative process. Through a combination of stop-motion and time-lapse photography, Picasso's Cubist work comes to life on screen. Paint strokes and splashes of color appear as if by magic, as empty canvases become platforms for a series of daring and original drawings and paintings that exist only within the confines of this film.
Available here: DocumentaryTube
5. Eames: The Architect & The Painter (2011)
The life and work of the industrial designer Charles and Ray Eames. Narrator: James Franco
6. The Cool School (2008)
Fascinating documentary film exploring how renegade artists taught the City of Los Angeles to love Modern Art.
Available on: iTunes
7. Painters Painting (1973)
Emile de Antonio's documentary about postwar American painting combines footage of museum shows with interviews with the artists themselves. Besides covering Abstract Expressionism in depth, the film discusses other significant 20th-century art movements, such as color-field painting and Pop Art. Some of the artists who discuss their work include Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Barnett Newman and Helen Frankenthaler.
Available on: Amazon Prime
8. Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film (2006)
Rare archival film footage and interviews illustrate filmmaker Ric Burns' tribute to art-world icon Andy Warhol. Much of the material Burns uses was shot by Warhol himself during his heydey in the 1960s and '70s. Interviews include art dealer Irving Blum, Warhol's brother John, Paul Morrissey and art critic Dave Hickey.
Available on: PBS
9. Pollock (2000)
In August of 1949, Life Magazine ran a banner headline that begged the question: "Jackson Pollock: Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" The film is a look back into the life of an extraordinary man, a man who has fittingly been called "an artist dedicated to concealment, a celebrity who nobody knew." As he struggled with self-doubt, engaging in a lonely tug-of-war between needing to express himself and wanting to shut the world out, Pollock began a downward spiral.
10. The Price of Everything (2018)
With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, this film dives deep into the contemporary art world, holding a fun-house mirror up to our values and times.
Available on: HBO NOW, HBO GO, Hulu