Art Documentaries & Films to Watch

As a painter, I love to learn about the process of other artists. Understanding where other artists’ ideas come from, how they approach their pieces,and how they work inspires and illuminates my own process. This is a list of the films, documentaries & shows that I have found inspiration from through the years. If you have some to add, please do so in the comments below!

Art Documentaries

  1. The Andy Warhol Diaries. Andy Warhol’s diary was turned into a moving picure for this fascinating documentary that touches on not only Andy’s life, but Jean-Paul Basquiat’s as well. I learned ineresting nuances about Warhol’s life that one can only get from their own words.

  2. Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry Ai Wei Wei is an important Chinese artist who has challenged his government through his artwork, and has suffered some consequences as a result. His work is engaging and brave; this is definitely worth a watch!

  3. Gerard Richter: Painting. I LOVE watching Richter’s abstract painting process in this film. I think many artists have gone an purchased squeegies after watching how he paints! If you like abstraction, this is one that must be on your list! You can watch on Amazon.

  4. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present. Fascinating documentary about Abramovic as she gets ready for a performance art piece at MOMA.

  5. Frank Lloyd Wright. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright is an American legend, and we should all know about the importance of his designs, especially in the residential sphere. I love how he combines simplicity with placing importance on nature in his work. You will have to get a PBS membership to watch, but it’s well worth the fee since there are so many gems on PBS.

  6. Painting Santa Fe. An interesting look at how Santa Fe became renowned as an artist’s haven. While this documentary focuses on one subset of artists in Santa Fe, I find it interesting to understand how the movement started, grew and eventually helped to put Santa Fe on the map as the 3rd largest art market in the country.

Biographical Dramas

  1. Frida. This beautiful film portrays Friday and all of her fascinating contrasts. With its amazing soundtrack, this is an entertaining way to learn about Frida’s life and work.

  2. Loving Vincent. There are so many documentaries and films about Van Gogh’s life, and I think they all bring important pieces of the puzzle that was his life. However, Loving Vincent is so creatively done, with hundreds of artists creating thousands of original paintings for the animated film that showcase Van Gogh’s work. The film is a mystery and raises many questions about the final days of this amazing artist. You have to watch this one!

  3. Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art. I am fascinated with Banksy, and if you don’t know him, you might want to check him out. His identity is still a mystery, yet his work captivates viewers from all over the world and sells for millions. A British street artist, Banksy raises social and political questions through his work. This is a bit long, but it’s good if you are interested in grafitti and street art.

  4. The Painter and the Thief. Wow, this was such a great film. How does the Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova make amends with the man who stole her paintings? This film is real, raw and so worth watching.

Best Source for Contemporary Art/Artists Working Today

  1. Art 21 is the hands-down best source for short films about artists working today. They cover artists from around the world working in a variety of media and themes. The films are short enough to keep the viewer’s attention, but long enough to feel like you gained deeper insight into the artist’s life. Among my favorite episodes to date are Mark Bradford in “Paradox”, Kara Walker in “Subtelty, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,” and Cindy Sherman in Transformation.

  2. Abstract:The Art of Design. This series on Netflix covers a wide range of disciplines and artists, and how they approach design.

  3. The Great Flower Flight. Might seem like an odd choice to be on this list, but these floral artists are also colorists, designers and sculptors all in one. What these artists create from a simple prompt is outstanding.

  4. Interior Design Masters. I have a soft spot for interior design. As a painter I am only dealing with the 2-d surface I am working on, but interior designers have to think about the 3-dimensionality of a room and how to paint, furnish and embellish it. They have to consider color, texture, form, space, and so much more. I was amazed watching designers completely transform a space in this Netflix Show.

Other Documentaries

Creativity, from Netflix’s series Explained, is an excellent resource for understanding how to be more—you guessed it—creative.

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