10 Great Art Documentaries To Watch This Summer

You need to see these films if you love art.

In case you find yourself bored in your hotel room on vacation this summer, or you’re stuck with nothing to do on the weekend, why not check out a few art-related documentaries? Whether you’re into profiles of leading artists, buffing up on art history, or seeing the installation of a highly-anticipated 340-ton rock, artnet News has got you covered.

There will be no more endless scanning of iTunes or Netflix, since every one of these riveting documentaries will not only entertain but also enrich your understanding of art and culture; just don’t forget your popcorn.

Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (2015). Photo: courtesy Troublemakers The Film.

Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (2015). Courtesy Troublemakers The Film.

1. Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (2015)
The film unearths the history of the origin of Land Art during the 1960s and 1970s. Troublemakers follows the story of the renegade artists who risked their careers to radically change the perception of what could be classified as art, which is the polar opposite of the speculative, money-driven contemporary art world of today.

Art Bastard (2015). Photo: Art Bastard.

Art Bastard (2015). Courtesy of Art Bastard.

2. Art Bastard (2015)
Mentored and inspired by the legendary caricaturist George Grosz, the provocative figurative painter Robert Cenedella would smear New York street scenes in the same grotesque way that Grosz saw Berlin. The film shows the frustrations and tribulations of a persistent artist forgotten by a mainstream audience.

Renoir: The Unknown Artist. Photo: Exhibition On Screen.

Renoir: The Unknown Artist. Courtesy of Exhibition On Screen.

3. Renoir—Revered and Reviled (2016)
This film tells the story of one of the most influential artists of all time who helped create and embraced Impressionism, only to reject it and move into a completely different artistic direction. Told through the lens of the Barnes collection in Philadelphia, which owns more Pierre-Auguste Renoir works than any other institution, the documentary reveals the life and times of Pablo Picasso’s favorite artist.

Painters Painting: 1940-1970. Photo: Syndicado via Facebook.

Painters Painting: 1940-1970. Courtesy of Syndicado via Facebook.

4. Painters Painting—The New York Art Scene: 1940-70 (1973)
The documentary unravels and explains how the creative critical mass in New York between 1940 and 1970 gave birth to the city’s now legendary art scene. Focusing on the period between 1940 and 1970, the film shows a collection of interviews with the key players that shaped the scene examining not only the artists but also the museum directors, critics, and gallerists.

Crumb (1994). Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Crumb (1994). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

5. Crumb (1994)
Occupying the unusual space between underground comics and fine art, R. Crumb is one of the most pioneering illustrators in contemporary culture. Through interviews with the illustrator’s family, ex-girlfriends and contemporaries, the film examines how the artist’s complexities and talents influences his satirical, sexualized, and often disturbing drawings.

Herb and Dorothy. Photo: Herb and Dorothy.

Herb and Dorothy. Photo: Herb and Dorothy.

6. Herb and Dorothy (2008)
The incredible true story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a postal worker and librarian that lived in a rent-control apartment on New York’s Upper East Side who built a world-class collection by buying small and medium-sized works by superstar artists before they were famous. The film demonstrates that if the passion is strong enough you don’t have to be rich to collect great art.

Levitated Mass. Photo: Levitated Mass Film.

Levitated Mass. Photo: Levitated Mass Film.

7. Levitated Mass (2013)
Since 2012 renowned land artist Michael Heizer’s 340-ton granite boulder has been prominently displayed outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The film tells the story of the conception, transport, and installation this highly unusual, controversial, and complex $10 million artwork, and shows how it was masterminded from start to finish.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012). Photo: Kickstarter via Facebook.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012). Photo: Kickstarter via Facebook.

8. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)
Examining the life and career of one of the art world’s most misunderstood characters, this documentary explains why and how Ai Weiwei has used his artistic practice to provocatively address social injustice, corruption, and repression of freedom of speech in his home country of China. It is a path that led to numerous encounters with the autocratic Chinese government and ultimately his incarceration, along with a triumphant release.

Who Gets To Call It Art? (2006). Photo: courtesy Arthouse Films.

Who Gets To Call It Art? (2006). Photo: courtesy Arthouse Films.

9. Who Gets to Call it Art? (2006)
Henry Geldzahler, the legendary curator behind the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s amazing 20th century collection, is a towering figure. Despite having a reputation for being one of the most connected persons in the New York art scene, he was also divisive and controversial figure, especially for his failure to include any women or minorities in the Met’s seminal “New York School 1940-1970” exhibition, which made art stars of those who were included, such as Frank Stella, David Hockney, and John Chamberlain.

The Jeff Koons Show. Photo: Voyeur Films.

The Jeff Koons Show. Photo: Voyeur Films.

10. The Jeff Koons Show (2004)
A documentary of the life and work of Jeff Koons, one of the most significant and divisive artists of our time, is in order. The film traces the artist’s rise and how he became one of the most dominant cultural voices of his generation, told from the perspective of Koons himself, along with curators, gallerists and fellow artists including Chuck Close, Julian Schnabel and others.

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