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10 Iconic Art Films & Documentaries To Watch


10 Iconic Art Films & Documentaries To Watch
Film Still from Loving Vincent (2017). Image courtesy of Altitude Film Distributions.

As many around the world continue to socially distance and stay at home, some of us may be starting to get desperate for some creative inspiration and artistic stimulation. Although a majority of us are unable to leave our homes, watching an art historical film is a great way to escape the chaos of the world, and get that much-needed creative boost. 

Here at The Artling, we have compiled a list of some of our very favourite art films that are a must-see! From captivating biopics to complex and thrilling documentaries, to beautiful animations, these films provide great insight into some of the world’s most renowned artists and art movements. Whether you are interested in impressionist art, abstract art, contemporary art or street art, our list has got you covered. This evening, kick back, relax and enjoy your popcorn with one of our recommended art movies!

Big Eyes (2014)

Amy Adams in Big Eyes. 

Image courtesy of © 2014 The Weinstein Company. 

An American biographical drama directed by Tim Burton, Big Eyes follows the life of American artist Margaret Keane, who paints portraits of people with signature big, glossy and wide eyes. In her recognisable and distinct style, her paintings achieve an exponential amount of fame during the 1950s and 60s. However, Margaret discovers that her husband Walter Keane, has been selling her works and passing off her portraits as his own. Taking complete credit of her work, Margaret embarks lawsuit to prove that she is the true artist behind the paintings.

Watch this film on Amazon

Pollock (2000)

Ed Harris in Pollock (2000). 

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. 

Pollock is a biopic of the famous American abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. Played by Ed Harris, who was also the director, the film follows the extraordinary life of the painter as he rises to fame by the late 1940s. The film provides critical insight into his relationship with artist Lee Krasner, and sheds light on his personal troubles with self-doubt and struggle with alcoholism.

Watch this film on AppleTV

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

The artist working in Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

Image courtesy of Sundance Selects. 

A documentary film by Beijing-based journalist Alison Klayman, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry follows the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei as he is released from detention by the Chinese authorities in 2011. The documentary examines the complex intersection of artistic practice and social activism as seen through the life and art of China’s preeminent contemporary artist. The film was the first feature-length film about the internationally renowned artist, Ai Weiwei. 

Watch this on Amazon

Loving Vincent (2017)

Douglas Booth is the voice of Armand Roulin in 'Loving Vincent'

Image courtesy of Altitude Film Distributions. 

Loving Vincent is the very first fully oil painted animation feature film that brings the artwork of Vincent van Gogh to life. This biographical drama film explores the complicated years of the artist as well as his controversial death. The film is made of 65,000 frames of an oil painting on canvas, executed by a team of 125 artists that employed techniques Van Gogh used in his paintings.

Watch this film on Amazon

Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (2016)

The artist at work in Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (2016)

Image courtesy of Netflix. 

Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang is a documentary released by Netflix in 2016. The film is about the Chinese-born, New York-based contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang and his great ambitions to create an extraordinary work of art: Sky Ladder – a 1,650 foot vertical ladder-like trail of fire climbing into the skies.

Stream this film on Netflix

Kusama: Infinity (2018)

The artist in Kusama: Infinity (2018)

Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. 

Kusama: Infinity is an American biographical documentary covering the life of Japan’s most famous female painter Yayoi Kusama. As one of the most recognised and best-selling artists in the world, the film showcases the severe struggles she experienced growing up in Japan, and the turbulent relationship she had with her parents who disapproved of her ambitions to pursue a career in the arts. Kusama demonstrates how psychological traumas in her life have influenced her artistic vision and the way people experience her work.

Watch this film on Amazon

Station to Station (2015)

Film Still From Station to Station 

Image courtesy of Doug Aitken

Station to Station is a project by experimental artist Doug Aitken. The documentary film is made up of 62 one-minute films that each showcases a different viewpoint from an eclectic mix of artists, musicians, writers, places and perspectives. The train, which travels from the East to West coast across 24 days, is home to a community of artists. Rolling into ten stations on the route, the train set in motion a series of happenings, each unique to its location and mix of creative participants.

Watch this film on AppleTV

Frida (2002)

Alfred Molina and Salma Hayek star as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Frida (2002)

Image courtesy of Miramax Films

A biopic directed by Julie Taymor, the film Frida focuses on the extraordinary professional and private life of the surrealist Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, portrayed by Salma Hayek. Set in beautiful Mexico City, the film traces her unstable and complicated relationship with her husband Diego Rivera, as well as her illicit affairs with Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky and various other women.

Watch this film on Amazon

Gerhard Richter Painting (2011)

The artist in Gerhard Richter Painting (2011)

Image courtesy of Kino Lorber

In this documentary, director Corinna Belz gives us unprecedented access to the studio of renowned German painter Gerhard Richter. Praised for his expressive, abstract paintings, the film showcases the meticulous and painstaking processes of Richter’s thick and layered canvases. The perceptive feature-length documentary allows the viewer to become immersed in the quietly suspenseful cycle of an artistic process. 

Watch this film on AppleTV


Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012)

The artist in Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012)

Image courtesy of Music Box Films

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present is a documentary that follows Serbian performance artist and film maker Marina Abramovic as she prepares for a major retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Seductive, fearless, and outrageous, Marina Abramovic has been redefining what art is for nearly forty years. Using her own body as a vehicle, pushing herself beyond her physical and mental limits--and at times risking her life in the process--she creates performances that challenge, shock, and move us. 

Watch this film on Amazon

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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