So, it’s September, and true to form, the weather in the UK didn’t need any prompting. As autumnal temperatures and accompanying rain descend across the country, we’re looking for great artist documentaries to keep us occupied and importantly, indoors! Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat make up our top 3 on the ‘must watch’ list this week, share your favourites in the comments below.
1. Exit Through The Gift Shop: A Banksy Film (2010)
A must see for any Banksy fan or even anyone interested in street art more generally. The film follows Thierry, a street artist from France living in Los Angeles – and charts his life as he becomes more and more involved in the street art scene, his encounters with the likes of Shepard Fairey and Banksy himself before his eventual rise to fame as street artist Mr Brainwash. The film was nominated for the Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature but was also subject to speculation around the authenticity of the story. Did this film really just happen to chart the life of an unknown man obsessed with street art who transforms into a worldwide success almost overnight? Banksy says the film is real, others consider it a hoax or prankumentary – a term coined specifically for the film – and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be unlike Banksy to pull the wool over our eyes. Either way, it’s a must see movie.
2. The Artist Is Present (2012)
This film follows Marina Abramovic during preparations for a major retrospective exhibition of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Performance artist Abramovic is well known but less understood, this mesmerising documentary gives full, unrivalled access to the museum, the production and installation of the exhibition as well as Marina herself. Giving a real and fascinating insight into the mind of an artist who has performed almost her entire life and is interested exploring (and asking us to explore) the grey areas between performance / life and life / art. In her retrospective at MoMA, entitled The Artist Is Present, Abramovic sits for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for three months and welcoming a visitor at a time to sit before her, silently interacting with strangers. One of the most memorable and emotional moments, was when the visitor sitting before her was her long-time artistic collaborator and partner of 12 years, a man she had not set eyes on for almost 20 years: watch this moving scene here.
3. Basquiat, The Radiant Child (2010)
Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured) had a short but illustrious career as a graffiti artist in the late 70s and early 80s. His artwork was hotheaded, passionate and energetic disarming and charming the art world and the public. After selling his first ever painting to Debbie Harry and quickly becoming close to Andy Warhol (with whom he later collaborated), Basquiat was launched into international stardom. It has since been said that his cult status seemed to dominate and he lost sight of his self and his art for a while. This film includes interviews with Basquiat and those close to him and explores the way he dealt with racism and misconceptions around heritage through his art. For those of you in it for the long haul, this would be perfectly complimented by earlier biopic, simply entitled Basquiat from 1996.