How do you brush up on your art knowledge in the midst of a pandemic when galleries are closed? Put aside the art history books; we have an easier way to become an art specialist.
Long gone are the days where only the professionals know about art. With a plethora of resources available on the internet and in magazines, becoming a master of the subject is more achievable than you might think.
Following a discussion with Maddox Gallery's Artistic Director, Maeve Doyle, we discovered that we could simply sit down, relax and learn about some of the world’s most ingenious artists through the power that is documentaries. With Doyle’s top seven recommendations outlined below, you’re set to leave this lockdown with both newfound knowledge and the tools to impress any art enthusiast.
With unprecedented access to the Haring foundation archives, Keith Haring: Street Art Boy follows Haring’s rise to fame through the voice of the artist himself, utilising interviews and footage that until this documentary’s release, had remained unseen. This fascinating documentary perfectly portrays the wild creative energy behind the trail-blazing artist. Capturing the spirit of the legendary 1980s art scene, with a new wave soundtrack to match, Doyle states that this is ‘the definitive Keith Haring story told by the man himself’.
Featuring rare archival film footage, most of which was shot by Warhol himself, Ric Burns’ four-hour documentary is the perfect tribute to the king of pop art. Described by the New York Times as ‘a portrait of the artist as a visionary, a voyeur and brand-name star,’ this documentary provides a comprehensive look at the man behind the screen print. Although not particularly impartial with its extolling of the artist, the thorough research and unparalleled access to historic footage makes Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film one to watch.
Directed by Oren Jacoby, Shadow Man follows the life of street artist Richard Hambleton. During the 1980s, Hambleton was a spectre of the night, covering Lower Manhattan in startling silhouettes that had pedestrians looking over their shoulders. The film maps the artist’s initial rise to fame, his consequent fall into obscurity and then his incredible comeback just years before his death. The tale is as terrific as it is tragic, with Doyle noting that the film is an ‘intense insight into the nature of talent, addiction and New York in the 80’s’. Compulsive and enthralling, this biopic reminds us that street art was alive before the age of Banksy and championed by the likes of Richard Hambleton and his elusive shadow men.
Moving to New York in the early 1960s, Yayoi Kusama was dismissed by critics due to her gender and Japanese heritage. Little did they know that this artist would soon become one of the most iconic conceptual creatives of the 20th century with her instantly recognisable pumpkins and spot motifs. Following Kusama from her modest beginnings, Infinity outlines her rise to fame with both interviews from experts and Kusama herself. With Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, headed for the Tate Modern in March, there is no better time to find out about this artist’s life.
Described by Doyle as ‘heart-breaking, intoxicating and the best there is on Basquiat’, this documentary is based on a 1985 interview with the artist. Director and friend of the creative, Tamra Davis, originally created The Radiant Child as a 20-minute film for the 2006 Sundance Film festival but later added more interviews, creating a longer feature-length documentary. The film is packed with unseen footage of the late artist, as well as notable members of the art world discussing the artist’s legacy and impact. The film explores everything from Basquiat’s relationship with Andy Warhol to the trials of being a black artist in a predominantly white field, making this documentary both poignant and thought-provoking.
Directed by Banksy in 2010, Exit Through the Gift Shop follows Thierry Guetta as he becomes increasingly involved in street art and its surrounding culture. The film features cameos from a whole host of established street artists such as Invader, Shepard Fairey and even the elusive Banksy himself. The climax of the documentary sees Guetta transforming into Mr. Brainwash and launching his street art career. The documentary was nominated for thirty different awards, including a BAFTA and an Oscar for Best Documentary. Described by Doyle as ‘hilarious and unmissable’, this truly is a must-watch for any street art fanatic.
In 2016, Sky Arts released The KAWS Effect, a half-hour biopic on the American street artist, KAWS. The documentary was the artist’s debut on UK screens, making this film one-of-a-kind for British viewers. Set around his 2016 exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the documentary frames KAWS’ career through his ingenious use of social media. Captivating, effective – much like the art itself – this documentary perfectly encapsulates the vivacious spirit of KAWS.