Lately, I'm a little obsessed with documentaries on Netflix streaming, especially ones that deal with artists and the art world. Here are my top 5 so far, even if you're not exactly into modern art (and/or you find it ridiculous) these films are all entertaining in their own right. Or at least I think so.
1. Bill Cunningham New York - This documentary profiles the 80-some year old photographer who spent years writing the "On the Street" and "Evening Hours" fashion columns for the New York Times. If this sounds boring (which it kind of does), then you haven't yet fallen in love with Bill yet, who is the most charming, modest, unpretentious, fascinating person.
Cunningham's best quote: "[t]he main thing I love about street photography is that you find the answers you don't see at the fashion shows. You find information for readers so they can visualize themselves.
2. The Artist Is Present - This film follows Marina Abramovi, a world famous performance artist, as she prepares for her retrospective at MOMA, where she sits every day for two and a half months, from open to close of the museum, staring at visitors who stand in huge lines (many of whom camp out overnight) to stare back at her. Actually, even without the MOMA show, this documentary shows that Abramovi is interesting not just as an artist, but as a person (especially as it documents the relationship and split with Abramovi's long-term partner and significant other, Uwe Laysiepen). Watching Abramovi, really makes one think about what it means to be an "artist" and what, in order to claim such a title, one must give up along the way.
Abramovi's best quote: "The hardest thing to do is something that is close to nothing."
3. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel - Apparently Diana Vreeland was the original Anna Wintour - determined, successful, important, and (somewhat) viscous. The story of her life is fascinating (even the parts that she obviously fabricated). Plus, this movie takes the viewer on a worldwind trip through the the twentieth century - from the Belle Époque through Studio 54, Vreeeland witnessed it all.
Best quote (it was hard to choose, there are a ton, click here for more): "I think part of my success as an editor came from never worrying about a fact, a cause, an atmosphere. It was me — projecting to the public. That was my job. I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public. Give them what they never knew they wanted."
4. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry - I find Ai WeiWei's fame hard to characterize - is he an artist? or a dissident? or simply a trouble maker? Alison Klayman's documentary presents him, somewhat, as all three. However you view it, he's an interesting guy.
Weiwei's best quote: "Once you’ve tasted freedom, it stays in your heart and no one can take it. Then, you can be more powerful than a whole country."
5. Exit Through the Gift Shop - Sorry everyone, the trailer for this movie is pretty awful, but the movie itself is actually quite good. The "documentary" (if the film is even real, most believe the whole storyline is a contrived "mockumentary") profiles a quirky french shopkeeper, who goes from being a Banksy fan to Banksy's main documentarian and accomplice. Then the rather odd shopkeeper becomes a somewhat famous artist himself. Basically the whole film mocks art and people who value it, while at the same time being about the art world.
Bansky's best quote: "I always used to encourage everyone I met to make art, I used to think everyone should do it. I don't do that so much anymore."
Film highlight - watching street artists at work - whether real or fake, who doesn't enjoy witnessing the collision of art and vandalism?