When museums shut down for the public, and beloved gallery and museum hoppers couldn’t get their fix, art documentaries swooped in to soothe art lovers and remind them of a world that will one day be again. We made a selection of the best art documentaries that were released for streaming last year:
Pat Steir: Artist
Whether or not you’re into abstract art and painters, Pat Steir, who’s now in her 80’s, is one of the most imaginative painters out there. In this documentary, Veronica Gonzalez Peña creates a memorable cinematic portrait of the artist. With anecdotes about the art world, the feminist movement of the 1970’s, and sequences of the artist at work splashing paint across gigantic canvases, this documentary is well worth watching.
While most of the world was grinding to a halt, the prolific Ai Weiwei was at work producing three documentaries: Vivos, Coronation, and most recently, Cockroach. Though this film does not dive into specific factors that preceded the pro-democracy movement that swept Hong Kong in 2019, it presents instead mesmerizing images of the protests, at times even dodging tear gas canisters in order to get a certain shot. This film offers an important and pertinent perspective of what resistance looks like today.
Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art
The infamous Knoedler forgery scandal was a topic of much contention and many conversations a decade ago. Barry Avrich’s Made You Look retells the tale of how fake artworks attributed to some of the greatest artists of all time destroyed one of the country’s oldest and most respected galleries. This documentary is confrontational and presents individuals who were responsible in the scandal and forces them to tackle it head on, including Ann Freedman, whose side of the story was never heard until now.
Beyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint
Hilma af Klint’s work continues to fascinate the world and that’s no surprise. Since her show of previously unseen work was on view at the Guggenheim in 2019, her mysterious imagery and gigantic paintings became an object of wide interest. Halina Dyrschka’s documentary brings the artist’s work to life like never before. It is mostly focused on how af Klint used to be in the margins of art history and is now getting the reappraisal as a master—one that is very well deserved.