Everyone knows the popular trope of the starving, struggling artist. As unstable as the medium itself, a poetic journey of the unrecognised artistic genius who never gets their due. It makes for a powerful story, albeit a trite one nowadays. But this concept is rather dated in 2020; artists are no longer the pariahs of the economy, eking out the bare minimum for a living as they wrestle with dilemma of staying true to their craft or selling out.
That’s why we started Underlyn in the first place. We want to give exceptional artists around the globe a platform to show the world what they’ve made. Art movies and TV shows have slowly changed over the years to acknowledge this. They’ve made us view the art world through a whole new lens. There are different and exciting stories to tell, and rely on fewer tired cliches to make them work. But they’re still rare enough that finding a new one feels like a special discovery no one else has made.
Movies and TV shows about art are some of our favourite things to watch, especially now that we’re in quarantine. And because we’re such nice people, we’ve decided to let you in it, too! Here’s a list of the 10 best art movies and TV shows that you can binge online right now.
1. Little Fires Everywhere (Drama, 1 season)
This 8-episode miniseries debuted on Hulu in March 2020, and it very quickly caught our attention. The show stars Reese Witherspoon as Elena Richardson, a resident of a peaceful Cleveland suburb, whose family life gets turned upside down when an enigmatic artist, Mia Warren (played by Kerry Washington) joins their neighbourhood. Tensions rise between Elena and Mia not long after, and the show delves into a plot of twisted drama and intrigue. Little Fires Everywhere is instantly captivating, and the standout performances from Witherspoon and Washington make this show a short but exciting binge. You can stream it now on Hulu and Disney+ Hotstar.
2. Abstract (Documentary, 2 seasons)
It’s honestly amazing to watch artists in their element, doing their best work and getting the recognition they deserve. That’s what Netflix’s Abstract is all about. Across 2 seasons and 14 episodes, the show features one incredible artist every episode, exploring their creative process, their style of working, and the tools they use. From illustration, architecture and graphic design, to more niche areas like footwear design and stage design, the artists of Abstract run the whole gamut of the creative spectrum. Among art movies and TV shows, this one stands out as a celebration of the craft itself. You don’t normally think of documentaries as ‘binge-able’, but take our word for, this one definitely is. Find Abstract for streaming now on Netflix.
3. Big Eyes (Biopic, 1h 46min)
Tim Burton’s uplifting biopic follows the life of Margaret Keane, the renowned portrait artist, and her battle for recognition for her artworks. When she marries Walter Keane, she comes to the shocking realisation that he’s been claiming her artworks as his own, selling them under his name. After years of painting in anonymity and watching her work become some of the most popular and commercially successful paintings of the time, she finally decides to seek the justice of the law. In a climactic paint-off with her husband before the court, she proves herself the true creator of those paintings and finally becomes recognised for the brilliant artist she is. For Keane, it was never about the money; all she ever wanted was for the people who saw her art to know it was she who made them. Big Eyes is available for streaming on Netflix.
4. The 100 Years Show (Documentary, 40 mins)
Premiering in 2015, The 100 Years Show is a short documentary film that celebrating the 100th birthday of Carmen Herrera, one of the oldest artists who’s still working today. The film explores the career of the Cuban artist, starting from when she began pioneering abstract art in the 1940s and 50s. It even explores her background in architecture which informed her minimalist aesthetic. For most of her life, Herrera’s work went unrecognised because of the prejudices against Cuban women in 20th century America. It wasn’t until 2004 that her art was finally recognised by an art collector and brought her mainstream popularity and fame. The 100 Years Show can be streamed for free on their website.
5. Raiders of the Lost Art (Documentary, 2 seasons)
We know the title sound rather corny, but trust us when we say you’re going to love this show. As the name suggests, this is a show about how several famous artworks have been stolen, looted or simply vanished. The show uses re-enactments and commentary from experts to decipher exactly what went wrong and how it could have happened. Raiders of the Lost Art is available for streaming on Amazon.
6. Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (Documentary, 1h 42min)
This 2014 documentary film follows the story of Wolfgang Beltracchi, a German art forger who pulled off hundreds of forgeries over the span of 40 years. Responsible for perhaps the biggest art forgery scandal in the postwar era, the documentary explores the other, more sinister side to the world of art. You can find Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery on Netflix.
7. Saving Banksy (Documentary, 1h 20min)
The story of the world-famous street artist, the artworks he created around San Francisco, and what happened to them. When officials tried to erase Banksy’s works by forcing the property owners paint it over, Brain Greif, an art collector, decided to buy one of them and donate it to a museum. The documentary describes the chaotic drama that ensued. Negotiations with the property owner and offers flooding in from people trying to buy the artwork turned the situation into a media nightmare. It’s a fascinating deep dive into the world of illegal street art and the ravenous market for these contentious pieces. You can watch Saving Banksy on Amazon.
8. Guest of Cindy Sherman (Documentary, 1h 28min)
This 2008 documentary film offers and intimate look into an affair between Paul Hasegawa-Overacker, the host of a TV show about the New York City art scene started in 1993, and photography artist Cindy Sherman. It’s a delightful film, letting the audience get a glimpse of the public art world behind the scenes. The movie takes us through relationship of Cindy Sherman with Paul H-O from when it began, to the eventual falling-out. You can stream Guest of Cindy Sherman on Amazon.
9. Velvet Buzzsaw (Horror, 1h 53min)
This 2019 satirical horror film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays an art critic who becomes obsessed with the works of a dead artist. The story takes you through the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles, and the murderous consequences of putting money before the art. Written and Directed by Dan Gilroy of Nightcrawler fame, Velvet Buzzsaw is a haunting, gory horror film infused with supernatural elements. You can find it now on Netflix.
10. Iris (Documentary, 1h 23min)
We loved this documentary about Iris Apfel, the 98-year old interior designer and fashion icon from New York. It follows the life of this design maven in her prime, from her creative process to all her wild eccentricities. Just like her, the film is bold, unabashed, and eminently watchable. Iris is available for streaming on Netflix.
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