Sunday, January 13, 2013

Art Documentaries

Hey Folks,

I watch a lot of art documentaries and get asked sometimes for recommendations. I've compiled a list for your enjoyment of some art documentaries that I consider to be worth your time - many of which are available to watch online through the official sites.

This is not a definitive list of art documentaries - just some of my personal recommendations. What are some of YOUR favorite art documentaries that I didn't put on the list? Please let me know in the comments section.

Jono Doiron's art documentary recommendations:


The Boys from Termite Terrace - 1975

An in depth look at the men who would create the LOONEY TUNES during the 'golden age' of theatrical cartoons.

Frank & Ollie - 1995
A warm insightful documentary about a lifelong friendship that emerged from two of Disney's 'Golden Age' animators and their contribution to the medium.

Chuck Jones: Extremes and Inbetweens -2000

The film highlights the impact of animator and animation director, Chuck Jones - but is more of a historic retelling of the American animation industry and his impact upon it. Includes interviews with many other animation heavyweights. 

The Pixar Story - 2007

To many, Pixar is seen as an overnight success - a company that came out of nowhere - but the reality is it took many years of determination and hard work advancing the technology to achieve the thriving acclaim the company now enjoys today. Wonderfully inspiring.

The Art of the Steal - 2009

Explores an inside look at how the art collection of Albert C. Barnes - a priceless historical collection hidden from the world for numerous years - was cultivated in a new public space through furtive means.

A World of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art - 2009

An hour long documentary about the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City - "The Museum of Museums".

New Brow - 2009

New Brow is a film that explores the history and emergence of parallel art movements 'Low Brow' 'Pop Surrealism' and 'pulp illustration' into the realm of fine art. The film interviews artists and galleries as well as the genre driven magazines Juxtapoz and Hi Fructose.

Waking Sleeping Beauty - 2009

An insightful look behind the curtain of the Disney studio from the early 80's to mid 90's documenting the politics surrounding a grim period previously unknown to the public. It also encapsulates the North American animation industry as a whole during that time.


RiP: A Remix Manifesto - 2009
Includes a history of copyright's inception and usage in the past with global insight on how it's evolved in this modern digital age we now live in. Highly worth the watch.

  Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - 2014

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are one are of the most successful, loved and popular entertainment properties ever created. This is the story of how it all came together.

Sign Painters - 2014

A long overdue documentary about the admirable craft of sign painting. Covers it's historical significance in past advertising efforts and what the future may hold for it.


The Line King - The Al Hirschfeld Story - 1996

Documentry on one of the most celebrated caricaturists of all time, Al Hirschfeld. Whose deceivingly simple line drawings have had tremendous influence and appeal in the entertainment industry.

Crumb - 1997

The life and career of R. Crumb, the world's most notorious and famous underground cartoonist. Includes many interviews with his personal relations.

Metamorphose - 1999

Follows the life and talent of draftsman and designer M.C. Esher. Perhaps most widely known for his surreal architecture drawings. I guaranty you've seen his work. (Think room with the multiple staircases.) 

Goya: Crazy Like a Genius - 2002

Produced by the BBC and narrated by art critic Robert Hughes. It examines the life and incredible talent of Spanish painter Francisco Goya. 

Painting With Fire - 2003

A biographic feature on Frank Frazetta, arguably the most iconic and influential fantasy illustration artist of all time.

Dr. Seuss: Rhymes & Reasons - 2003

The life and career of Theodor Geisel - better known as 'Dr. Seuss' - the most most successful children's author of all time. He revolutionized the format of children's books and has left an indelible mark on every generation that followed after him.

POPaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English - 2005

As the title suggests, it follows the artistic capers of international artist, Ron English, and how he replaces billboard advertisements with his fabricated ones of humor and brutal honesty.  (The film focuses more on his illegal billboard liberation then his fine art career.)

Dirty Hands - 2008

Documents the artistic journey, reckless past and unlawful history of famed artist, David Choe.

The Treasures of Long Gone John - 2006

Follows the life and impact of  John Edward "Long Gone John" Mermis, music producer, founder of Sympathy Records, esteemed art collector and supporter of the Low Brow art movement. Also included are interviews with Todd Schorr, Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Camille Rose Garcia and Robert Williams.

 Beauty is Embarrassing - 2012

The life and career of multidisciplinary artist, Wayne White.

Mr. Bitchin' - 2012

The life, career and personal struggles of famed artist, Robert Williams, who founded JUXTAPOZ magazine and coined the term 'Low Brow' and lead the movement.

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster - 2013

Documentary about the life and career of legendary movie poster artist, Drew Struzan. It's not possible that you haven't seen his work.


Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked - 2003

If you've ever felt intimidated by the world of comic book superheroes - fear no more! After an hour and a half of this comprehensive documentary by The History Channel, you'll understand the history and learn how they've managed to resonate with people over the years.

Tales From the Crypt: from Comic Books to Television - 2004

 This documentary explores EC's (Entertaining Comics) history and evolution of their most well known series 'Tales From The Crypt' among other titles. They were the first company to venture into the realm of horror in comics and inadvertently jeopardized the comics industry as a whole.

Jack Kirby: Story Teller - 2005

Documentary on the late great Jack 'King' Kirby - the messiah of superhero comic book  artists. Covers his impact on an industry he formally nurtured and  his legendary influence.


Art & Copy - 2009
Brilliant film interviewing some of the most prolific minds behind the advertising industry. It also invests how impactful the affects of advertising can be on our culture in ways that were unintended.  

Waste Land - 2010

Artist, Vik Muniz, is on a mission to transform the lives of people in Jardim Gramacho,  turning the garbage they sort into high end art.


Style Wars - 1983

Possibly the most definitive documentary on Graffiti ever produced. Unlike other films that touch on the history in a retrospect, this one actually captured the progression as it was evolving before the camera and includes interviews with many individuals who would years later become industry staples.

Bomb It - 2007

Another informative documentary on the subject of Graffiti. What I enjoy about it the most, is this film documents graffiti on a global scale chronicling the art form in North America plus 4 other continents.

Roadsworth: Crossing the Line - 2008

Profiles Canadian street artist Peter Gibson, better known as 'Roadsworth' from the inception of his clever work to his legal battle of accounted public mischief.

Exit Through the Gift Shop - 2010

Ok, so just about everybody has seen this now - but if you still haven't - you need to watch it. A behind the scenes look at the world of street art and an artist in the making as narrated by Banksy (one of the most important and influential artists to emerge in the last 10+ years). Highly entertaining!


The Vinyl Frontier - 2010

Film about the rising popular world of collectible vinyl toys made comprehensible.

These are a selection of documentaries I have NOT YET seen personally, but look quite promising:

Visual Futurist: The Art & Life of Syd Mead - 2006

Syd Mead, everybody!

Next: A Primer on Urban Painting - 2008

Another documentary on Graffiti profiling nine countries including Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Spain and the United States.

Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight - 2010

A retrospective look on highly influential graphic design career of Milton Glaser. Most famous for creating the 'I [heart] NY' campaign and co founding New York Magazine.

EAMES: The Architect and The Painter - 2011

The impactful husband-and-wife industrial design team of Charles and Ray Eames.

Just Like Being There - 2012

Documentary on gig posters. It also explores the revitalization of the genre and where it is headed in the future.
Dear Mr. Watterson - 2013

An insightful look at the loyal following and impact surrounding the greatest comic strip ever created: Calvin & Hobbes. (Unfortunately, it does not include an interview with creator, Bill Watterson.)

Stripped - 2014

Details the history of the medium, the demise of newspapers, and the competition and allure of web comics. Comprising of numerous interviews from top comic strip artists who share thier views on where the future of the medium is headed. (BONUS: this documentary DOES included an interview with Bill Watterson - his first ever recorded!)

Art & Craft - 2015

The story of big time art forger and lonely philanthropist, Mark Landis, who donated inauthentic works to museums for nearly 3 decades. 


 Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (2015)

A portrait of a patron of the arts extraordinaire who transformed a modest fortune and impeccable taste into one of the premiere collections of twentieth century art.



Anonymous said...

Free Online documentaries every arts & culture lover may like to watch right now.

Jono Doiron said...