Featured in Documentaries: 8 Contemporary Artists to Collect
Providing an inside look into the creative process, documentaries are often a great way to identify new artists to collect.
Below, discover eight standout films that tell stories about contemporary art, from Mr. Brainwash’s rise to fame to Gerhard Richter’s painting techniques—and collect works by these top talents.
If you find something you love, you can click on the image and contact the gallery directly.
The 100 Years Show (2015) celebrates Herrera’s 100th birthday, filming her daily routine of using tape and paint rollers to create hard-edged abstractions. Overlooked by the market for decades, Herrera helped to pioneer this Minimalist style in the 1950s.
Featuring high contrasts and crisp shapes, and created just last year, these recent prints capture the Cuban artist’s meticulous aesthetic.
In Waste Land (2010), Muniz travels back to his native Brazil to photograph the world’s largest trash dump. Spanning nearly three years, the film documents how the artist worked with local garbage collectors to create a series of monumental, art history-inspired portraits.
Muniz continues to manipulate everyday items—from postcards to chocolate syrup—to restage classic paintings and landmarks, such as this landscape of the Great Wall of China.
Mr. Brainwash—arguably one of the most polarizing figures in contemporary art—began as a filmmaker himself, documenting the adventures of prominent street artists. His transition from cameraman to cult artist is captured in Exit Through the Giftshop (2010), though some speculate that the story might be a hoax invented by the film’s director, Banksy.
Mr. Brainwash continues to gain attention for his Pop Art mashups, mixing together images of Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mouse, soup cans, Star Wars, and more.
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016) doesn’t shy away from the artist’s provocative output, showcasing his interest in nudity, sexuality, fetishism, and more. In the film, Mapplethorpe’s family members, celebrity friends, ex-lovers, and muses all share their stories and piece together the man behind the camera.
If you’re looking to take home one of his works, these striking compositions are a great place to start.
Focusing on the creative process, Gerhard Richter Painting (2011) captures the artist as he squeegees paint across the canvas. The spellbinding film compiles over two years of footage in the studio when Richter is experimenting with different techniques, reflecting on his work, and executing large compositions.
Richter is known for his prolific and diverse output, with styles ranging from photorealistic paintings to flowing abstractions.
In 2010, The Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of Abramović’s career that traced her performances from the 1970s to the present. For the exhibition, Abramović sat in the gallery for three months and held eye contact with 1,000 visitors, investigating the complex relationship between audience and artist. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012) follows this enduring feat.
These self-portraits capture Abramović’s striking energy, both as she peers at the viewer in Hand as Energy Receivers and reflects g inward in The Current.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) portrays the artist’s commitment to activism, from dropping Han Dynasty urns early in his career to getting arrested by the Chinese Government during filming. For the movie poster, Ai sticks out his middle finger in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and the artist has created collectible versions of this gesture that you can exhibit at home.
On Artsy, you can also find wallpaper designed by the artist, such as this golden pattern of surveillance cameras, handcuffs, and Twitter logos.
The Oscar-winning Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 (2017) captures Alper talking candidly about her life, from her struggles with mental illness to her surrealistic drawing practice. Her sketches and sculptures often served as her therapy, providing a creative outlet through which she was able to express her inner thoughts, hopes, and anxieties.
You can also collect many of Alpers sketches on Artsy, including this playful drawing of a sculptor kissing his creation under a bright yellow lamp.