Though art documentaries have been around for quite some time, the past 20 years have brought exceptionally unique approaches to the medium. These 15 documentaries exemplify those changes over time, covering a wide range of various art forms, including painting, fashion, style, and street art.
The 15 Best Art Documentaries to Stream Right Now
Obey Giant (2017)
Obey Giant tells the story of Shepard Fairey, street artist and creator of the Obey brand, from his career beginnings doing wheatpaste posters and stickers. Throughout the film, he faces a number of legal battles, from petty vandalism all the way to the image he used for Barack Obama's iconic "Hope" poster.
Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2017)
Focusing on the teenage years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Boom For Real weaves in archival footage with in-depth interviews to create a full picture of the artist. In just a few years, Basquiat was able to make his print on the world, and in the years since his death in 1988, his art has grown exponentially in its reach.
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016)
A thorough look into the life of the sometimes-controversial Robert Mapplethorpe, this film spans from his childhood to his death in 1989. Alongside interviews with friends such as Fran Lebowitz and Debbie Harry, the documentary pieces together the life of a very complex photographer and artist.
In this eclectic documentary that's more so about style than art specifically, Iris Apfel shows us around her world, one that's filled with color and eccentricity. The then-92-year-old Apfel is captured by Albert Maysles, who, alongside his brother, is responsible for a few of the most revered documentaries to date, including Gimme Shelter (1970) and Grey Gardens (1975).
The Universe of Keith Haring (2008)
With his art everywhere now, The Universe of Keith Haring focuses on archival footage of the artist and rare audio clips, with Haring discussing his evolution from making chalk drawings in the subway to being recognized worldwide.
An examination of the late fashion designer's work and life, McQueen goes deep into Alexander McQueen's early beginnings, from him simply making clothes for his mother to his training and eventual reign as one of fashion's most talented designers.
Bill Cunningham New York (2011)
This film shines a light on the well-respected photographer, Bill Cunningham, who used to ride around New York City on his bike and photograph people on the streets. Always with his camera, bike, and signature blue coat, Cunningham was revered by his peers, with Anna Wintour of Vogue noting that "We all get dressed for Bill."
Becoming Beeple (2021)
A ONE37pm original, Becoming Beeple tells the story of how Mike Winkelmann became the Beeple we know today and how he drastically changed the NFT industry in the process. The film highlights his $69 million sale of his “Everydays — The First 5000 Days” NFT at Christie's, the first NFT auction of its kind.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)
More so a curator of art and fashion, Diana Vreeland's classic-yet-unique taste for style is explored in this documentary about the famed former Vogue editor. Her influence on pop culture is greatly emphasized as the choices she made in both her life and at Vogue impacted a generation of people.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Created by the notoriously anonymous Banksy, Exit Through The Gift Shop revolves around street artists and the art world through the eyes of Thierry Guetta, who decides to film various street artists. Focusing mostly on Banksy, the film also highlights Shepard Fairey, Buff Monster, and Poster Boy.
Very Semi-Serious (2015)
Exploring the niche world of The New Yorker cartoons, Very Semi-Serious is both about the artists behind some of the most well-known New Yorker cartoons, as well as the process behind each one's publication.
This documentary is all about the font, Helvetica: how it was created, how often it's used in our lives, and how much we don't realize any of that. The film showcases an incredible backstory for such a seemingly minor part of our lives.
Brillo Box: (3¢ Off) (2016)
More so about the art industry itself, this documentary follows the journey of a specific Andy Warhol Brillo Box as it makes its way from the patron's home to sale. Including the history and initial reception of Warhol's Brillo boxes, the film shows just how much a piece of art can grow in value over time.
Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (2015)
Although she wasn't an artist herself, Peggy Guggenheim drastically affected the art industry in a number of ways. When tapes from the last interview of her life were found, they were pieced together to form this documentary about her life and influence.
The Mystery of Picasso (1956)
One of the most influential artists of all time, Pablo Picasso's work is explored up close in this French documentary shot in 1956. The film combines beautifully-shot footage of Picasso painting with time lapse-esque close-ups of his works in progress.