The Greek Film Archive and Exile Room present a week of documentary and beyond, dedicated to the obsessive universe of artistic creation, from September 10–16th. A selection of films (recent productions, as well as vintage gems that deign a second coming), that will stimulate both the eyes and minds of sworn art lovers and eager movie buffs.

In the tribute, titled Art + Docs: In the mind of the artist, renowned documentary filmmakers like Peter Watkins, Agnès Varda and Nathaniel Kahn, meet notable newcomers of the genre, in a kaleidoscope of films on the eternal hunt for artistic inspiration, the elusive nature of talent and the limits of artistic expression.

An extraordinary look into the urban street art scene and stock-exchange of art, unconventional portraits of ingenious artists, like Edvard Munch and David Hockney, pioneering female trailblazers demanding the retelling of Art History, titillating imagery and shameless press manipulations courtesy of Robert Mapplethorpe and Maurizio Cattelan, are just a few of the things you can expect to see in this showcase, that can only be described as a rollercoaster ride through the impenetrable world of art.

This is the second time, that the Greek Film Archive and Exile Room, co-organize a tribute of this sort, after the first successful “Art + Docs” collaboration, held in 2015.
All screenings of the tribute will take place at the Lais open-air cinema of the Greek Film Archive, with Greek subtitles.

The films

munchEdvard Munch (1974) by Peter Watkins (Fiction)

It’s the 19th century and Edvard Munch is living out his formative years in Kristiania (now Oslo). The experiences he gleaned from political and social upheavals, as well as his own turbulent family life and an affair of the heart that would haunt him forever, had a seminal effect on his art. When his work is viciously attacked by critics and public alike, he is forced to leave his home country for Berlin, where he becomes part of the cultural storm poised to sweep Europe. Famously described by the late Ingmar Bergman as “a work of genius”, Peter Watkins’ multi-faceted masterwork is more than just a biopic of the iconic Norwegian Expressionist painter. It is one of the best films ever made about the artistic process.

klimtBeyond the Visible – Hilma af Klint (2019) by Halina Dyrschka (Documentary)

Swedish Hilma af Klint was a trailblazing abstract artist before the term was even invented, unprecedented by any other painter. Drawing inspiration on spiritualism, modern science and the riches of the natural world around her, she began in 1906 to reel out a series of huge, colorful, sensual, strange works without precedent in painting. So why does the name of the artist, who discovered abstract painting at the beginning of the 20th century, remain absent from the History of Art? Director Halina Dyrschka’s dazzling, course correcting documentary describes not only the life and craft of Hilma af Klint, but also the process of her mischaracterisation and erasure by both a patriarchal narrative of artistic progress and capitalistic determination of artistic value.

mapplethorpe look at the pictures fenton bailey randy barbato bw 1Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016) by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato (Documentary)

Welcome to the x-rated world of Robert Mapplethorpe, the man who single-handedly changed the way people viewed polaroid photography. Totally obsessed with success and celebrity, he rose through the ranks of Manhattan’s art scene in the Studio 54 era, quickly gaining notoriety through his photographs of the gay BDSM scene and nude black men. “To be in Robert’s world you had to be rich, famous or have sex with him,” says a one-time partner and model. Using an upcoming Getty and LACMA joint exhibition of his work as a springboard, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato dive into the Robert Mapplethorpe archives and talk to his friends and family, marvelously accomplishing their mission of humanising one of the most notorious, yet complex figures in 20th-century photography.

Murals Murals (Mur Murs, 1981) by Agnès Varda (Documentary)

After returning to Los Angeles from France in 1979, Agnès Varda created this kaleidoscopic documentary about the striking murals that decorate the city. Traversing the City of Angels, Varda looks at the murals of Los Angeles – as much monumental as they are ephemeral– as a backdrop to and mirror of the city’s many cultures. She casts a curious eye on graffiti and experiments in photorealism, roller disco and gang violence, evangelical Christians, Hare Krishnas, artists, angels, and ordinary Angelenos… Bursting with color and vitality, “Mural Murals” is an invigorating study of community and cultural diversity, as well as an essential catalog of unusual public art that would have never been preserved if it wasn’t for Varda’s precious testimony on film.

leaning into the wind thomas riedelsheimer 1Leaning In to the Wind – Andy Goldsworthy (2017) by Thomas Riedelsheimer (Documentary)

According to Andy Goldsworthy, there are two ways of approaching the world: You can walk on the path or you can walk through the hedge. And that’s exactly what he does in this magnificent cinematic encounter between the permanent and the itinerant. While Goldsworthy “draws” on staircases with golden leaves and leaves dry patches on the side of the road by lying down on the pavement in the pouring rain, the director simply refuses to let all the beauty go to waste. But, at the end of the day, isn’t that a conscious choice when you’re working with nature? And who is this idiosyncratic work supposed to be for? Presumably, for filmgoers and God, since they are the only ones who can enjoy such a spectacular perspective on the British artist’s largely ephemeral body of work.

the price of everything nathaniel kahn 1The Price of Everything (2018) by Nathaniel Kahn (Documentary)

Today, art is a spectacle, big bucks, and front-page news. Paintings by Basquiat and Gerhard Richter sell for millions of dollars; a giant inflatable ballerina by Jeff Koons dwarfs visitors at Rockefeller Center; a solid gold toilet by Maurizio Cattelan is installed in the Guggenheim Museum for all to see and use. As a society, we have become less concerned with the aesthetic and social values of art, and more concerned with brand names and the business of it all. Can the value of art really be measured in dollars and euros? How are these values assigned and who assigns them? “The Price of Everything” asks some hard questions as it systematically demystifies the rarefied world of contemporary art and has a ton of fun in the process!

A Bigger Splash (1974) by Jack Hazan (Documentary)

Beautiful like a rainbow and as real as a synthetic diamond, “A Bigger Splash” predicts the onslaught of reality TV that flooded our screens in the early ’90s and never really went away. Half-dramatised sequences from David Hockney’s glittery life at the height of his power infiltrate the Swinging London scene without a care in the world. Immaculate Californian boys, fashions shows, turquoise swimming pools and –at the bleeding heart of it all– a breakup that left such an indelible mark on Hockney’s life that he offered director Jack Hazan £20,000 to destroy the devastatingly beautiful 35mm prints of the film. Lucky for us, he didn’t give in to the temptation, bequeathing world cinema with a refreshing documentary that still feels like a tall drink of water on a blistering summer day.

maurizio cattelan be right back maura axelrod 1Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back (2016) by Maura Axelrod (Documentary)

Genius or joker? Maurizio Cattelan shook up the contemporary art world beginning in the late 1980s with a series of action-based installations. Over his 20-year career, Maurizio continued to provoke and inspire, culminating in an all-encompassing installation and his self-imposed retirement in 2011. His stunning final exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City featured all of his works to date suspended from the ceiling. Filmmaker Maura Axelrod fascinatingly excavates Maurizio Cattelan’s disruptive and indelible career as the pre-eminent art-world prankster of our time, interviewing curators, collectors, art-world luminaries, and ex-girlfriends on what makes this most compelling of conceptual visionaries tick. Lest we forget, we’re talking about the man who, among others, struck the Pope with a meteorite, drowned Pinocchio in a swimming pool and misled art critics and audience alike, enchanting and enraging them all at once.

The Proposal (2018) by Jill Magid (Documentary)

Known as “the artist among architects,” Luis Barragán is among the world’s most celebrated architects of the 20th century. Upon his death in 1988, much of his work was locked away in a Swiss bunker, hidden from the world’s view. According to rumor, this rich and invaluable archive was purchased as a wedding present to a wealthy businessman’s wife, who is now the sole administrator of the archive, guarding it mercilessly against anyone who tries to make use of it. In an attempt to resurrect Barragán’s life and art, boundary redefining artist Jill Magid creates a daring proposition that becomes a fascinating artwork in itself – a high-wire act of negotiation that explores how far an artist will go to democratize access to art. Reminiscent of a cosmopolitan thriller, “The Proposal” is a masterfully directed endeavour that keeps its cards close to its chest until the very end.

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