Film Review: Opening

The award wining documentary Opening is now available on YouTube. I checked it out today and think it's a worthwhile watch for serious artists. 

I've worked in several different types of art organizations and every one of them had a unique set of pros and cons. That multi-faceted character of the art world is part of what brought me to start this blog. I was excited to see a film on the topic when looking for information on Robert Hughes.

The independent documentary Opening explores several paths of the art world in New York from the artists perspective. The film consists of interviews including those artists working in a collective, a street artist, an illustrator, an art professor with gallery representation, art students, and an art critic. 

Elements that resonated with me include:

  • As inequality becomes greater the wealthiest look for new places to park their money. Art becomes an attractive option because even more so than land or some market investments art is portable. It can be transferred, or bought and sold globally.
  • "Art is the witness of our time and even the excess of our time." This was mentioned in relation to a recent retrospective of Jeff Koon's work and they discuss the implications of a retrospective exhibit for a living artist.
  • Traditional media and skills will never die because there is something unique that happens when an artist lives with an image through a long production.
  • There are artists who want to create their art with a concept and made for everyone but they also want their art to be respected as work. It questions if commoditized art produced to fulfill a market or client demand is still art. Or does the artist become a craftsman producing a product instead of initiating conversation?

I think the documentary could have covered even more approaches to the art market. Only the illustrator and art students briefly mentioned using the internet to find their market then it wasn't discussed further. The art fair approach wasn't explored and they didn't directly interview artists with major museum or auction house experience. Other mediums could have been covered as well but since it was consistent in talking to painters that didn't really bother me. 

It did portray more of the cons than pros of the commercial art market but I think that's fair. Because ultimately this film shows that there are many ways you can use your art to make your voice heard...and that's a really great thing. You don't just need gallery representation or a museum exhibition to be seen.

I would love it if the producers created a contrasting documentary where they talk to art dealers, non-profit directors, grantmakers, art school administrators, museum curators, art collectors, researchers etc.... to share their thoughts on not only the art market but also why art?? I think the producer's thoughtful questions could uncover fascinating motivations and interests that other writers and producers have failed to capture. 

This film will be most enjoyed by serious artists. Especially those trying to find direction and audience for their work.