Art Is For Everyone!!

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, this year I made a list of things I’d like to do in 2012. They are mostly experiences, and, this will come as no surprise to most of you, they mostly involve the experiencing of the arts.

On Saturday I got to check my first item of the list: go to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Somehow I have lived in Chicago (okay, okay, the Chicago AREA) for eight years and haven’t made it to the MCA. When Lauren and I were looking for something to fill the time between brunch and the Dr. Dog show, I checked out the MCA site and found out they had just opened a new exhibition: This Will Have Been: Art, Love, and Politics in the 1980s. Yes please!

So after a long El ride from Bryn Mawr to the Loop, we finally made it to the MCA with two hours to take in the show, which proved to be exactly the right amount of time.

I absolutely loved it and cannot recommend it enough…to anyone, even, and actually, especially, to people who feel intimidated/overwhelmed/confused/bored by art. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Art Institute and can appreciate all the “isms” of art, but contemporary art just speaks to me. It’s made by people who are trying to make sense of the same world as me. All art is contextual, so contemporary art will always be “mine” in a way that no other movement can be.

I had spent the last two hours in relative silence, looking and processing and questioning and synthesizing, but when I stepped back out onto the street I could not have felt more exhilarated. I may not have the sophisticated vocabulary required to discuss the influence of postmodernism on cubist painters, but I want to tell you today that just isn’t necessary for the appreciation of art!

So maybe you’re not able to go to the MCA to see this exhibit tomorrow, or maybe you don’t even live in Chicago (or the Chicago area). I know, sad day. But all is not lost! Here are a few of my favorite art documentaries that are all united by one idea: that art is for everyone!

My Favorite Art Documentaries
*All available on Netflix until supplies last!

Herb & Dorothy (2008)
“You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to collect art.”
Herb and Dorothy Vogel are an average couple. She was a schoolteacher. He was a postal clerk. And together they amassed perhaps the single most influential collections of modern art in the world. They changed the art world. And they just might change your life. (Or at least the way you view the art world!)

Bill Cunningham: New York (2010)
“We all get dressed for Bill.”
Long before there was The Sartorialist, there was Bill Cunningham. Every day for over 50 years, Bill has hopped on his bike and pedaled the streets of New York to photograph the most stylish people he sees on the street. Every week his work appears in “On the Street,” a page devoted to his work in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times. His devotion to his art is truly incredible–I could go on for pages but don’t want to spoil any of the fun surprises that await you in this joyous film.

Exit through the Gift Shop (2010)
A Banksy film.
You may have noticed this is a film by Banksy, the infamous street artist whose style has been imitated to the point of near ubiquity. This means that it’s an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, cooked in a paradox. But that’s also what makes it so great! I don’t want to give away too much, because it’s best to just experience it, but this film is his attempt to question and deconstruct the art establishment.

Helvetica (2007)
What is more universal than a font? Every single word we read has not just a meaning, but a physical form that shapes our experience of the ideas it contains. This surprisingly entertaining documentary explores the ways that fonts come about, and the way they shape the way we experience the world.

The September Issue (2009)
Fashion is a religion. This is the Bible.
I am what you might call “into” fashion, and I was counting down the days for the theatrical release of this one. While it’s pretty cool to get an in-depth look at how the most influential fashion magazine in the world puts together the biggest issue in its history (this was filmed in the last season before the world of print publications everywhere imploded) and kind of fun to gape at the astronomical sums of money this requires, it surprised me that this film ended up being about the dynamics of powerful women working together.

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