Netflix Recommends: Art & Design Documentaries

I’ve been watching a lot of Instant Netflix lately, ever since I canceled my cable and bought a Roku (another more in-depth post on that experience at some point).

Netflix never ceases to amaze me. They’ve been learning my tastes from the films I watch, rate, and add to queue. At this point I think they know me better than I know myself.

A few weeks ago, a category called Art & Design Documentaries appeared as a row od suggested films on my Netflix home screen. Some of these I’ve seen before and I LOVE, but others I had been meaning to see, and some others I had never even heard of!

A few people asked me to share what titles were being recommended to me, so here you go…

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Banksy, 2010
Amateur filmmaker Thierry Guetta’s project to chronicle the underground world of street art takes a fascinating twist when he meets Banksy, an elusive British stencil artist.

Between the Folds
Vanessa Gould, 2008
A provocative odyssey into the mesmerizing world of modern origami, where artists and scientists use the ancient art form to craft works of delicate beauty and to model cutting-edge mathematical theories.

The September Issue
R.J. Cutler, 2008
A rare look inside Vogue as the fashion magazine’s influential editor, Anna Wintour, and creative director, Grace Coddington, produce the highly anticipated September issue.

Bomb It
Jon Reiss, 2007
Graffiti isn’t simple vandalism; it’s an artistic expression employed around the world. Filmmaker Jon Reiss travels five continents to reveal graffiti’s history, cultural impact and social relevance.

The Art of the Steal
Don Argott, 2009
A gripping tale of intrigue and mystery in the art world, this film traces the history of the Barnes collection of Post-Impressionist paintings, which was worth billions and became the subject of a power struggle after the 1951 death of the owner.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
Tamra Davis, 2009
Controversial, charismatic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is the subject of this insightful documentary, including a never-before-seen interview with the artist conducted before his untimely death at the age of 27.

Beautiful Losers
Aaron Rose, Joshua Leonard, 2008
A group of underground artists who began influencing areas from fashion and film to music and pop culture in the early 1990s. With outsider art elements such as graffiti, skateboarding, street music, these mavericks redefined creativity.

Gary Hustwit, 2007
We use it every day on our computers, we see it on street signs — and we take it for granted. Now, Gary Hustwit’s unique documentary introduces us to Helvetica, a font whose readability has made it the most popular in the world.

Gary Hustwit, 2009
Discover how manufactured objects that surround us such as cars, phones and chairs influence our daily lives, featuring top industrial designers discussing their creative processes and professional objectives.

Herb & Dorothy
Megumi Sasaki, 2008
Chronicling the story of unlikely art collectors Herb Vogel and Dorothy Vogel, filmmaker Megumi Sasaki demonstrates that it’s not necessary to be wealthy in order to build a significant collection.

Rivers and Tides
Thomas Riedelsheimer, 2003
This astonishing documentary from Thomas Riedelsheimer shadows renowned sculptor Andy Goldsworthy as he creates works of art with ice, driftwood, leaves, stone, dirt and snow in open fields, beaches, rivers, creeks and forests.

The Modernism of Julius Shulman
Eric Bricker, 2008
Filmmaker Eric Bricker directs this fascinating documentary about the life and times of architectural photographer Julius Shulman, whose work is known for helping to launch the careers of giants like Rudolf Schindler & Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Universe of Keith Haring
Christina Clausen, 2008
Clausen chronicles Haring’s life from his early years through the 1980s as he rocketed to fame with solo exhibitions, collaborations and public works, leaving behind a prolific legacy.

Milton Glaser: Inform & Delight
Wendy Keys, 2009
His name might not be very familiar, but the works of graphic artist Milton Glaser — whose prolific output includes the “I Love NY” ad campaign, as well as album covers for Townes Van Zandt and Nina Simone — are recognizable to many.

The Cool School
Morgan Neville, 2007
In the late 1950s, when Pollock and de Kooning were being hailed as revolutionary artists in New York, Los Angeles was still dealing with a blacklist that gutted creativity in all media. This is the story of the two men who changed all that.

My Architect: A Son’s Journey
Nathaniel Kahn, 2003
Documentarian Nathaniel Kahn examines the life and career of his father, architect Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974), whose work included the Salk Institute and the Parliament and Capitol Buildings in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Black White + Gray
James Crump, 2007
During the heady years of the 1970s and ’80s, the New York City art scene was abuzz with a new spirit, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and curator-collector Sam Wagstaff were at the center of it.

National Geographic: The Photographers
National Geographic, 1998
Often letting the works speak for themselves, this compelling documentary looks into the lives of veteran National Geographic photographers and the grueling work that goes into their award-winning images.

I’ll post more as Netflix serves them up.

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  1. Megan Grocki says

    Thank you so much for sharing these recommendations! Isn’t it wonderful when someone discovers what you love (and rediscovers if your tastes trend differently over time!)

  2. says

    I’ve loved the documentary selection on instant. I’m not someone who would have rented the discs for something like “Gift Shop” or Helvetica (which I’ve yet to finish) but they’ve been great watches for lunch breaks when I’m looking for something informational that’s not podcasts.

  3. Chad Mefferd says

    When it comes up, put Art & Copy at the top of your cue. Loved it!

    Milton Glaser: Inform & Delight is also fantastic.

    Netflix Instant is awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Martha Orloci says

    Let me tell you that Netflix in Canada doesn’t hold a Candle to the US version. We have a fraction of the movies, and the recommendations they make are lame. I am jealous.

    • says

      These categories are dynamically created based on usage. I’ve never been able to find a static category that contains all selections for all people within a certain topic. If you find one, please share!

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