When it comes to the art world, graffiti has been historically neglected in terms of prestige and relegated to a guerrilla art form only appreciated by select groups of people. From universal messages and personal expression to political statements and enigmatic images, graffiti has evolved into a boundless format accessible to even the most amateurish of figures. Over the last few decades, street art has slowly but surely become ingrained in our understanding of art and social activism, and luckily, these efforts have been documented in film form.
Hulu‘s latest original documentary, Obey Giant, chronicles the rise of artist Shepard Fairey (perhaps best-known for his “HOPE” poster during the Obama campaign), and takes a deep dive into the underground world of street art. Before Fairey was even making art, however, there were different individuals from all over the world making their mark, documented in films like Style Wars, Bomb It, and more recently, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Whether you’re a street art fanatic or just getting your feet wet, we’re here with a few suggestions to help you take the plunge. Here are some of our favorite street art and graffiti documentaries on streaming.
From Academy Award-winning director James Moll comes this story of Shepard Fairey, a now-iconic street artist who began his career with punk and skateboarding roots and shot to fame after creating the Obama “HOPE” poster back in 2008. Obey Giant chronicles Fairey’s career from his humble beginnings to all of the insanity (and controversy) that ensued after “HOPE” put him on the map, and it’s a fascinating commentary on the state of the art world and society as a whole.
This classic 1983 documentary chronicles the simultaneously developing hip-hop subcultures of graffiti and breakdancing during the 1970s and early 1980s in New York City. Style Wars captures the significance of the art form and what it meant to those who were part of it while also offering a fair look at the flip side of the argument – that graffiti might just be vandalism.
'Exit Through the Gift Shop'
While the truth to this documentary has been heavily debated, it’s certainly an entertaining one nonetheless. Bizarre, bumbling Frenchman Thierry Guetta requests to film many street artists at work, including elusive street artist Banksy. When Banksy realizes that Guetta has no filmmaking prowess whatsoever, however, he turns the camera onto Guetta and makes his own film – mostly about Guetta’s eccentric incompetency.
Filmed on five continents, this international street art and graffiti documentary explores the intersections of graffiti movements worldwide and the debate about control over public space. Featuring places like London, Paris, New York City, Amsterdam, Cape Town, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, and Berlin, this eye-opening film exposes both early industry figures and newer artists to paint a full, layered picture of the inner workings of this world.
'Piece by Piece'
Separated into three chapters, Piece by Piece documents the graffiti movement of San Francisco spanning the early 1980s to 2004. The highly controversial movement makes for great subject matter, acting as both an educational piece for those who may not know much about it and also as an ode to the artists who have lived these experiences. The first-person narration from these artists drives home the authenticity, making you feel as though you’ve gotten an intimate glimpse of what these people have dedicated their lives to.
Told through the experiences of six relatively well-known contemporary graffiti artists, Infamy explores the many facets of graffiti culture and how the art form and movements differ in New York City and San Francisco, among other locations. An unflinching look at just how dangerous creating these kinds of pieces can be (and just how obsessive an artist can become), this documentary stands alone when it comes to getting up close and personal with some truly unique figures.
While many other graffiti documentaries may take a look at the bigger picture and culture as a whole, the short-but-compelling Graffiti Wars hones in on a specific rivalry between artists Banksy and King Robbo. There’s added layers to the entire competition here that makes it even more interesting; the two British artists were known for keeping their identities secret and having been at odds since a hostile first meeting at a party years ago. An interesting look at ego and art, Graffiti Wars illustrates just how high the stakes are for these creators.Add paragraph text here.
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