January 12th, 2014

Written by Kirsten Gill, Fine Art Consultant

With the Sundance Film Festival fast approaching, film is on our minds. There has always been an interesting dialogue between the cinema and the fine arts, with the boundary between the two categories often blurred and traversed. In recent years, director Steve McQueen embodies this ambiguity perhaps best of all. You may know him for his most recent feature film, 12 Years a Slave, but the artist is also a recipient of the Turner Prize for the best new British artist and produces short films and video installations that circulate in the art world to much acclaim. McQueen’s major mid-career survey at the Schaulager Museum in Basel this year was widely lauded as one of the best exhibitions of 2013 by artists and critics alike. McQueen’s successful engagement of both feature films and “art” films questions the distinction between popular entertainment and fine art. Not all of us had the opportunity to travel to Basel to view McQueen’s short films, but 12 Years a Slave, playing in most major theaters, is easily accessible and a must-see.

Western Deep (2002) at Schaulager

In 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor, above, plays a free black, kidnapped and sold into slavery on the United Sates’ brutal southern plantations.

It looks as though the overlap between film and the fine arts will be a theme at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as well. Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu, whose mid-career survey is currently showing at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, premiers a short film called The End of Eating Everything. The film animates Mutu’s rich and mythical collages.

Film Still from Wangechi Mutu’s The End of Eating Everything

Matthu Placek’s film, A Portrait of Marina Abramovic, features one of the world’s most renowned contemporary performance artists. Placek is a visual artist himself, and this film actually debuted at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Film Still from Mattu Placek’s A Portrait of Marina Abramovic

And, finally, Thomas Allen Harris’s Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People explores the work of well-known artists Glenn Ligon, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lorna Simpson, among others, as it documents how black artists have use photography as a tool for social change.

With so many wonderful examples of the confluence between film and the fine arts, it is a great time to go to the movies. We hope that you’ll be able to join us for Sundance!