Review ‘The Art of Making It’: looking for a bigger canvas

It’s no wonder that the art world, especially in recent years, has inspired some scathing dark comedies — think “Velvet Buzzsaw” or the Palme d’Or winner “The Square,” films that mock the elitism of industry and its entanglement with capitalism .

‘The Art of Making It’, a documentary by Kelcey Edwards, does not deviate entirely from those pessimistic fictional portraits. However, it offers a more pragmatic, sometimes hopeful, perspective on the visual arts ecosystem and the collectors, gallerists, curators, critics and artists who abide by its rules — or, for better or for worse, try to make their own. .

“Making It” has some top-notch talking heads — there’s famed New York Magazine reviewer Jerry Saltz; the infamous art dealer Stefan Simchowitz; the critic and media influencer known for her art world memes, Hilde Lynn Helphenstein (aka Jerry Gogosian). As Edwards hops to and from these insiders, she follows the careers of several artists, such as Jenna Gribbon, a figurative painter whose social media knowledge helped launch her career; and Chris Watts, a multimedia artist who was expelled from his MFA program at Yale for failing to meet that institution’s merchantability standards. (Unfortunately, only Gribbon’s work is examined in detail.)

For those unfamiliar with the industry, “Making It” is a good explanation of the fraught dynamic: the MFA-to-gallery representation pipeline; the desire for more commercial works of art; the mercenary practices of certain buyers and collectors.

But Edwards’s generic approach—heavy on talking heads and explanatory title cards—often produces fuzzy results, with a haphazard flow of information overpowering the rare moments when the documentary arrives at a more defined and compelling stance. And as much as Edwards tries to cover multiple bases, she also looks at the art world through the narrowest peephole – more like the art world establishment, with a handful of black sheep.

The art of making
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theatres.

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