The Art of Making It is the kind of sincere documentary that often populates film festival slates, one that seems to possess the germ of a strong idea but has absolutely no clue what to do with it. Examining the insular and elitist nature of the art world through interviews with struggling young artists, bourgie collectors, museum curators, and art critics, the film casts a wide net and paints an often grim picture of the power structures that dictate art culture and gatekeep its institutions by commodifying art, but with little cogency.
When it focuses on these young artists, The Art of Making It really sings, examining the barriers set in place by tastemakers that often exclude marginalized voices and novel points of view in favor of what they think will sell. But when the film deviates from this angle, it often falters, dwelling in petty grievances between collectors and curators that may enhance the elitism of the art world, often distracting from the most interesting voices present. Put more broadly, the problem here is that the film never quite makes up its mind as to what exactly it is, lacking focus and a strong central thesis to generate any real thrust or throughline, a fact that blunts its impact and leaves the viewer with precious little to latch onto. It doesn’t help matters that one of its proposed solutions to democratizing the art world is through NFTs. There’s certainly something worthwhile to the idea — the role of universities and MFA programs in gatekeeping the hallowed halls of the art world is a fascinating aspect that probably isn’t examined as closely as it should, and therein lies the biggest shortcoming of The Art of Making It; every time director Kelcey Edwards begins to circle or articulate an interesting idea, the film pulls back and begins following another one down a seemingly endless series of rabbit holes. With a little more focus and a little more artistic vision of its own, there’s plenty on display that could have made The Art of Making It an easy recommendation, but as it stands in its current form, it’s just a bit too scattershot and unsure of itself to form any convincing argument.
Published as part of SXSW Film Festival 2022 — Dispatch 1.