How to get an art education without going to art school

Can’t make it to Frieze London? These ten films will tell you (almost) everything you need to know without leaving the comfort of your keyboard

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Jeff Bark Iris Apfel
Iris Apfel in Dazed's November 2012 issuePhotography Jeff Bark, styling Robbie Spencer

An education in the UK currently slides between £3,000 and £9,000 per year, and with many students struggling to find work after the golden gates of uni close you'd be forgiven for thinking 'what's the point?' Enter: the Internet, a glorious wormhole of philosophical memes, endless hours wasted and, if you know where to look, an actual education. Ever wanted to strap on some boxing gloves, roll around in some paint and make a masterpiece? Sit in silence for hours while a complete stranger – and possibly your long lost love – stares back at you? Sneak out in the night and irrationally remove a piece of the wall from a bridge that a famous artist painted? At the click of a .com, log on to Netflix – where these films are all readily available – and let your imagination run wild with these stunning films, and educate yourself in all aspects of art ahead of Frieze London, which opens today.

CUTIE AND THE BOXER (2013)

Noriko, wife of painter-boxer-artist Ushio Shinohara, described their symbiotic relationship as "two flowers in one pot", saying that sometimes they don't get enough nutrients for both of them. This film beautifully captures their struggle living in New York as artists, as Ushio attempts to sell his paintings that he creates by literally punching the canvas. Noriko gave up her career to raise their son and assist her husband, and, now desperate to make a name for herself, she begins to work more on her own art, a character called ‘Cutie’. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, we see how art completely encompasses the lives of these two Japanese artists.

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK (2010)

Fascinated by fashion, Bill Cunningham claims he's not even interested in celebrities, he purely wants to photograph the clothes. Unassuming, he keeps to himself and sleeps in his studio amongst the filing cabinets. His photographs, however, have earned him high acclaim in the fashion world and this documentary by Richard Press reveals the life of a street photographer, as well as the charm and undenying wit he carries with him through the streets of New York City.

MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT (2012)

Exploring the physical limits of the body, Marina Abramovic's performance art pioneered a new idea of engaging audience members and allowing the observers to participate with her work. This film takes a look behind the scenes as this Serbian-born artist prepares for her exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, giving us a before, during, and after view of what could be the most important moment in her life. In The Artist Is Present, Abramovic sits at a table onstage and invites people from the audience to sit in front of her, an experience that is intended to create an emotional connection between the artist and the audience without any talking or means of communication.

HOW TO SELL A BANKSY (2012)

Have you ever tried to scrape a piece of graffiti off a wall? Well – and no, we haven’t tried – it's probably not that easy. And once you’ve done all that scraping, it's probably even harder to sell it. Filmmaker Christopher Thompson tries his hand at stealing a Banksy from an east London Bridge, then attempts to restore and sell it, all documented in How To Sell A Banksy.

IRIS (2014)

Iris Apfel's signature look of oversized glasses, bold prints, and elaborate costume jewellery is recognised by many in the fashion world as eccentric. Albert Maysles loosely captures the 93-year-old fashion legend's long career and lively character, who still employs a rigorous work ethic when shopping, choosing outfits, and advising models. All hail.

FLEX IS KINGS (2014)

Also known as "bone-breaking", flexing is a type of dance that evolved from the streets of Brooklyn, New York, and is characterised by contorting the body into unthought-of movements. This film documents the lives of a few flexors over a period of two years as they train for a dance competition called ‘BattleFest’. While being able to do unbelievable things with their bodies, these dancers are determined to evolve as artists and make a name for themselves.

ART AND COPY (2009)

Director Doug Pray states that this film "is about the innate human urge to express oneself creatively", and it reveals the work of some influential advertising creatives who have impacted our culture. Most of the time, we switch the channel or click the 'close' button whenever an ad pops up. However, this film celebrates the people behind the world's most memorable advertisements such as "Just Do It", "Got Milk?", and "I love NY", and proves just how powerful advertising can be, striking emotional chords in people all over the world.

THE HEART OF BRUNO WIZARD (2014)

Founder and lead singer of the punk groups The Rejects and The Homosexuals, Bruno Wizard became an underground legend, known for his "mystery man" status, in the 1970s. In typical punk attitude, he rejected the conventional music industry and record company contracts in favour of paving his own way through the industry. Elisabeth Rasmussen portrays his rollercoaster journey, from being homeless to finding fame as a London punk icon.

EXHIBITION (2013)

review by The Guardian interpreted Exhibition as "a superbly glacial and composed experiment in fictional cine-portraiture; a refrigerated study in domesticity and sophistication". The focus is on two married artists, who are barricaded in their luxury modern London house, surrounded by ever-increasing sexual tension and disturbing hallucinations. The film depicts how the couple wants to move out of this gorgeous house while raising the question why?

RUBBLE KINGS (2010)

Documenting gang violence in the 1970s in The Bronx, New York City, Shan Nicholson vividly captures how a band of young residents brought peace to the gang-ruled streets. A story that is widely unknown, it is an incredible one, of how, in such a tough time in history, a few courageous people helped to transform gang culture in New York by introducing hip-hop.

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