• ‘The Painter and the Thief’ (Madman Entertainment)Source: Madman Entertainment
From chasing the mystery of a stolen Picasso from Melbourne to uniquely beautiful films about classic art and artists, here are our picks for art lovers.
Anthony Morris

14 Dec 2021 - 9:45 AM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2021 - 9:45 AM

There’s something about the art world that brings out the best – and worst – in people. The best is usually found in the masterpieces hanging on gallery walls. The worst comes out in the backroom deals and brazen crimes that so often come along with them.


In Framed, Marc Fennell looks at the notorious theft of Picasso’s ‘The Weeping Woman’ from Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria in 1986. Across the four-part series he talks to those who were there, following the trail of a crime sprinkled with ransom notes, forgeries, and a culture clash between old and new that was driving that city’s arts scene – and may have driven some members to crime.

It’s a gripping true crime story, with a string of twists nobody then (or now) saw coming. But that’s just the surface of the sometimes seedy, often stunning world of high art. If you want to dig deeper into their feuds, frauds and masterpieces, SBS On Demand has you covered.

‘Framed’ sees Marc Fennell investigate one of the most brazen art thefts in history
Find out what happened when a Picasso disappeared from The National Gallery of Victoria, in this four-part documentary coming to SBS On Demand.

Four-part series Framed premieres on Sunday 26 December at SBS On Demand. Episodes will also be available with subtitles in Arabic and Simplified Chinese. Watch the trailer now:


Criminal Planet: The Art World’s Biggest Feud

The art world might be notorious for shady deals and dubious schemes, with kickbacks, inflated prices and mysterious origins all par for the course, but the subject of this episode of Criminal Planet takes it to a whole new level. Yves Bouvier was a trusted art transporter and curator who was also one of the people behind the tax-dodging concept of “freeports” (which played a central role in the movie Tenet). Then suddenly a number of prominent art world figures, including Pablo Picasso’s daughter, came forward with charges of theft, fraud, overcharging and money laundering against him.

For decades Bouvier helped Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev amass a massive art collection; now Rybolovlev says Bouvier was using his role as a middleman to rip him off to the tune of millions. Is Bouvier a crook, or are inflated margins simply the price you pay in the world of high end art?


China’s Van Goghs

In the village of Dafen in the city of Shenzhen, creating replicas of classic artworks is an industry employing hundreds of painters working around the clock. Xiaoyong Zhao and his family have painted around 100,000 Van Goghs over the years, but Zhao has a dream: to travel to Amsterdam and see in person the works of the master he feels such a close connection to. But will this journey simply lead to a deeper understanding of the work he copies, or inspire in him a desire to break out and create his own art?

In this documentary one man’s journey becomes a symbol for an entire nation looking to forge its own cultural identity through the time-worn artistic process of developing skills by imitation, then using those skills to say something new.

Streaming now at SBS On Demand:


Loving Vincent

When a young man (Douglas Booth) is asked by his postmaster father (Chris O’Dowd) to deliver the final letter Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, he finds himself caught up in the mystery of the artist’s final weeks. Talking to those who knew him as he travels to Auvers-sur-Oise taking in the landscapes Van Gogh painted so vividly, he tries to uncover the truth behind the gunshot that ended his life.

Just as important as this film’s story is the way it was made. The world’s first fully oil painted feature film, every one of the 65,000 frames was hand-painted by one of 125 professional painters from around the world who gathered at the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of this production, which took a decade to complete. The results are astonishing, and a fitting tribute to the genius of Van Gogh’s vision.

Streaming now at SBS On Demand:


The Painter and the Thief

Czech painter Barbora Kysilkova was more puzzled than sad when she heard two of her paintings had been stolen from an Oslo gallery in 2015; she wasn’t a particularly famous artist, and carefully removing the paintings from their frames to make off with them must have taken over an hour. The thieves were soon caught (without the paintings) and Kysilkova attended the trial of one of them, the heavily tattooed repeat offender Karl-Bertil Nordland. After the trial, she did something surprising: she asked him to pose for her.

This English language documentary follows the deeply unusual relationship that develops between them over the following years. He struggles with his past and his addictions; she’s clearly drawn to the dark side he represents. Their lives come together and move apart more than once. What unites them across it all are the power and beauty of art, the expression of the basic human desire to see and be seen.

Streaming now at SBS On Demand:


Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring was painted around 1665 by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Not a lot is known about Vermeer; even less is known about his subject. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this film is that it resists the temptation to over-explain. It manages to capture the painting’s thoughtful, low key air of mystery, giving it a (fictional) backstory that’s worthy of a masterpiece.

Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a maid working in the busy house where Vermeer (Colin Firth) paints and numerous children roam free. Each has their own life to live; Vermeer has a wife, Griet a suitor, money needs to be made, they’re on different levels socially, and so on. But the connection that his art, and her instinctive understanding of it, creates between them transcends those things. The mystery being solved here isn’t about who was in the painting or why it was created, but how art can bring people together.

Streaming now at SBS On Demand:


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