Aggie (2020)

Genres - Culture & Society, Visual Arts  |   Sub-Genres - Docudrama  |   Release Date - Oct 7, 2020 (USA)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Jules Fox

Aggie is a heartbreaking yet enlightening documentary about a woman who invests her life in the art scene and involves herself with living artists so she can help them create. Fed up with watching injustice from the sidelines, she decided to do something about it. Selling a precious painting from her own collection, she started her own non-profit fund with the proceeds to help start a fund that would sponsor criminal justice reform.

Agnes Gund is an art collector, philanthropist, and New York socialite who was the President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art for over a decade. Some of her contributions to the world include: funding living artists by purchasing their work, getting art back into public schools, and helping to chair the MOMA PS1 - which is a more experimental non-profit modern art museum. In 2017, she also sold a famous Roy Lichtenstein painting for $150 million dollars, using $100 million of that to fund a nonprofit organization called the Art for Justice fund, which aims to stop mass incarceration.

The film bounces around to different times in Agnes's life, following her good deeds and contributions to society. There's not exactly a narrative here, except for the passage of time itself. Agnes Gund is a vibrant, fascinating woman, who is filled with life and oozes sincerity.

Aggie is directed by Catherine Gund (Born to Fly, What's On Your Plate?) who combines her love of activism and social justice to tell the meaningful story of her own mother, who she quite obviously loves with equal strength. She includes some poignant material in the film, as well as paying homage to the woman that raised her. She may have been too close to her mom to dig deep into the actual character of Agnes Gund, and uses interviews with other notable people, rather than asking any hard questions or showing more than one side of her story.

However, as Aggie herself says, "I hope that not many people will see the film." As the titular character of the movie, she has no desire to be famous, and despite her enthusiasm for collecting art and doing good in the world, she neither desires to be recognized nor wants to be the star of the show.

This makes it all the more difficult to turn her into a movie. The main draw of Aggie, where Agnes does something truly selfless and noble, takes up only a small portion of the end of the film. It feels as though it's there to help market the story, as much as it is an honest representation of her generous act itself. It's also hard to discredit that Agnes enjoys the privilege of being a part of a society that allows her to make incredible amounts of money off the hard work of other artists, and then use that money to swoop in and save the day for people who are marginalized or impoverished.

Ultimately, Aggie is definitely worth a watch for any of her fans, though it makes an interesting enough spectacle for people who have never heard of her, as well. It could be that Catherine Gund needed to create this film to make sure that Agnes' story and legacy were not forgotten, which while she is interesting enough in her own right, may not even be what she wanted. It plays out as a mildly muddled movie.