Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Exit Through the Gift Shop</strong> (2010)

(In-flight, September 2010) The facts, as presented by Exit Through the Gift Shop, seem to be these: Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman living in Los Angeles starts following graffiti artists with a video-camera as the “street art” scene gets going, gathering the trust of such notables as Banksy and Shepard Fairey.  Challenged by Banksy to make art, our hero-videographer reinvents himself as “Mister Brainwash” (MBW) and designs his emergence on Los Angeles’ art scene through a staggeringly deliberate show in which most of the actual art is sub-contracted to a team of artists working to his specifications.  The impression left by the film is one of tables being turned; the videographer making a film about Banksy turning up as the subject of a Banksy documentary.  It’s a terrific story, but is it true?  There are enough niggling details to make a sceptic out of even the most forgiving viewer: This is, after all, “a Banksy film”, and the horror-show of a sufficiently driven non-artist manufacturing themselves as a major talent in today’s contemporary art scene has a very Banksyan quality of subverting bourgeois artistic assumptions.  The film asks us to believe in a uniquely driven amateur videographer assembling footage in bulk, but who is truly making the documentary?  The result, on screen, at least has an irresistible quality, both as a privileged look at the street art scene, as a cautionary tale about the insanity of commercializing art, or even (if rumours of a hoax–or at least engineered performance art–are confirmed) as an ambitious piece of faux-cinema.  Guerra alone is a character in maybe two senses of the term, and his antics alone are a reason why Exit Through the Gift Shop deserves a look.  It’s certainly eloquent: I pretty much hate graffiti, yet still ended up purchasing Banksy’s first art book after seeing the film.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *