From alleys to the gallery graffiti and street art could be described as guerilla warfare in comparison with gallery exhibitions and big business art auction houses. Most of these street artists work in the middle of the night, always with a looming threat of persecution and arrest. The appropriation of the cityscape as their canvas has transformed not only the urban landscape, but also the constant argument of artistic value. One of the most notable and now highly acclaimed street artists is Banksy, a British artist that has made his mark across the globe, from our fair city to the West Bank, but still lives in seclusion from the public eye. He has never been caught on film, until now.
Banksy’s new project, Exit Through The Gift Shop, is a documentary that reveals the production and timeline of street art over the last decade. The street art society was fairly unseen with many of their works being torn down or covered up immediately by the powers that be. However, with the advent of the Internet, many street artists’ work became popular and recognizable by millions. Images of these new artistic movements documented the work, but never captured the actual process of plastering city walls. It just so happens that a video hobbyist, Thierry Guetta, was in the middle of this new and exciting medium. He became the self-proclaimed documenter of street art.
Predominantly all the footage in the film is hand-held tape stock that has been collected from the eccentric, passionate, and what Banksy describes as possibly mentally unstable Frenchman. Guetta was an L.A. based vintage-clothing shop owner that became obsessed with the street art life, following his cousin, Space Invader, a street artist in his own right, around with a camera and in the process becoming acquaintances with some of the most prevailing artists in the forum. After years of filming and known desire to meet with Banksy, Guetta finally gets his chance, befriending the elusive street artist and gaining his trust as a confidant as well as possible outlet for a street art film.
It turns out though that Guetta is not the filmmaker he claimed to be, creating a role swap for both men. Banksy takes over the countless hours of documented footage and Guetta follows in the footsteps of his obsession, becoming an overnight success as the street artist Mr. Brainwash, plastering Los Angeles with his own wall prints. With a switch of professions and gallery opening for Mr. Brainwash approaching, the film becomes self-reflexive on what was actually being documented and how the public views art.
This irreverent look into the consumerism of the art world is hilarious and highly insightful on the creation of street art in general. It is very engaging and you’ll find your so laughing out loud at the spectacle of not only the individuals, but circumstances of street art culture. Exit Through The Gift Shop goes to show that you don’t need a massive budget to create an interesting film; just a good old story with some drama will suffice.
Mirror Film Criticmark@smmirror.com