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Banksy

Exit Through the Gift Shop

by Phumlani Pikoli / 23.12.2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop is high art graffiti artist Banksy’s first foray into feature film making. It’s entertaining but doesn’t really give away any trade secrets into the secretive and subversive cultures of graffiti and street art. It does serve the purpose of film though, in that it is enjoyable and engaging to watch. Between graffiti’s most famous artist Banksy and the man painted as the village idiot who sold out street art, Thierry Guetta; it’s hard not to laugh continuously. The film details how Thierry Guetta came to infiltrate the art movement that had been so secretive for so long. And shows how quickly what sounds like a good idea of documenting an artistic process can quickly turn ugly when placed in the wrong hands.

It’s a Banksy film thus he kind of makes it into a cool guy extravaganza, which is not unexpected, if I made a film I featured myself in, I’d also create myself a persona cooler than Brad Pitt and Clint Eastwood combined. His witty banter, mysterious shadow and distorted voice reiterate the enigma that is the guise of Banksy.
“What is the film about?” an interviewer asks at the beginning.
“Well the film is about the story of what happened when this guy tried to make a documentary about me,” Banksy replies. “But he was actually a lot more interesting than I am, so I know the film kinda is about him. I mean it’s not Gone With The Wind but there’s probably a moral in there somewhere.”

Banksy

Thierry Guetta starts out as a rip off vintage clothing owner, making money off fashion conscious idiots that would pay anything considered vintage or designer. He bought clothing that was not available on the usual commercial market and resold it at ridiculously inflated prices.
“I take clothes that when the sewing was different I call it designer. So from 50 dollars sometimes I could make 5000 dollars.” Thierry nonchalantly professes to the camera.
And like the clothing he does the same to street art when he eventually decides to become the street Artist MBW(MR Brainwash). Copying the styles of Banksy and Shepard Fairey (known for his Obey stencils, stickers and posters). To do this Thierry infiltrated the community with his video camera after an introduction to street art by his cousin, Invader, a French street artist.

The film doesn’t give any insight into the street art community nor graffiti culture. No real interviews, aside from commentary from Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Thierry or MR Brainwash. Essentially it’s about seeing cool people doing cool shit. Like Banksy painting the West Bank or tying a doll that resembled a Guantanamo Bay prisoner to a gate in Disney land. And seeing other street artists putting up their works. It makes for a level of superficial insight into the world of street art, it’s an allowance to name drop, for people to sound like they know what they’re talking about. But should you be looking for enlightenment about the culture and trying to learn more about the artists, this is not the movie.

Essentially it is the portrayal of how easy it is for art to sell out. Which creates paradox for artistic authenticity, originality and “real art” when compared to those that have become generic for commercial benefit. It begs the question, “when should art shows stop selling out?”
The movie even goes further and puts art into existential crisis, by questioning the meaning of MR Brainwashes commercial success, with Banksy issuing that it could maybe mean that art is a joke.

All in all I was thoroughly entertained and would recommend it to anyone. You don’t have to be in the know to get it. It also, perhaps most interestingly gives big ups to local film maker Rowan Pybus of Makhulu Productions for additional footage he lent from Restless Debt of The Third World in which he collaborated with Cape Town based street artist Faith47. So if anything watch it to share in some international love for our own. Ironically and predictably the movie’s last line I believe will be the cause of it’s success.
“Banksy will never again help anyone make a documentary about street art.” Perfect.

15   5
RESPONSES (21)
  1. Sihle says:

    Banksy seemed jelous at da end lol

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  2. Brian Green says:

    The character of Thierry Guetta is a carefully created work of fiction by none other than Bansky himself.

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  3. Phumlani says:

    I heard those roomers, but decided to leave out the hearsay. but it does seem plausible, the movie does seem very convenient.

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  4. Phumlani says:

    *rumors

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  5. Brian Green says:

    It’s a good watch, whatever the case may be

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Um, it’s “rumours”, actually.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Brian Green is correct, Thierry is a fictional character.

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  8. forest whitaker's lazy eye says:

    Hey Phumlani, I got an even better question for you. “when should art shows start selling out?”

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  9. Andy says:

    if Guetta is a Banksy fabrication – it’s deeply integrated and well thought out. Kind of what we expect from writers on Mahala who use pseudonyms.

    I mean the guy even desgined a Madonna album cover etc.

    More on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Brainwash

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  10. Anonymous says:

    fuck.
    I really wanted to see this.
    How do I get a hold of it?
    Is it still showing?

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  11. Phumlani says:

    thank you anonymous.

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  12. manam says:

    torrenting…

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  13. mega-douche says:

    why would anyone want to know ‘more’ about an artist? Just check out the art, and leave with an impression of it and ignore all the rest. Cunts who want to know who Banksy is, and what underwear he prefers are missing the point. Insight into the artists half the problem in the world today. Give me a time when it was just the art, and nothing else….ahh, and even better, a time when records only involved the sound… and not the ‘sex appeal’ of the artists etc..

    Street art is fundamentally anon.

    Cool movie, and funny too. Sounds like a great theory that Guetta is a Banksy work! Whoop! xoxo

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  14. dumb and doffer says:

    mega-d, that’s a very simplistic and self-righteous view. i have learned a LOT about a deeper appreciation of various artforms (music & cinema especially) by reading books and watching documentaries that discuss them. Critique is valuable and constructive when it’s delivered with wisdom and good intent. Consider that your comment above is nothing but critique about the consumption of an artform in itself.

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  15. mega-douche says:

    @ Dumb and doffer… yeah, point taken. I would agree that it’s interesting (and part of the fan-quest habit) to seek more info on the art and the artist and the motivation and the thinking etc. Guetta is selling works for mega-bucks, and that’s gotta be a product of surrounding-hype, not the work itself. Unless the hype is the work, in which case, well, the jokes on the art-buying world. I apologise for my self-righteous statements… i’m just grumpy about modern life. (And it looks like i won’t be getting any christmas gifts!)

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  16. anon says:

    why does everybody on here have to try and write there comments better than the person that wrote the article ? lol.

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  17. Observer says:

    Thank you for covering this! I enjoyed this so much. I think the whole premise is amazing–whether or not MBW (who I really like) is real.

    I don’t think MBW is real, but I like being uncertain about it. This makes the world a more exciting place, this project.

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  18. nora says:

    “like what I say: i’m playing chess – I don’t know how to play chess. but life is a chess game for me.” – Mr Brainwash. 🙂
    nice review phumlani.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    This is a film BY banksy. Guetta doesn’t really exist!

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  20. Brainwashed says:

    Repeated watchings of this film have convinced me its a work of genius. Guetta as fictional character… well he might be a real guy, but I do think the story of Mr Brainwash has been created as a subversive piece of art itself, yes. Great work by Banksy (if one such person really exists) and Shepard Fairey and possibly Guetta in collab.

    Now if it turned out that Thierry Guetta was actually the real Banksy, that would be the ultimate art prank from the ultimate art prankster.

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  21. Vanessa says:

    Can anyone say for sure that Guetta is Banksy? I mean, you guys are quick to say that this is true, but based on what fact and from where? I think I’ll give it a skip. I like Banksy – a lot – and I don’t want to ruin what I like about him right now. I just wish the dude would do some more art for a change. He’s due for another book release surely!

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