If you have been in any major world city over the last decade then you have probably seen some form of street art. I’m not referring to tagging or basic lame graffiti done by some uncreative vandal… I’m referring to street art… those beautiful murals or odd bits of pop cultural icons repeated over and over. Think Andre the Giant and Obey (Shepard Fairey) or Space Invader… and of course, Banksy.
Although this is billed as a “Banksy film”, Exit Through the Gift Shopis much, much more. This may be the finest document on street art in the modern age. What begins as a story of one man, Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant who runs a vintage clothing store and is obsessed with filming every second of his day who happens to meet Space Invader while on vacation in France and discovers what will be his muse… filming street art as it’s being made.
Throughout the film we are granted access to the artists (many have pixelated faces for their protection seeing as one man’s art is another man’s graffiti) as they prepare and execute their works. What begins with Space Invader moves to Fairey to Zues to Wendy Asher and ultimately to finding the now legendary British artist, Banksy. We get to see how they make what they make and are often given insights into the why they are doing what they are doing. The reason all of these artists are alright with Thierry (picture below) filming them is that they believe he is making a documentary… but he is not. He is simply fulfilling his own obsession and collecting hundreds of tapes that are then just relegated to boxes.
Once Banksy enters the picture… everything changes and the camera is pointed away from the artists and instead, towards Thierry himself. This film exposes the art world in a way that is both scathing to the artists… to the purveyors of great art… and to the very nature of what is street art and whether or not it belongs in a gallery at all. I still do not know how much of this film is “real”… how much was staged… or whether it is all truth. Banksy allows us a peek into his world (although never his face). Some of my favorite bits of the film are seeing Banksy in action… whether prepping or perpetrating, it’s always wonderful to see true creativity happen.
This film ends up in a place that I would not have, nor could have imagined. It will leave you with a ton of unanswerable questions. It is a film that gets to the very core of what art is or what art should not be. I have in my life been granted many opportunities to see artists work… mostly in San Francisco, notably a great friend of mine who goes by Romanowski. Being able to watch art happen is a gift in my opinion… and this film shows what can happen when you abuse that gift…. and it’s not what you think.
I must highly recommend this film… buy it, rent it or stream it (available streaming on Netflix btw)… just see this movie.
Film my good side please,
Cornelius J. Blahg